Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

Book Inhalation: Summer Reading Snippets, 2015 Edition

Are you soaking up the last days of summer this week? I am! We start first grade homeschooling in one week. It has been a truly awesome summer for our family. My husband has been busy with his new business, but way less busy than he was at this time last year. He’s been able to join us in our summer fun much more than in previous years. I love the days of waking up and throwing on a t-shirt and shorts (layering is too much work!), serving the kids breakfast in their playhouse,  watching them splash and play in crazy imaginative ways in our little kiddie pool on the back porch (which they can fill up themselves now…it’s almost like I’ve arrived), and so much more. Summer is my favorite.

And I have been reading a lot of books over the last few months, which also contributes to the awesomeness of this summer.  As soon as I put one down, I’m picking up another. Can you call that chain reading? I’m inhaling books these days, not stopping long enough to write a review or even process what I’m reading very well. I guess this is my version of summer binge TV watching. This book inhalation will slow down pretty soon (darn), but it’s been fun while it lasted. In the unintentional summer tradition of this blog, here is the 2nd  annual Summer Reading Snippets post.

Secrets of a Charmed LifeSecrets of A Charmed Life – My 2nd favorite book of the summer! I was totally spellbound by this book. I read this book in a 36 hour timespan. It’s very much like Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper, but shorter. One thing I really appreciate about this book is that while it is framed by a present day narrator, the bulk of the book is told in the past and does not flip-flop from past to present. I’ve come to deeply dislike all these books that transition every other chapter or so between past and present. Unless the writer is truly masterful, this format is jarring.  I like to get fully immersed in a story and setting. Secrets of A Charmed Life is a perfect beach read or curl up by the fire read. Just don’t plan on doing much else for two or three days! Five stars.

Henrietta’s War – A quaint mid-century British book that I loved. Full review here.

Ana of California – This is a pretty good YA book if you first put out of your mind the claim that it is a “modern day retelling of Anne of Green Gables.” It may be inspired by Anne of Green Gables, but that is the beginning and end of its ties to one of the best books ever written (okay, I am biased. I looove L.M. Montgomery).  None of the characters actually match up in personality between the old books and this “retelling.” Okay….so I obviously have some scornful feelings about the “retelling” claim, but I really did enjoy this book. The foster care background and the character development is well done, and I think it calls to light some important themes of caring for parent-less children and forgiveness. 3.5 stars. 

The Sound of GlassFalling Home and The Sound of Glass – I picked up Falling Home because it was all I could reach from the sofa one time when I was holding my sleeping baby at the beach house we rented in May. Thumbs down. However, The Sound of Glass, White’s most recent book, was pretty good if you like a good yarn. Her settings are always s. Her characters, especially the main characters, get a little predictable if you read more than a few of her books. My favorite book of White’s is still A Long Time Gone.  1 star and 3.5 stars.

The Persian Pickle Club – Another beach read, but it turned pretty well. I’ve never read Sandra Dallas’s work, but I found myself comparing The Persian Pickle Club to a Fannie Flagg book, kind of like Fried Green Tomatoes. 3 stars.

The Tilted World – I couldn’t finish this book about the Mississippi River flood in the 1930s and some very hopeless moonshiners. It was harsh and raw and great for readers who like Kenneth Follet. No stars because I didn’t finish it.

Saving Amelie – I cannot say enough good things about this Christian Fiction novel.  I don’t read a whole lot in this genre, but I’m glad I gave this book a chance. Set in Nazi Germany, it’s a look at the sanctity of all human life and how far from understanding that some people in this time era came. In light of recent debates on abortion in our country, this book hit even closer to home than usual, though it has more to do with treasuring children with disabilities than valuing them during pregnancy. 4 stars.

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1)Code Name Verity – Young Adult fiction at its best! I loooved this book. Apparently, WWII was a theme in my summer reading. Oh, who am I kidding, it’s always a theme in my reading. I loved the creative journal format and the varying points of view that instead of making me infuriated, kept me guessing and led to some “aha!” moments in the plot. I’d read this again with my daughter when she reaches about age 15-16 in a heartbeat. 4 stars.

All The Bright Places – Two thumbs way, way down. YA at its postmodern worst. Do not read it. It’s being compared to The Fault in Our Stars, but it’s so much worse. That’s all I have to say about that. 1/2 star.

The Brontes Went to Woolworths – Erm…this is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. I can’t make sense of it at all. I think it’s supposed to be a comparison of three sisters who are like the Brontes but live in the 1940s. Their weird obsession with their current day stage actors just threw me off entirely. I don’t even know how many stars to give it.

A Spool of Blue Thread – Ann Tyler is an incredible writer. However, sometimes I get to the end of her books and go, “what was the point of that, again?” She’s an author I read for the beauty of her words and depth of her descriptions and characters, but not so much for the story. Tyler makes me think about writing and about how people live and think in every day life.

Garden Spells and The Peach Keeper – Here’s a conundrum: I like Sarah Addison Allen’s writing style, settings, and magical feel but I just don’t like her characters or the decisions they make. One might say they’re very human, but I’d say they’re often plain self-centered. Also, I end up skipping over many pages in her books when she decides to throw in a little romance because it is soooo cheesy and overly detailed. I guess the point is I get why people like her books, but I am not a fan. Yet. She may win me over someday.

Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel, #1)Doomsday Book – I am definitely finishing this book one day. It came due to the library when I was only a few chapters in (I got a little overly ambitious on one library trip and checked out too many books!). I read Blackout and All Clear by this author and really liked them.

Divergent – Always late to the dystopian lit parties, I’m in the middle of this one now. I’m not loving it, but I’m too involved to back out now.

I’m pretty sure this list doesn’t cover all the books I’ve read this summer, but those are  all I can remember right now. Even though I’ll be too busy to read as much as I have the past few months, I’m still a firm believer that Fall and Winter are the best times for reading. So, what have you read this summer? Anything I should put on my Fall reading list? I’m looking to get in a few more nonfiction titles and some classics.

Happy reading!

Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

Recent Book Busts

A friend asked me last week, “What are you reading lately? You haven’t posted much.” Sigh. She is right. I haven’t posted much about what I’ve been reading because apparently my selections have been pretty sub par lately. I’ve started and not finished three books in the last three weeks that were maybe not my type of books or maybe just awful books.

Lost, Jacqueline DaviesThe first book I started and didn’t finish is Lost by Jacqueline Davies. I haven’t completely given up on this book, which is set in 1911 around the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The idea behind the book still intrigues me:

Essie can tell from the moment she lays eyes on Harriet Abbott: this is a woman who has taken a wrong turn in life. Why else would an educated, well-dressed, clearly upper-crust girl end up in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory setting sleeves for six dollars a day? As the unlikely friendship between Essie and Harriet grows, so does the weight of the question hanging between them: Who is lost? And who will be found?

(goodreads.com)

The plot seems good but it starts off very confused, with Essie having delusions about her baby sister and chaotic thoughts about what is real and what is not, including whether she herself is still real. I wasn’t expecting such a psychological experience when I checked this book out at the library from the Young Adult display table. I may go back to it at some point, but usually once it’s back at the library, I’m not checking it out again. =)

When Audrey Met AliceThe other book I picked up off the YA table was a complete bust. When Audrey Met Alice drew me in with the promise of including snippets of Alice Roosevelt’s diary. I’ve always thought her an interesting person in American History. However, the now-and-then setting of this book was terrible–Audrey is the current First Daughter and her mother is President. She is struggling with some petty teenage troubles and when she finds Alice’s diary, she turns to it for comfort and ideas on how to cope. I held out hope that the book would get better when Alice’s part came in, but as soon as excerpts from Alice’s diary became part of the story, it was clear that the diary was all made up. The language was all wrong, the opinions were far fetched, and the writing style was not at all what it would have been if Alice Roosevelt had actually written it. I turned to the back of the book and, sure enough, there was the disclaimer stating that the diary was actually written by the author. I would have been spared a lot of wasted reading time if that disclaimer had been at the beginning. I wouldn’t recommend this book for adults or young adults.

Still Life with Bread CrumbsFinally, I tried out my first Anna Quindlen book and downloaded Still Life With Bread Crumbs from my library’s eBook site. Quindlen is clearly a writer whose strength is imagery. I thoroughly enjoyed her word pictures and the way she describes her main character’s renowned photography. However, this character driven novel didn’t really have characters that grabbed me. Still, it was an enjoyable read until about halfway through, when the two main characters become love interests. I realize that happens in a lot of books and is often a very good thing, but I couldn’t handle it in this book. It seemed all wrong for the characters and some parts of it were actually wrong. But I can’t say anything bad about Quindlen’s ability to write, because her prose is beautiful. If her book hadn’t included so much infidelity, I probably would be raving about it. I just can’t enjoy books centered on extramarital affairs, or really unhappy marriages. Still, I wish the photographs described in the book really existed–I would probably buy the calendar based on them to hang in my kitchen.

So, right now I’m not reading anything. And it’s not a terrible way to live. Any suggestions? Fiction or non-fiction, I’ll take any ideas.

 

Reading, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult

Top Ten Tuesday: Best and Worst Book Worlds

Today’s Top  Ten Tuesday theme was one I couldn’t resist: book worlds where you’re glad not to live. But I’m going to tweak it a little and do five places where I’m glad I don’t live and five book places I would like to live. If you think this topic is as much fun as I do, check out The Broke and the Bookish blog. The ladies there host this meme every week and have lots of great bloggers chime in on all kinds of book topics.

So here goes!

Worst Book Worlds: Or, Books Worlds Where I I Don’t Want To Live

1. The United States featured in The Hunger Games. Yikes.

2. Charles Dickens’s London. The coal, the fog, the rain, the damp, the poor….eesh. When I read The Old Curiosity Shop, I cheered internally when Nell and her grandfather leave London to go to the country. And then there’s the danger of being put in the Debtor’s Prison, like Little Dorrit’s family. Talk about hopelessness.

3. The United States in Matched. I still haven’t read the third book in The Matched trilogy by Ally Condie. If you’re unfamiliar with it, basically everything is decided for your in life by The Society: your spouse, your vocation, your house, your food, everything. And that’s really all you need to know about why I don’t want to live there.

4. Life After Life‘s setting: a world where you can keep on living alternate versions of your life. This book gave me waking nightmares. Very vividly written and thought provoking, but not a read I enjoyed!

5. C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy worlds. Basically, anything that includes science fiction is somewhere I do not want to be. I like normal life. The ability to travel to other planets is nice to read about, but man am I grateful not to live there when I’m done reading!

Best Book Worlds: Or, Books Worlds Where I Want To Live

1. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. For those of you who have only read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, you won’t get this one. Or maybe you will, if you can get past the beginning when it’s a perpetually frozen iceland. Like Bree in The Horse and His Boy, if I lived anywhere else but Narnia in the world of these books (say, Calormene), I would be high tailing it to Narnia. I want to see a Dryad, talk to a Beaver, dance with a Faun, all of it.

2. Tolkein’s Rivendell. Or anywhere but Mordor. Actually, I’d probably just like to visit Rohan, but not live there. I’m not exactly keen on horses.

3. Green Gables. Sigh. Green Gables.jpg

4. Guernsey from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. After the German occupation, of course. Living on an island that’s not too far from the mainland sounds great.

5. Hogwarts. But just for a visit. =)

 

Children's Books, Reading, Reviews, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult

A Book for Your Winter TBR List: The Secret of the Ruby Ring

The Secret of the Ruby RingHoliday break is soon to begin for kids, and hopefully that means you’re thinking of some great books that will encourage you and your kids to have fun reading while taking a break from the required reading of school and every day life. Today I’m sharing about a book that I absolutely loved as a young girl–I think kids ages 8-92 should put this on their Winter To Be Read list. This book, The Secret of the Ruby Ring, by Yvonne MacGrory,  is one I picked up on a weekly library trip at age ten, when our local library’s children section had a castle dungeon feel and every book I picked up was a treasure. Man, I miss those days. I haven’t thought about the book in ages, though I loved it so much, but a few days ago when my daughter asked for a bed time story, the plot of this book popped into my head and I thought, “Gasp- perfect!” Here’s the summary from Goodreads.com:

Lucy, a rather spoiled almost-eleven-year-old, gets a very special birthday present from her grandmother. This gift, a star ruby ring, has been passed down for generations through Lucy’s family. The evening before her birthday, Lucy accidentally discovers the magical secret of the ring: The secret of this Ruby Ring is that two wishes it can bring.

Twisting the ring and making her first wish, Lucy finds herself transported to a far away time, that of Ireland in 1885, a time of unrest, evictions, and boycotting. At first, Lucy is intrigued by Langley Castle and its inhabitants, but soon she misses her family and friends. When she decides to use her second wish to go home, Lucy discovers that the ring has disappeared.

Can Lucy convince young Robert that she is from another age? Will he help her to retrieve the ruby ring, or will Lucy be trapped forever in a bygone age?

Now, before you roll your eyes and say, “time travel again, puhlease,” let me tell you that this book had a profound positive effect on me at age ten. I thought the story was magical (I think I read it twice before I returned it to the library), but I also thought the message applied to me: you’re not put on this earth to be a princess and have the world revolve around you. It’s pretty cool when a book delivers a message so clearly, a ten-year-old girl can take it to heart. And that message is one our Disney princess culture girls need to hear, often and over and over again. Actually, it’s one I need to hear pretty often, too, based on my Downton Abbey envy. One of the greatest things about this book  is that when I recently picked it up to read as an adult, I still loved it. The characters were so personable and the plot was perfectly paced between action and insight into Lucy’s character. Though it never hit the best seller list in the U.S., it won Children’s Book of the Year in Ireland in 1994 and really reads like a classic. This would be a great book for young girls all the way to  grown ladies to read over Christmas break. I wish I could read it for the first time with you.

This post is my contribution to the Top Ten Tuesday theme, Winter Reading List, over at the awesome blog, The Broke and the Bookish. Go on over to the B&B blog to see all the other winter reading lists that book lovers are putting together today. And thanks for stopping by Mia The Reader, too! Leave a comment on what your favorite Winter read is. I’m always looking for a great read to add to my TBR list. 

Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

My Fall Fantasy Binge, and The Classics Recovery

I’ve been taking a little breather from blogging after 31 Days of posting every day, so things have been a little quiet around here lately. But I haven’t stopped reading!

As I mentioned in a previous post, something about the fall season coming on makes me gravitate toward adventure or fantasy stories. It’s so great to read about danger and courage while sitting cozily under a fuzzy blanket in your warm house. I read Alanna: The First Adventure  in October and thought it was okay, though I didn’t love it. I then read the second book in the series and strongly disliked it. Looks like I’m done with Alanna. I hate it when writers imply that female characters have to be sexually active at age 17 to be complete. Alanna is told by a goddess that to truly achieve her goals, she will have to do three things, one of which is “learn to love.” The definition of love certainly is cloudy. I’d definitely vote Harry Crewe from The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley over Alanna in the strong female character category. It seems to me Alanna does a lot of selfish thinking. But I realize that there are a ton of Alanna fans out there, so judge for yourself.

A fun fantasy story I did enjoy was Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff. It started out a little trite: poor mountain people who supply the King’s city with gold in the medieval time period. I was reminded of Princess Academy or many recent fantasy books set in the medieval days. However, I was intrigued by the importance of names, the nature of magic in the story, and the totally different portrayal of the character of Rumpelstiltskin. I always considered him a sinister person, but this very imaginative re-telling will change your mind. Though I would have liked the plot to tie up some lose ends it left out, it was a mostly satisfying fairy tale novel. If you like Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, or Gail Levine, I recommend Rump. Thanks to Mary for recommending and lending it to me! This is a good book to read with children about 8-12.

A Lost LadyNow that I’ve drenched myself in fantasy and fairy tale, I feel like one who has eaten cake for every meal for three days straight. I want classics! I read Willa Cather’s novella A Lost Lady in one sitting last Sunday afternoon when both of my children decided to take a nap at the same time. It always surprises me how enthralled I become in Cather’s works when they hardly ever have a very strong plot (O’ Pioneers being the exception). Cather’s work is driven by characters, settings, and overarching themes. A Lost Lady is about Marrian Forrester, a high society woman who marries a railroad man and lives in a pioneer railroad town in Colorado in the early 1900s. I loved it.  There was symbolism, beautiful descriptions, multi-faceted characters, and rich historical background. After all those “fun” books (which were really did enjoy!) I drank in A Lost Lady like I hadn’t had water in days. I’m so glad my dad found it in a thrift store, bought it, read it one Saturday afternoon, and then passed it on to me.

Next up for me is the Great English Classic, Brideshead Revisited. I’m only 40 pages into it, so it’s too early to judge if I actually like it. I can tell it’s a novel that I could read two or three times and still miss something. It’s complex. I love British lit, but I’ve started this book three times over the last five years, and this is the furthest I’ve gotten. I think it’s caught me this time, though, and I’ll finish it in the next couple of weeks.

What are you reading this month?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nonfiction, Reading, Reviews, Young Adult

October Reading

Apparently, I haven’t taken my own good advice lately, because what I’ve read in the past month has equaled not much. My blogging time has been taken up with the 31 Days of Picture Books and I’ve had a blast with it. I have managed to squeeze in a few adult reads, though.

The Silver StarAt the beginning of the month I  read The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls. This novel was an interesting combination of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Glass Castle, Walls’s first book, a bestselling memoir. Here’s the plot summary of The Silver Star from goodreads.com:

It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who “found something wrong with every place she ever lived,” takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.

An impetuous optimist, Bean soon discovers who her father was, and hears many stories about why their mother left Virginia in the first place. Because money is tight, Liz and Bean start babysitting and doing office work for Jerry Maddox, foreman of the mill in town—a big man who bullies his workers, his tenants, his children, and his wife. Bean adores her whip-smart older sister—inventor of word games, reader of Edgar Allan Poe, nonconformist. But when school starts in the fall, it’s Bean who easily adjusts and makes friends, and Liz who becomes increasingly withdrawn. And then something happens to Liz.

Jeannette Walls, supremely alert to abuse of adult power, has written a deeply moving novel about triumph over adversity and about people who find a way to love each other and the world, despite its flaws and injustices.

The Silver Star reminded me of To Kill A Mockingbird because of two child characters, Bean and her cousin, and because of the unfairness of the small town’s judicial system. Though the issues brought up don’t have much to do with race, they have a lot to do with gender and social status equality. I enjoyed the characters, though I thought them a bit to reminiscent of the main characters in The Glass Castle. The book also had that run down mill town feel that is so poignantly portrayed in Richard Russo’s Empire Falls. It’s as if you get a peek into what Empire Falls looked like before everything shut down. Walls does a good job of drawing a reader into her writing by putting flesh on her characters. However, this book was my least favorite of hers because the plot was a tad too predictable. Still, I read it cover to cover in three days and I think most people who like Walls’s work will enjoy The Silver Star.

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and RedemptionI also read Kisses From Katie as part of my 7 Challenge to learn more about poverty stricken countries. Katie Davis writes about her experiences as a very young woman who goes to Uganda for a few months after graduating from high school and cannot see herself staying away ever again. The book is both heartbreaking and heart-swelling. It’s heartbreaking to not just suspect or vaguely hear about Ugandans’ hardships but to really know what life is like for them. It’s important to know, but it’s heartbreaking.  It is heart-swelling to see that one young woman can make so much of a difference if she will stop saying “someone else” and start saying “Me. I will love one person and one more person and bandage one person and one more person and do what I can. Even if it’s never enough, I will do what I can because that’s all I can do and that’s what I must do.” (paraphrase). You must read it, not as a fine piece of literature, but as a bolster for your belief in what one person (read: you) can change if you try. I am so challenged and changed by this book.

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)Finally, I just finished the Young Adult favorite, Alanna: The First AdventureThis book was written in 1983 by Tamora Pierce, but somehow it didn’t show up on my wide book radar until I started this blog and saw it on so many Top Ten Tuesday lists. I quickly learned that Alanna is a favorite heroine of many book loving girls. And since my real life name is only one letter away from Alanna, I had to read it for myself. (If your curious about why I go by Mia on this blog, check out the About Me page). I put it on my to-read list and then October came. October is historically a month when I crave a good fantasy adventure book. Last October, I discovered The Hero and The Crown and thoroughly enjoyed it. The year before that, it was Book of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. I think I can trace this feeling that Fall means fantasy adventure books back to when I read the Lord of The Rings trilogy in the fall lo those many years ago. But that would be way to nerdy to admit. Anyway, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t love Alanna. I liked it okay, but I’m afraid I missed the boat when I was twelve or thirteen that would have sailed me into Tamora Pierce fandom. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be reading the rest of the series! Because it’s October, and adventurous fantasy stories are akin to October (write that down).

Now I’m reading Rump: The True Story of RumpelstiltskinSo far, it’s much grimmer than I thought it would be. We all know how the fairy tale ends, so I’m hoping there’s some kind of twist that will make this poor boy Rump into a hero after all. Rumpelstiltskin as a character has always unnerved me. I think the writing style of Liesl Shurtlief is very similar to Shannon Hale’s–pointed and carries the story along at a good pace–but I wish it were a wee bit more descriptive. I’m interested to see how the author weaves the brief mentions of other fairy tales into Rumpelstiltskin’s story. Expect a full review soon.

How’s your October reading going?

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, Reviews, Young Adult

Wildwood Dancing Review

I read Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet Marillier, because another book blogger (whose blog I can’t find anymore…woops…) said it was one of her favorite books of all time. It was published in 2007, but I had never heard of it before a few weeks ago. I looked it up on goodreads.com and decided it was a good time for a fairy tale style book. And I was right. I devoured this book. Lost sleep over it, in fact. This is the first book I have read by Marillier, and I’m already onto my second.

Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood, #1)Wildwood Dancing is loosely based on the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale, with many changes and additions. Set in Transylvania, in a castle in the fabled Wildwood, the book opens on a family of five daughters saying goodbye to their father for the winter. He must leave for better climates due to health concerns. He leaves Jena, his second eldest daughter, in charge of the family and family merchant business. In a time when women were not considered worthy of much education, Jena’s father goes against the grain in allowing his daughters as many educational opportunities as possible in a small village setting.

Jena and her sisters, Tatiana, Paula, Iulia, and Stela, are saddened by their father’s departure, but they are cheered by a secret they have long shared: they have a portal to the Other Kingdom. What is the Other Kingdom? It’s where the fantasy characters of fairy tales live–dwarves, trolls, fairies, and many other non-human beings. Every full moon, Jena and her sisters are able to access the portal into the Other Kingdom for the dance held at full moon. They do not wear out shoes, but they do have secret stashes of ball gowns. This arrangement seems perfect, but there is a darkness hovering over the family related to the Wildwood. As a little girl, Jena and her two cousins, Costi and Cezar, experience a tragedy that changes the courses of their lives more than they realize. The darkness deepens when the Night People come to the forest. The Night People resemble vampires, but they are not exactly the same. The book is set before Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published, and I really admire Marillier for knowing her history on this one and going back to the original folklore.  Jena’s family becomes entangled with the Night People and disasters in the village make Cezar, Jena’s power hungry and vengeful cousin and neighbor, suspicious and enraged. It’s up to Jena and her sisters to put to rights all that has been upset between the Other Kingdom and the world in which they live.

Unlike some fairy tale re-tellings, Wildwood Dancing becomes an intricate story in the hands of Juliet Marillier.  She makes more lively and lifelike characters, researches thoroughly the area where the novel is set, and teaches readers Romanian words along the way. The additions of a magical pet frog, cunning or charming non-humans as dancing partners for the sisters, and smart and educated “princesses” (really merchant daughters) transform the Twelve Dancing Princesses into a riveting tale. This is a book I stayed up late to finish. It is fanciful and fun. I would add it to my list of Great Books for Teenage Girls, and recommend it to anyone who likes a fun fairy tale story. I’m currently reading the companion novel, Cybele’s Secret, which so far is not quite as good, but still a fun read.

And if you’re wondering if I’ve become a Young Adult fiction or fantasy junkie, rest assured–I have not. My next review will be of the 1927 release Islanders by Helen R. Hull. So stay tuned for a more serious book review in the next few days.