Mini Reviews

I’ve been meaning to review both of these books for a while, but I kept putting them off and now it’s been weeks. I still want to talk about them so I thought mini-reviews would be best. These are two very different books so have fun with that.

Fact about both books, each is the start of a series.

 

The Name of the StarThe Name of the Star

By Maureen Johnson

GP Putnam Sons

ISBN: 9780399256608

This is my first Maureen Johnson book. I follow her on Twitter and she’s hysterical so I thought I’d finally read one of her books. I know the second book in the Shades of London series is coming out soon so I picked this one. Also, a lot of other bloggers liked it; how could I say no to that kind of recommendation.

Rory, a teenager from Louisiana, moves to a London boarding when her parents take jobs in England. As soon as she arrives, Jack the Ripper style killing begin and she somehow ends up wrapped up in the case.

The Name of the Star is a weird mix-up of ghost story, mystery, police story, and teenage angst. Toss in a bit of boarding school drama and I had a story that I liked very much. I’m now looking forward to the second book.

 

Silent in the GraveSilent in the Grave

By Deanna Raybourn

Mira

ISBN: 9780778324102

Sometimes I do stupid things, like start a series in the middle which means I have to go back and start at the beginning and read ALL the books because that’s how I am. That happened with the Lady Julia Grey series. I read The Dark Enquiry when it came out almost two years ago and now I’m finally getting around to the start of this series and I want to devour ALL of them. No, really, these are so good.

Lady Julia Grey’s husband, Edward, is dead and as it turns out, he was murdered. Nicholas Brisbane, a man Edward hired to help investigate the sinister notes he was getting, is now all up in Julia’s business and she can’t decide if she likes it or not.

This is where Julia and Nicholas get together and oh it’s so fun — the arguing, the lust, and the misunderstandings. So. Much. Fun. Also, it’s a good mystery and the characters are fantastic. Thank god my library likes Deanna Raybourn.

Thoughts – Little House on the Prairie

I haven’t read this book since I was, I don’t remember actually, but I was much younger than I am now. When it came up as a possible July title for the Book Hoarders Anonymous Book Club, I was excited to pick it up again and see what I thought of it as an adult. Here’s the discussion post if you’re interested.

First, as a child, I loved this book. I read it over and over thinking how wonderful it would be to live in a log cabin, days to run free in the prairie, chasing animals, and sitting nights by the fire. As I got older, that stopped appealing which is probably why this book moved to the back of my bookshelf and was replaced by fantasy books. Hello Tolkien! Re-reading it now, I had an entirely different reaction, and not surprisingly, a more adult reaction.

Second, a few things that stood out to me. When Charles Ingalls decides to move his family out west, he packs up the wagon and heads out. There was no family discussion at all except for his wife Caroline saying something like, “If that’s what you think is best Charles.” Of course. Insert big eye roll here. His wanting to be away from everyone and everything was something I couldn’t identify with. Living in a city with close proximity to people and services, I love the idea of getting away from it all, but I don’t want to live away from it all. I can appreciate his adventurous spirit though. However, something about moving your family to the middle of nowhere with no help or contact with family, or any other people, strikes me as foolish. But that’s what people did and that’s how the plains were changed. I won’t get into the implications this had on the Native American tribes living in this area at the time. Obviously, my thoughts on this are very different then they were as a child, if I even had any thoughts about this as a child which I probably didn’t. I was happy to see that Charles was not quite as close-minded as Caroline though in his thinking even if he was still off the mark. If you want more on this, Jillian at A Room of One’s Own has some interesting thoughts about it. (Side note: Thanks for the link in your review Alison. Gave me a new way to view a story I’m familiar with.)

Now, the story. You know what, it held up for me. I read it on a Sunday afternoon curled up on my couch remembering all the wonderful things about this book and why I loved it so much as girl. There’s adventure, change, a tight knit family, and it has a homespun, charming quality to it. One part I forgot about was Jack the family dog. Don’t worry this is not a spoiler because it happens in chapter two. As the family is crossing the river, Jack gets lost when he has to swim for it himself. Why they don’t put him in the wagon baffles me but they didn’t. It get depressing for a while here and I was a miffed at Charles then remembered that Jack did make it across the river and joins up with the Ingalls again who are nothing but happy to see him. As a dog person, this was a little heartwarming moment. Now, Laura is my favorite but I was surprised that I didn’t remember Mary as being so quiet. Yes, Laura gets in trouble, is somewhat jealous of her well-behaved, older sister but I didn’t remember her as so meek and mild. It’s probably because I identified more with Laura and probably never thought much about Mary at all.

As I was reading, visions of the TV show kept popping in my head. No matter how many times it was mentioned that Charles had a beard, I couldn’t picture it because in my head, Charles Ingalls is Michael Landon and he didn’t have a beard. I wish that didn’t happen but I does. I should admit that I was a huge fan of the show as a girl so the two are pretty well intertwined for me.

I enjoyed this book, laughed at it, remembered some sweet things about it, and was glad I took a day to immerse myself it in. It was a complete comfort read and I remembered why these books were a staple for me. You won’t find lyrical prose here. You won’t find an amazing plot. You will find some heartfelt moments of a close and loving family and an adventure of a lifetime for a young girl.

For those not familiar with the series, the books in order are:

Little House in the Big Woods

Little House on the Prairie

On the Banks of Plum Creek

By the Shores of the Silver Lake

The Long Winter

Little Town on the Prairie

The Happy Golden Years

The First Four Years

There is also one book, Farmer Boy, which is based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s husband’s, childhood.

Thoughts – Little House on the Prairie

By Laura Ingalls Wilder

Illustrated by Garth Williams

HarperCollins Publishers

ISBN: 0060264454

 

Review – Railsea

Railsea has been compared to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, but it’s really just China Miéville’s take on an adventure story. Its philosophies, the hunt, the unknown, and the need for answers and exploration of our origins drive this novel.

Shamus Yes ap Soorap (Sham for short) is the youngest crew member of the Medes, a mole train on the hunt for a big catch on the great Railsea. He has dreams of working salvage — finding new things, old things, and alien things. What he actually does is assist the doctor of the Medes and bring water to the men and women who are working to break down the moles they hunt into oil, bone and skin. The captain of the Medes, Naphi, is on the hunt for a mole — a legendary ivory-colored mole called Mocker-Jack. She believes, as other mole train captains do, that capturing Mocker-Jack is her destiny.

When the Railsea leads the crew of the Medes to an old wreck, Sham goes with the crew to investigate and finds something he hopes to make his very own piece of salvage. Instead, he hands over the small camera memory chip to the captain. The images it contains lead Sham and his captain in essentially the same direction with different outcomes — Sham is led to two children of now dead-explorers, and the captain is led to new, never-before-conceived hunting grounds. Naphi’s dreams of bringing down Mocker-Jack, her famed ivory-colored mole, now seem within reach.

What Miéville does that I absolutely love is create places so familiar, yet at the same time so strange. He creates a land that the crew is afraid to step on for fear of dying. This world of safe land among animal-prowled soft dirt is both alien and accessible at the same time. It’s a world of dirt, but he makes you see it as a world of water — deep and unsafe water at that. Out in the Railsea, it’s the tracks that keep everyone safe, and you have no choice but to believe that’s the absolute truth of this world.

This is also a book filled with characters you’ll care about and fear for in a world poised to attack. Sham is young, untested, naïve, and trusts people too easily. He never knew the fate of his parents, and when he has the opportunity to bring closure to two children whose parents have died, he sets out to do just that, unaware of the implications his actions may bring. His pet, an injured daybat he nursed back to health and named Daybe, is a stalwart friend and more than just a silly little bat. Daybe is fearless, with crazy loyalty to young Sham, and is one of the book’s most memorable characters.

I’ve read several of Miéville’s books, and he’s now on the list of authors from whom I anxiously await books. No matter the topic, a book by Miéville is one that I want to read. He has an ability to take our world, warp a few elements, twist a few basic beliefs, and make it something so new and strange. These new worlds don’t stop existing simply because the book is closed. His worlds and stories stay with you long after the end.

As a side note, I’ve seen this book described as a young adult novel. It’s really much more than that, and much more than just a re-telling of Moby Dick. It’s about dreams and adventure in a world we want to get to know better. And isn’t that why we read? China Miéville makes these worlds we crave possible. In fact, you should be reading Railsea now.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

Railsea
By China Miéville

Publisher: Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345524522

4.5 stars

Review – Anne of Green Gables

This is the first pick for the Book Hoarders Anonymous book club which is hosted by Alison at The Cheap Reader. You can read her review here. There’s a discussion page here if you want to take a look at what others thought of this one.

It’s funny how books that captured your imagination as a child are so very different for you as an adult. I’m not saying Anne of Green Gables was a bad read as an adult but it was so much different than I remember it being. For instance, I don’t remember Anne talking so much. Really, she never shuts up! It’s so endearing though and you come to quickly understand why Matthew and Marilla fell in love with this red-haired orphan. I also remembered the decision as to whether or not Anne would stay was much more drawn out but that could have been how I perceived it as a child. I keep saying as a child because I think the last time I read this book was probably when I was 10.

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, brother and sister who live on the Green Gables farm in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island, decide to adopt a boy to help out with the farm work since Matthew is getting up in age. Arrangements are made and Matthew leaves to pick up the boy at the train station. He comes home with a red-haired girl who won’t stop talking. Marilla wants to send her back but Matthew has already become attached and sort of nudges Marilla to think about keeping her. Anne, even with her loquacious ways, manages to charm Marilla who decides she can stay. Anne is enchanted with her new home, a new friend, and even her new school. However, she’s not always the proper little girl she should be and gets into several incidents that somehow all manage to work themselves out for the best.

Anne of Green Gables is such a sweet book and pretty funny too. There’s not much that happens in Avonlea that doesn’t get back to Marilla, and Anne, who it must be said is not a bad child in the least, is always doing something that gets talked about. One day it’s flowers in her bonnet, telling ghost stories with her dear friend Diana, or cracking Gilbert Blythe over the head with her writing slate — Marilla hears about it. That’s small town living for you.

Reading this as an adult, I found it a lot funnier than I did as a child. At 10 years-old, Anne was a bit of hero. She was courageous and she stood up for herself. She was a person with guts and she was really smart. I loved all that about her as a child. As an adult, I can see how everything she did was vexing to every adult in her vicinity but it’s also so easy to see how everyone could love her. The kindness and caring stand out to me now but I don’t think I saw that as a child. Now, I’m also amused by the nosy neighbors, the teacher who’s in love with the student, and how parenting styles differ among the women in the story. I’m not saying that to be sexist, but it’s the women in this story that talk about it, not the men.

I’m glad I went back to this as an adult. My appreciation for it is different but all together much the same. Anne of Green Gables will always be a favorite of mine.

Anne of Green Gables

By Lucy Maude Montgomery

GirlieBooks

ISBN: 2940012069979

4 stars

Review – The Secret Diary of a Princess: A Novel of Marie Antoinette

You’ve heard me say it before so don’t act surprised to hear it now — I have a thing about France and particularly Marie Antoinette.  I have no idea why, I just do. Now, since I’m in the confession mood, I read Melanie Clegg’s blog, Madame Guillotine, and have for a while. I’m a good lurker like that and she’s interesting and funny so I keep going back. Anyway, I saw the book there and then one day I saw it come up on my Nook and I bought it. I’m so happy I did too.

The Secret Diary of a Princess is told through the diary entries of the young Marie Antoinette starting as a child in the Viennese Court, her early education (and antics), family turmoil, and her eventual marriage. She leads a privileged life, and because she’s considered unimportant in terms of being marriageable material, she gets away with a lot. When it’s decided by her Empress mother that she will become the Dauphine of France, her life is forever changed. Gone are the jsilly games she would play, gone are the teachers who let her education lag, and in their place are new manners and etiquette to be learned and new people to impress.

This book delighted me in the way it was told. It’s a young girl writing and relaying her antics and daily problems such as not being able to enjoy some of the things her older sibling are allowed to do. When her mother’s plans are announced for her future, Marie Antoinette is no longer the least important of the daughters but is now the daughter the Empress is placing a huge burden on. She begins to feel the weight of what her mother wants of her but you also see a very young, and very scared, girl. I liked that. While Marie Antoinette doesn’t change dramatically — she still has the worries of and understanding of a young girl who doesn’t see the political ramifications of her actions — you see a glimpse of the woman she’s about to become.

There’s so much written about Marie Antoinette, her early life included, and while no one would say it was easy, it was certainly interesting. She is the youngest child of 15, lives a quiet and sheltered life at the Viennese court, and is then elevated to being the Queen of France. It’s an amazing story in some ways even more fascinating than anything fiction writers can imagine. I think that’s why I keep going back to books about her and this time frame. It all fascinates me so much.

Anyway, back to the book. I enjoyed it and when I came to the end, I was actually sad to see there was no more. It ends in a necessary place but I wanted it to go on. The dairy of a princess must stop when she stops being a child. My only quibble, and it’s a small one, is that I never thought of Marie Antoinette as being a writer so it took me a minute to take my early thoughts out it and get lost in the story. It didn’t take long. I was too entranced by the story to care at that point.

Finally, I did see that Clegg is writing a sequel to this one and I’m planning to read that one as well. I’m interested to see how she handles the next stage in this character’s life.

A Secret Diary of a Princess: A Novel of Marie Antoinette

By Melanie Clegg

BN ID: 2940011400735

Smashwords Self-published

4 stars

Today’s Book – Prophecy of the Sisters

Usually I reserve Thursdays for talking about the book I’m currently reading but I thought I’d do something different today and talk about a book I want to read.  OK, there are a lot of books I want to read so this was actually slightly difficult in terms of narrowing the list down but you will all be happy to know I managed to succeed.

The book is the Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink.  The book was released in 2009 so it’s not a new addition to my list but one I have glanced over a few times and wondered about.  I did a little searching…young adult book about sisters, one good, one evil and a looming prophecy that involves tattoos, death, and secrets.

More about the book is here and below is a book trailer I found.  I think this one may make its way up the list.