This was just one of the cutest books I've read in ages, and I'm even more annoyed I never saw it in a bookshop here, as it's inFour and a half stars
This was just one of the cutest books I've read in ages, and I'm even more annoyed I never saw it in a bookshop here, as it's in the library. I will need a physical copy as well as the ebook (which was very cheap on Amazon at the time I finally gave up and went looking for ebook version), as I will definitely be rereading this.
Aaaand, typically, having written the above, I had to leave it there and go into town, where I saw Sean Griswold's Head in the bookshop. Curse you, dramatic irony.
Payton is a wonderful protagonist; smart, funny, and with just the right touch of obsessive/compulsive/control-freak to her nature not to read like any kind of stereotype. She plays basketball seriously, gets on with her parents, has one very close friend, and does well in school. But when she finds out that her father has MS, and that her parents and her two older brothers have known about it for six months without telling her, she understandably freaks out. Her school counselor makes her keep a "Focus Journal", choosing something to focus on and detailing her emotions about that. (Her reaction? "I stare at her blankly. Focus. I don't need this. I can focus. I'm the Queen of Focus. Well, former queen. Princess maybe. Duchess. Oh, who am I kidding? These last two weeks I've been so lost, I couldn't cook in the Royal Focus Kitchen.") Floundering a bit, she chooses the head of Sean Griswold, the boy who's sat in front of her in school for years, as her Focus Object. It's a somewhat silly premise, but so well done, with such a light touch, that you're happy to go along for the ride. As Payton comes to feel she needs to know more about Sean than just what his head looks like from behind - for purely research reasons, of course, it leads her into conflict with her best friend, into spin classes and serious cycling, and eventually, to resolving her fears and anger. Oh, and into thinking Sean may just be a lot more than the kid with the big head who sits in front of her.
Aside from Payton's voice, there were a couple of things I loved about this book. One of these was the way the story was about dealing with hard stuff, for everyone. Payton was trying - not always successfully - to deal with her dad's illness of course, but it was obvious the parents were also struggling, and not always being successful. When Payton totally panics about the possibility that Sean might be ill too, her failure to deal with it is, in a way, a more surface failure, because she's only 15 and coming at this kind of crisis for the first time. But the parents' job is not just to take care of themselves, but also to help her to cope, help her through the anxiety and the loss of the feeling that life is safe, and they also fail. Happily, eventually they all find a way of acknowledging what they've done wrong and coped with badly and moving on doing it better. (Ditto with the best friend, after a very, very funny fight at the counselor's, and a sad period of weeks' of not speaking to each other.)
The other great thing about this book is Sean himself. He's such a fantastic kid, and it's not in the least bit idealized or otherwise overdone. I kind of wanted to adopt him (his mother isn't awful awful, but she's pretty awful) and kind of wanted him to be my son-in-law (in 10 or so years). Just saying, for all this is fairly young YA, the spooning, which doesn't even have a kiss, is many times more appealing to me than the vast majority of the sexy times scenes I've read lately.
Finally, it's a little thing, but I love that when Payton has been cycling and going to spin classes for a while, she doesn't notice anything about her weight, but that she's in much better shape than before.
I thought I was in shape when I played basketball, but I can feel a new strength in my muscles, in my calves. The promise of endurance and ability and greatness. I am a cyclist now. There's no escaping the fact that this is a sport and I am an athlete.
Sent to me by Ros - for which I'm deeply grateful!
My first read of 2010, and what a great way to start the reading year! This is right up there with FSent to me by Ros - for which I'm deeply grateful!
My first read of 2010, and what a great way to start the reading year! This is right up there with Finding Cassie Crazy (AKA The Year of Secret Assignments), and possibly I even liked it more than that. I will be rereading, definitely, as it seems like a book that would be as much fun to revisit - knowing all the twisty bits - as to read for the first time. Despite my appreciation for the first two books of the Ashbury/Brookfield 'series', there were still moments when I thought that Emily was a bit fluffy in her silliness. Inevitably, those moments would be followed by realisation of how subtly Moriarty had slipped in a dead serious moment.
One thing, for those who haven't yet encountered the books, read at least one of the first two (if only one, it should probably be Finding Cassie Crazy) before this. Seriously. You'll be shortchanging yourself badly if you start reading with this one. ...more
My first thought was 'WHY a sequel to The Little Princess?', but it's not following Sara Crewe and could be a lot of fun.
My LJ review:
This nearly brokMy first thought was 'WHY a sequel to The Little Princess?', but it's not following Sara Crewe and could be a lot of fun.
My LJ review:
This nearly broke my heart even before reading, as I've been waiting for it for what seems like ever. It was due to be published the 3rd of September, but I noticed it was shipping from Amazon (UK) before going away to Cornwall with Charlie, so checked the 3 bookshops nearby(ish) the day before (one by phone inquiry). After some time and searching, I found it and carried it home with great rejoicing. Which rejoicing stopped as soon as I started trying to pack my bag, and realised there was no way I'd be able to bring it. Everyone feels my pain right? New Hilary McKay in my hands and forced to leave it unopened in my room.
Weep no more, as it's read and LOVED. Have to say that my first reaction to a Little Princess sequel was a slightly bemused one, but that had long been put behind in trust that a Hilary McKay A Little Princess sequel would be wonderful. Even that trust couldn't have quite led me to the gorgeousness of Wishing for Tomorrow though. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.
That said, I should perhaps elaborate just a little bit, which is difficult when all one wants to do is quote and quote. Short version is it's what happened after Sara went off happily to live with the Indian Gentleman, and the main character is poor Ermengarde, who of course didn't get to go off and live happily ever after. There's also plenty about the youngest at Miss Minchin's, Lottie, and about Lavinia and Miss Minchin too. And I think that's what made it so wonderful for me - there's all the emotional payoff that you get in true Victorian style in A Little Princess (yes, I know about novel publication date, but it's still a truly Victorian novel in essence, right?) but coming from a different angle. I love A Little Princess, but the 19th century (I *know*) type of class-laden morality about not being snobbish, and a degree of avoidance of social issues other than the simple black-and-white ones wouldn't really work well in a novel written today. But don't worry - it's not a ham-fisted 'updating' of a last century classic! Rather it's a beautifully done re-visiting of that classic, with all the humour you'd expect from a McKay book, and an effective broadening of perspective. It may just be me, but I found it much more fun to see what made Miss Minchin the horror she was than to see her get more come-uppance. And Lavinia! If I'd been told before that I'd come to like her enormously and root for her while still feeling she fit with the nasty little cow she had been, I'd never have believed it possible.
There are a few new characters - Alice especially (the replacement for Becky, who comes from Epping where there's lots of fresh air, refuses to sleep in the attic and won't be called a scullery maid), and Ermengarde's Aunt Eliza (who'd always been considered the family fool, by her brother and then by her husband, and whose fate is one that could easily have befallen Ermengarde as things were going) - and they fit in perfectly with the story and add immeasurably to the fun. I won't say anything more about them or the others, because I'm very afraid of giving away something about the ending, and I defy anyone to predict the gloriously satisfying (and funny!) ending. A few quotes, just for self-indulgance, and aside from that, just that I thought of Jane Austen while reading, than which higher praise, etc. And - in a completely un-crazed fangirlish way, of course, I think what Hilary McKay doesn't know about friendship might not be worth knowing.
Lavinia wants to take piano lessons from the man next-door (who moved into the house where the Indian Gentleman lived), but Miss Minchin won't let her until she gets permission from her (awful) mother. So Jessica teaches her to play 'Chopsticks'. Which she does, over and over and over again, until Miss Amelia is sent to lock up the piano.
'Yes, I have been having a music lesson,' added Lavinia. 'Won't Miss Minchin be pleased that I have managed to make a start. [...:]
'Yes, dear, we did hear your playing,' said Miss Amelia. 'It was extremely loud.'
'I think it must be a very good piano', agreed Lavinia.
'And it has gone on for some considerable time...'
'Oh, but I had all my lessons finished,' Lavinia assured her. 'And so had Jessie. You need not worry about that. And I have studied my extra literature too, and learned the battle speech from Henry V and written out my Hamlet essay.'
In the hall behind Miss Amelia, Ermengarde glimpsed the shadowy presence of Miss Minchin standing in the parlour doorway. Lavinia did not seem to notice, however. She continued to discuss Shakespeare in her confident, clear voice.
'... The subject was how Ophelia could have influenced the fate of the Royal House of Denmark by the application of logic and the rejection of the over-emotional arguments put forward by her cousin. (Hamlet. The prince.) I have written seven pages with botanical footnotes. I hope Miss Minchin will be pleased. Should you like me to read it to you, Miss Amelia?'
Miss Amelia said she thought not and retreated very hastily, quite forgetting her orders to lock up the piano and remove the key. Lavinia locked it herself (after one more triumphant rendering of 'Chopsticks'), pocketed the key, and hurried upstairs to learn Latin in bed.
A bit more about the teaching in Miss Minchin's, which comes by way of Lavinia's star pupil-dom. It starts with history.
It was English history of course, as seen through the intolerant eyes of Miss Minchin, which meant lingering over the Romans ('Just what the country needed'), dismissing the Vikings and Saxons ('Unmannerly'), and grudgingly admiring the Normans.
'They raised the tone of the country', admitted Miss Minchin.
She also approved of the Tudors ('They knew their minds') and detested the Stuarts ('Scots').
After the Tudors and Stuarts Miss Minchin skipped a good deal until she reached Victoria, the Queen of her childhood, whom she had once actually seen, and who, as far as looks went, might well have been a distant relation.
Victoria's Empire and its useful products (tea and silk especially) were the basis of all the Select Seminary's geography lessons. Indian diamonds had also once been a useful product of Empire, but in recent times neither India nor diamonds were ever mentioned. Australian Sapphires took their place whenever gemstones were needed.
Finally, one last little one about Ermengarde and her Aunt Eliza (who had determined not to be bitter after her husband, who thought her a fool, was dead, as that would be still to be miserable).
'This house needs something', said Aunt Eliza as she took Ermengarde upstairs. 'It is quite a light, bright house, and yet it is dismal. I don't know why.'
'I remember it was much more dismal when Uncle Julius was alive,' said Ermengarde.
'Oh, yes, wasn't it?' agreed Aunt Eliza, and then she and Ermengarde stared at one another, each suddenly quite shocked at the other's truthfulness.
'Ermengarde,' said Aunt Eliza (still in this mood of awful honesty), 'are you happy, dear?'
'Not yet,' said Ermengarde. 'Are you, Aunt Eliza?'
'Not yet,' said Aunt Eliza.
And then they go off to the theatre, to see Peter Pan, which is one of the funniest scenes of the book, in that perfectly pitched, funny and poignant way. And happy endings are in store, earned in ways which might not be as overtly heroic as Sara's, but are just as truly earned nonetheless....more
I'll come back and do a proper write-up at some point, but I'm SO glad I got the audiobook of this! Having Alexie read it himself was just wonderful.I'll come back and do a proper write-up at some point, but I'm SO glad I got the audiobook of this! Having Alexie read it himself was just wonderful. I wasn't sure I'd be able to take it when the first abrupt shift from funny to tragic came (and it was a really sad death of a beloved dog), being such a tragedy-wimp. It's well worth it....more
Very much enjoyed this, though not in an entirely wowed, must push on all my friends, family and total strangers kind of way, which might have had a lVery much enjoyed this, though not in an entirely wowed, must push on all my friends, family and total strangers kind of way, which might have had a lot more to do with my stress levels while reading than the book.
There were many things I loved that way in it - the extreme librarians (AKA bookaneers), the buildings in Wraithtown's each being surrounded by a "wispy corona of earlier versions of itself", the utterlings (words spoken by Mr. Speaker in Talklands), the fact that the heroine is NOT the Chosen One. And I loved that the language wasn't at all dumbed-down for younger readers, though I think there was always enough context to get what was needed. (The chapter with the utterlings, for example, was "Despotic Logorrhoea"!) And I also very much appreciate the way that Miéville has just quietly presented a mixed ethnic group of school friends and not made a song-and-dance about race or colour. It's quite a long book, but there was never one second I felt was draggy or repetitive despite that, as there's just so incredibly much invention floating around here that there's always something you're not expecting coming next. ...more
Oh my - didn't put this on my shelves in my initial Goodreads shelf-filling. Slightly incoherent rave for it on my LJ immediately after finishing hereOh my - didn't put this on my shelves in my initial Goodreads shelf-filling. Slightly incoherent rave for it on my LJ immediately after finishing here. It was also my best book of 2007, though I admitted the difficulty of choosing ONE favourite....more
Recommended by LJ friend VCMW. Read the day it arrived, while in bed after a stomach flu. Coherent thoughts may or may not follow, but I did like it aRecommended by LJ friend VCMW. Read the day it arrived, while in bed after a stomach flu. Coherent thoughts may or may not follow, but I did like it a lot....more