The main character is a teenage girl living in Northern Virgina during the Civil War. The first thing I liked about this book was that she kept mentioThe main character is a teenage girl living in Northern Virgina during the Civil War. The first thing I liked about this book was that she kept mentioning places I read/hear about every day, even though I'm in Maryland: Manassas, Falls Church, Alexandria, Warrenton, etc. I don't know why I get such enjoyment from coming across places I know in books. Maybe I feel like it makes a connection between the author and me.
This is a coming-of-age story of a girl living with war literally in her backyard. Maybe because my brother was obsessed with the movie "Gettysburg" for a while, I think of Civil War battles happening on a battlefield, as in a stretch of empty space convenient for armies. I'd never thought of regular, non-fighting people witnessing battles being fought in their cornfields, never knowing when the next group of soldiers would come marching down the road in front of their house. The Author's Note says Warrenton went between Confederate and Union control 67 times.
The part of me that loved playing dress up really enjoyed the (sadly few) descriptions of dresses and hair. A gown made of midnight blue velvet? Lovely....more
A very fun read. Eva Ibbotson has become one of my favorite writers recently. She's a British author who was born in Vienna and emigrated to England aA very fun read. Eva Ibbotson has become one of my favorite writers recently. She's a British author who was born in Vienna and emigrated to England as a child in the early 30s. I raced through her adult historical fiction/romances (which are currently being re-released as YA) and enjoyed all of them, even though I was familiar her plot pattern by the third book.
This is the second children's/YA book of hers that I've read. (The first was The Star of Kazan, which I also liked a lot.) Following the usual pattern, the main character, Maia, is bright, intellectually curious and eager to embrace life. She's an orphan and goes from England to Brazil to live with some cousins who only take her in because of the allowance she brings. The cousins are truly bad guys, with no redeeming qualities, but they're funny - the mother who attacks all insects with imported bug sprays, the twins who don't like each other, or anyone else, but are inseparable, the father who collects glass eyes of famous people. (Kevin Hawkes's illustrations add delightfully to the atmosphere of the story.)
While Maia doesn't get along with her cousins, she has the company of her sympathetic, but mysterious, governess, and she makes friends with the local Indians who work for her cousins. She also becomes friends with a boy about her age whose European father recently died and who plans to go deeper into the interior of Brazil to find his Indian mother's people. Maia desperately wants to go on this adventure too, and, eventually, she does.
I think this is where the magic is in this story. Sure, the responsible-adult, realist part of me knows that 2 pre-teens couldn't possibly make a journey up (down?) the Amazon by themselves without falling ill or being unable to handle their boat or being eaten. But Eva Ibbotson has faith in her protagonists and their dreams, and her belief in them makes you happy to believe in them too....more
I am deeply indebted to my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Jacobson, for reading this book out loud to us. Since then, I got my own copy, and it is falling apI am deeply indebted to my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Jacobson, for reading this book out loud to us. Since then, I got my own copy, and it is falling apart. I did my final paper for my senior English class in college on this book.
There is something so appealing about having your own secret place, where you can be by yourself or with your friends and the grown-ups don't know where you are. And I loved how they snuck in food with Dickon and Mrs. Sowerby's help. Good books are made better when the characters get to eat tasty food.
Enhancing the magic of this book are Tasha Tudor's illustrations. The characters and settings of this book and A Little Princess will always look like Tudor's drawings to me.
I just re-read this again. I think I first read it in college, and it's been one of my comfort books ever since. It's good historical fiction with a lI just re-read this again. I think I first read it in college, and it's been one of my comfort books ever since. It's good historical fiction with a likable, warm-hearted, impulsive heroine.
Favorite scenes: - Kit and Nat re-thatch the roof of Hannah's cottage and sit and talk afterwards. Besides the camaraderie of the scene, I like the atmosphere - a warm afternoon, a seat on fresh, good outdoorsy-smelling grasses, a sense of a job well done. - Nat brings Prudence to Kit's trial, and Prudence proves that Kit is innocent (of being a witch, anyway). I love how Prudence is brave enough to enter a room full of tense grown-ups and answer the magistrate's questions and change the whole outcome of the trial by demonstrating her ability to read and write. It is satisfying that Kit's friendship with Prudence, instead of condemning her (Kit), saves her in the end. And Nat's steady support is a big plus, too....more
At first I didn't think I'd like this book, since I didn't automatically connect with the main characters. They didn't exhibit the intelligence or quiAt first I didn't think I'd like this book, since I didn't automatically connect with the main characters. They didn't exhibit the intelligence or quick wit of some of Georgette Heyer's other characters, like Mr Beaumaris from Arabella or Sophy Stanton-Lacy from The Grand Sophy. But I ended up liking them, and their friends and relations got into plenty of scrapes, which kept them occupied and me entertained....more
I'm neither a good enough writer nor an observant enough reader to write a proper review of this book. It was good, I liked it, and I'm looking forwarI'm neither a good enough writer nor an observant enough reader to write a proper review of this book. It was good, I liked it, and I'm looking forward to reading The Yiddish Policeman's Union: A Novel.
Just a note: there were a lot of words in the book that I had never seen before. My vocabulary is boring....more
As a reader, I have found that on occasion, when the stars are aligned over Silver Spring and Dickens's birthday falls on a Wednesday, my erratic readAs a reader, I have found that on occasion, when the stars are aligned over Silver Spring and Dickens's birthday falls on a Wednesday, my erratic reading paths will suddenly and surprisingly and serendipitously converge. I'd been moving through Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay for about a week when I picked up The Invention of Hugo Cabret one afternoon and read it in one sitting. I wasn't expecting to encounter any similarities between the grown-up Kavalier & Clay, which follows a character who escaped from Prague to NYC during WWII, and the part-picture book Hugo Cabret, which takes place mostly in a train station in Paris, but there were lots.
I first picked up this book when I was 15, before the 6-hour movie version came out. I don't think I'd heard of Jane Austen before. I was just browsinI first picked up this book when I was 15, before the 6-hour movie version came out. I don't think I'd heard of Jane Austen before. I was just browsing our local bookstore, The Little Professor (this was before chain stores came to my town), and I picked it up. I stood there for several minutes reading the back, flipping through it, wondering if I should get it. I did, and I've been an Austen fan ever since. It's been a while since I've read the book, so as I re-read it now, memories of my first impressions are coming back. At first I wasn't sure about it because all the daughters seemed shallow. Further reading of course made me revise my opinions. Although I like the movies a lot, I'm really enjoying my re-visit to the original....more
There is one sentence (maybe two) in this otherwise entertaining book that almost ruins it for me. While I generally have no problem going along withThere is one sentence (maybe two) in this otherwise entertaining book that almost ruins it for me. While I generally have no problem going along with what Heyer describes as normal Regency behavior, this one aspect voiced by the heroine made me stop reading from outrage. Even what the hero said later, which should have negated it, didn't make it better for me. One should be able to glide easily and enjoyably through Georgette Heyer's books. There should be no stumbles....more
Maud Hart Lovelace is one of my all-time comfort authors. I discovered the Betsy-Tacy books when I was high school, so I never read the younger booksMaud Hart Lovelace is one of my all-time comfort authors. I discovered the Betsy-Tacy books when I was high school, so I never read the younger books - I just stuck with the older ones, which follow Betsy through high school into her world travels and then marriage.
Betsy Ray and Tacy Kelly met at Betsy's 5th birthday party and have been best friends ever since. They live in the picturesque small town Deep Valley, Minnesota in the early 1900s (high school class 1910). Part of the charm of these books are the illustrations that pull you right into the period. Over Betsy and Tacy's progress through high school, you can follow their corresponding change in fashion from sailor suits to full-skirted ball dresses to slinkier sheath dresses. Style-conscious Betsy starts putting up her hair in a fashionable pompadour, but Tacy insists on keeping her hair in coronet braids. They see movies for a nickel at the Majestic. They travel in buggies pulled by horses until autos become more common.
The books tell of Betsy's struggles and triumphs and general good times. Supporting her unfailingly through it all is her family - her social, pretty mother, her devoted, benevolent father, her ambitious older sister, Julia, and her stately younger sister, Margaret. Family traditions include Sunday night lunches for which Mr. Ray makes his famous sandwiches, trips to the lake where Mr. and Mrs. Ray first met and fell in love, and muffins on the first day of school.
Betsy is a friendly, outgoing girl, and she makes lots of friends in her high school. If the only things I knew about high school came from the Betsy-Tacy books, I would want to go. Lovelace wrote a separate book, Carney's House Party, about Betsy's friend Carney Sibley....more
This series was another of my favorites growing up. Five little girls (and later a brother) are growing up in New York City on the East Side in the eaThis series was another of my favorites growing up. Five little girls (and later a brother) are growing up in New York City on the East Side in the early 1900s. They are a Jewish family living in a Jewish community with Papa's synagogue within walking distance of their tiny apartment. Almost everything I knew about Judaism when I was younger came from these books. I loved reading about their celebrations of the different holidays, of the rigorous preparations made lovingly each week for the Sabbath.
Each sister is unique, and together they have lots of adventures in their little part of the world. The youngest, Charlotte and Gertie, buy snacks to eat secretly in their bed when they're supposed to be asleep. Sarah, the middle sister, loses a library book and must gather the courage to tell the pretty new library lady. Henny, the tomboyish sister, makes everyone laugh with her costume for Purim. Ella, the eldest, falls in love for the first time.
Sydney Taylor makes the everyday exciting. Even dusting is fun, when Mama hides buttons in the front room for the girls to find as they work. The whole series is great, although this is one of my favorites....more
I enjoyed this reading so much. Jane is a quiet yet passionate character, who is committed to doing right. Charlotte Bronte draws a fascinating contraI enjoyed this reading so much. Jane is a quiet yet passionate character, who is committed to doing right. Charlotte Bronte draws a fascinating contrast between Rochester and St. John, both of whom are determined to marry ('marry') Jane but for completely different reasons. The romance in this novel is most satisfying. I like how Rochester doesn't have any inhibiting pride at the end. Disability or no disability, he just wants to be with Jane. Such a good, good book....more
After reading 1776, I wanted to read some historical fiction. I remember liking Johnny Tremain when I read it in school, so I got it from the library.After reading 1776, I wanted to read some historical fiction. I remember liking Johnny Tremain when I read it in school, so I got it from the library. I liked the characters a lot, especially Johnny, Rab and Cilla. The story felt muddled at the end, a bit awkward, ending just as the Revolutionary War was beginning....more
*contains spoilers* I like to imagine Gervase and Drusilla (what names!) leaving Stanyon to Martin's care and living in happy elegance in town after th*contains spoilers* I like to imagine Gervase and Drusilla (what names!) leaving Stanyon to Martin's care and living in happy elegance in town after they are married. They would entertain in the finest style under Drusilla's most capable management. I wish Theo hadn't been the villain. He seems like such a good person through most of the book. I kept wishing Miss Bolderwood would fall in love with him and that they would find a way to marry, but, alas, it was not to be. Not that I didn't like Lord Ulverston....more
This book is as fun as gate-crashing a posh London wedding on the arm of a handsome, possibly wicked Irishman. Which our heroine, Georgie, does. It'sThis book is as fun as gate-crashing a posh London wedding on the arm of a handsome, possibly wicked Irishman. Which our heroine, Georgie, does. It's the early 1930s and Georgie is a minor royal, 34th in line for the throne (her great-grandmother was Queen Victoria). Her half-brother Binky (that's a nickname - his real name is Hamish) has inherited the family's drafty, haunted old castle in Scotland where tartan wallpaper decorates the loo. Georgie and Binky's father gambled away any family money before he killed himself, so Binky is forced to cut off Georgie's allowance. His wife, Fig (another nickname), assumes that Georgie will be married off in the usual way and is colluding with the Queen to pair her with a Romanian prince. Refusing to be disposed of in this way, Georgie decides to go to London, where the family has a town house. As Fig refuses to send any of the servants with her, Georgie must learn how to light a fire, turn on the stove, make tea and figure out a way to earn money.
As she is settling in, Binky comes to town, summoned by someone who claims that their father lost their castle to him in a bet. Then the man is found dead in their bathtub, and evidence points to Binky. As events escalate, Georgie must use her wits and depend on her new-found friends to solve the mystery.
This book was fun to read, although I'm sure it would have been funnier if I were familiar with British royal history. One of the side plots is the Queen asking Georgie to spy on her son, the Prince of Wales, who is having an inappropriate affair with a married American. I definitely plan to look for the sequel when it comes out....more
Highly entertaining! This was a book I'd always bypassed at the library because I thought the characters as described on the book jacket sounded sillyHighly entertaining! This was a book I'd always bypassed at the library because I thought the characters as described on the book jacket sounded silly. And often they were, but Georgette Heyer wrote about them so amusingly that I found their scrapes funny instead of annoying. And the characters themselves were likable....more
While I really shouldn't approve of rakish behavior, I can't help but be glad when the heroine ends up with the rake in this novel. Venetia is one ofWhile I really shouldn't approve of rakish behavior, I can't help but be glad when the heroine ends up with the rake in this novel. Venetia is one of Georgette Heyer's wittiest heroines, and her banter with Damerel (the rake), Aubrey (her baby brother) and sundry other Heyer-esque characters is most enjoyable....more
* * * A NOTE OF APPRECIATION, IN ATTEMPTED IMITATION * * * Thank you, Markus Zusak, for your beautiful words.
This is the story of Liesel Meminger, a lit* * * A NOTE OF APPRECIATION, IN ATTEMPTED IMITATION * * * Thank you, Markus Zusak, for your beautiful words.
This is the story of Liesel Meminger, a little girl who lives in Germany during WWII. She lives with foster parents: Rosa, who possesses an obscene vocabulary, a skill for burning soup and a good heart, and Hans, who plays the accordion and teaches Liesel to read to distract her from her nightmares. She lives next-door to a boy named Rudy, her accomplice in theft and her best friend. She makes friends with Max, the Jew hiding in their basement, with whom she shares a penchant for fighting and another for storytelling.
This story is also about words, about how they are like most humannesses: they can be tools for creation or weapons for destruction. Words become important to Liesel as she learns to read, and she eventually reads out loud to others and then writes down her own story. It is obvious that words are important also to Markus Zusak. He uses them delicately, deliberately, shockingly, soothingly, violently, lovingly. His words give the sky a starring, colorful role; turn emotions into leaping, sliding beings; reveal Death's thoughtfulness and difficult position.
This book was harder for me to get into than usual for a Georgette Heyer. Possibly because the whole thing was from the male character's perspective.This book was harder for me to get into than usual for a Georgette Heyer. Possibly because the whole thing was from the male character's perspective. I did end up enjoying it, though. I liked the two main characters, and, in the usual Heyer way, there were also amusing side characters....more
I am not well-traveled. So many items I own have seen more of the world than I have. I ordered a book once from Australia, and when it arrived, I openI am not well-traveled. So many items I own have seen more of the world than I have. I ordered a book once from Australia, and when it arrived, I opened the package and thought, wow, this book used to be in Australia. It breathed Australian air, it basked in Australian sunshine. How is it possible that this book that I'm holding in my hands in Maryland had a previous life in Australia? What countries did it fly over in its journey to the U.S.?
In People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks (who, incidentally, is Australian) imagines a possible 500-year history of a real-life book, the Sarajevo Haggadah. Brooks begins her history with a contemporary conservator, Hanna Heath, who travels to Sarajevo to restore the Haggadah before it is put on display in a brand new museum. Missing since 1992, it has just been brought back to light by the Muslim librarian who had risked his life to save it from the destruction occurring in the city at the time - only the latest such rescue in the book's long history.
As she examines the book closely, Hanna discovers tiny clues: a feather, a stain, a hair. Although Hanna learns important details from these valuable bits, we get to read the stories behind them as described by Brooks - where the Haggadah was hidden during WWII, how it escaped defacement by an Inquisitor's censor in Spain, how it came to have such beautiful illuminations at a time when no Jewish books would have had any illustrations. The stories are compelling, although I found myself most interested in Hanna's own....more
Persephone and Penelope are twin sisters who possess not only a brilliant name combination but also the family gift for magic. They are taught by theiPersephone and Penelope are twin sisters who possess not only a brilliant name combination but also the family gift for magic. They are taught by their governess, Ally, in secret, magic not being considered one of the accomplishments young ladies of quality should develop.
Just about to turn 18, Persy and Pen are going to be presented to the Queen and experience their first London season. Pen is excited to attend the parties and balls, but Persy would rather continue with her studies and not have to talk to strangers. When they reach London, Ally has disappeared, and they suspect foul play. Assisted by their younger brother, Charles, and their neighbor, the handsome Lochinvar Seton, the twins try to find Ally in between dress fittings and parties.
I've been reading Marissa Doyle and Regina Scott's blog NineteenTeen for a while, in which they share tidbits of 19th century life that they have researched. When I first started reading it, the discussion was about ladies' fashions, complete with pictures. How fun is that? So when I read in Bewitching Season that a meal contained cutlets and beetroot salad, I knew that that was something a family at the time of Queen Victoria's ascension to the throne actually would have eaten.
There are fun girly scenes in this book, including one of their presentation to the Queen. After making their curtsies to the Queen, they have to catch the trains of their dresses, which are thrown to them, before backing away while the next girl is presented. Catch their trains? I can't even imagine what that must have looked like. Well, I can, but I can't think that my imagining is right....more
Some Georgette Heyer books I like because of the plot. Some I like despite the plot because of the characters. And some, not excluding those that fallSome Georgette Heyer books I like because of the plot. Some I like despite the plot because of the characters. And some, not excluding those that fall in either of the previous two categories, I like because they're funny. Black Sheep is one of those. The hero, Miles Calverleigh, just makes me laugh....more
This is the ultimate survivor story. Not only does the main character have to trek across Siberia (after which it will be an easy hop across the BerinThis is the ultimate survivor story. Not only does the main character have to trek across Siberia (after which it will be an easy hop across the Bering Strait to Alaska), armed with only his survival skills (which are remarkable, admittedly), he is being chased by people who want to torture information out of him before they kill him. A survival story is not really a survival story unless you're being chased by fanatics as well as, you know, hunting food with a homemade spear and looking for a bearless skin to protect you from the Siberian winter chill.
I really enjoyed this book. It's satisfying somehow to read about someone who can truly live off the land. He started off with just a knife, which he sneaked out of someone's cabin, and he was able to make himself a spear, a bow and arrow and then moccasins and other clothing from skins of animals he killed. If all the trappings of civilization suddenly broke down or disappeared, I'd want to know someone like him.
Here is a survival tip I learned: if you are crossing a frozen waterway, avoid all patches of snow. Apparently, between the snow and the running water underneath, the ice melts more easily than ice that is not snow-topped.
(There were a few paragraphs in which each sentence ended in an exclamation point! It made me laugh! Or groan!)