I'll be honest. I loved, loved, loved Seraphina, and I didn't really like Shadow Scale. I found the sequel to be disappointing. Every reader who readI'll be honest. I loved, loved, loved Seraphina, and I didn't really like Shadow Scale. I found the sequel to be disappointing. Every reader who read and loved (or read and liked) Seraphina, I imagine, has expectations for the sequel. Other readers may love it and find it to be a wonderfully satisfying read. I wasn't one of them.
Shadow Scale and Seraphina are very different books. Yes, they're both narrated by Seraphina and focus on the conflict between dragons and humans and half-dragons. But all the things I loved about the first book seemed to be missing completely from the second book. Seraphina herself seems quite different. Yes, she's under pressure and great stress. Yes, her life has been turned upside down since the ending of the first book. So some change, of course, is welcome. But I missed the old Serpahina. I missed the world she used to live in. I missed the people she used to spend time with.
The book also feels longer than it actually is--and it's a long book. The first book was just a joy to read. I read it in two days. I mean it was an absorbing WOW book. Shadow Scale was not a joy to read. I kept reading it for several reasons. I kept hoping it would get better. Since I had loved the first book so much, I felt I should keep giving it chance after chance to improve. I didn't stop caring about the main characters just because the story was dragging. A part of me still cared about what happened in the end.
The book never improved for me. (I think other readers liked the ending better than I did.) ...more
I really liked reading Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace. Is it my favorite of the series? I'm not sure I can honestly say thI really liked reading Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare's The Phantom of Menace. Is it my favorite of the series? I'm not sure I can honestly say that though I enjoyed it. What I liked best about The Phantom of Menace was the role Jar-Jar played in it. I liked how Doescher transformed the character. Yes, some of the movie's dialogue remains. Jar-Jar on the surface appears as you probably remember. But the reader knows that Jar-Jar is playing a game, and that he's manipulating things actually. It is too his advantage to appear clumsy and stupid and obnoxious.
I found The Phantom of Menace to be a quick read. I read the play in just two days. I found myself enjoying the writing and the illustrations. Even if you're not a fan of the movie, you may enjoy this one. ...more
I am so glad I decided to read Johanna Reiss' The Upstairs Room. This one has been on my list of books I needed to read for quite a while--over a decaI am so glad I decided to read Johanna Reiss' The Upstairs Room. This one has been on my list of books I needed to read for quite a while--over a decade at least. It is nonfiction--a biography--set during World War II. The author and her sister were Jews that hid for several years from the Nazis.
Readers meet Annie, the young heroine, and her family. She has several older sisters, a mother and father. The war changes everything for the family. The mother, who was close to death anyway--the Nazis invasion of Holland didn't really change the outcome. The family found hiding places, but, separate hiding places. Annie was placed in a hiding place with one of her sisters. Readers meet the two families that hid the two girls. One family became like a second family to her. I found the book to be a quick read, and quite intense.
The book itself was well-written: both compelling and well-paced. What surprised me a little bit, and what might surprise others as well, is the language. I wasn't expecting (strong) profanity in a Newbery Honor book! I really wasn't. That being said, it wasn't a huge issue for me--as an adult reader. But I could see how it might not work for certain families as a read-aloud choice.
Did I enjoy reading Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson? I'm not sure "enjoy" is the right word. But I certainly found it absDid I enjoy reading Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson? I'm not sure "enjoy" is the right word. But I certainly found it absorbing and compelling. It reads quite quickly despite the large cast of narrators and various perspectives. (I didn't miss a central narrator.)
It is abounding in detail: details about the ship, the captain and crew, the passengers, the cargo, about U-boats (submarines), about the war in Europe, about England, about Germany, about the United States.
One thing in particular that I found fascinating was "Room 40" the oh-so-secret British code-breakers that were decoding German transmissions and such. They were able to keep track of so much and make predictions about where the Germans might strike next. (But no warnings were sent to the Lusitania about all the recent activity by German submarines in their path just hours before.)
Another interesting aspect of the book is the focus on President Wilson--his personal private life and his public life. (Though it would be a huge stretch to say it is the most interesting aspect of the book.) Why was America so reluctant to enter the war? Why were they so sure they could avoid it no matter what? Did the loss of American lives really help change the general perception of the war and make the average American ready to enter the war? If it was, why wait almost two years to declare war?
The book definitely provides readers with a rich perspective of the times. It was suspenseful and full of tension in part because of all the questions that have no easy answers.
Did I enjoy reading 17 Carnations: The Royals, The Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History? Yes and no. I enjoyed reading the first half very much.Did I enjoy reading 17 Carnations: The Royals, The Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History? Yes and no. I enjoyed reading the first half very much. It was fascinating and informative. I couldn't put it down. The second half, however, felt both rushed and prolonged. Rushed in that the last few years of war were covered quite quickly and with no real detail. Prolonged in that the coverage of the "secret files" recovered seemed to go on forever and ever. And at the expense of covering the lives of the Duke and Duchess after the war.
I definitely am glad to have read it. It was my first book about Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor). And I felt I learned much from reading it. I just wish it had stayed focused more on him and less on decades of cover-up. Or that it had handled the cover-up aspects a bit differently--in a more engaging way.
So the book isn't quite satisfying as a biography or as a "war book." Though it is almost both. I would say the book is definitely rich in detail and provides a unique perspective of the war and the royal family. ...more
I really enjoyed reading My Father's Dragon (1948), Elmer And the Dragon (1950), and The Dragons of Blueland (1951), all by Ruth Stiles Gannett. (My FI really enjoyed reading My Father's Dragon (1948), Elmer And the Dragon (1950), and The Dragons of Blueland (1951), all by Ruth Stiles Gannett. (My Father's Dragon was a Newbery Honor book for 1949.) I'd read My Father's Dragon before many years ago--long before I started blogging--but this was my first opportunity, I believe, to read the two sequels.
I loved the way My Father's Dragon opens:
One cold rainy day when my father was a little boy, he met an old alley cat on his street. The cat was very drippy and uncomfortable so my father said, "Wouldn't you like to come home with me?" This surprised the cat--she had never before met anyone who cared about old alley cats--but she said, "I'd be very much obliged if I could sit by a warm furnace, and perhaps have a saucer of milk." "We have a very nice furnace to sit by, said my father, "and I'm sure my mother has an extra saucer of milk." My father and the cat became good friends but my father's mother was very upset about the cat. She hated cats, particularly ugly old alley cats. "Elmer Elevator," she said to my father, "if you think I'm going to give that cat a saucer of milk, you're very wrong. Once you start feeding stray alley cats you might as well expect to feed every stray in town, and I am not going to do it!"
This opening hooked me. It is through the cat--his cat--that he learns of a baby dragon in desperate need of help. He tells of the Island of Tangerina and Wild Island. He learns about the captive dragon and the dangerous residents of the island. He is determined to help free the dragon. The cat helps him form a plan...
The first book is all about his going to the islands, his adventures and misadventures as he's looking for the dragon--it's a good thing he came to the island well-prepared! Does he find the dragon? You can guess the answer to that. Of course he does!
My Father's Dragon is a delightful fantasy book for very young readers. It's short and quite satisfying.
In Elmer and the Dragon, Elmer starts his journey home--by dragon. His new dragon friend will fly him home. But neither Elmer or the dragon know the way home precisely. Elmer ends up having just as many adventures returning home as he did running away from home. One of the stops along the way is Feather Island, the home of all 'lost' canaries.
In The Dragons of Blueland, the dragon sets off to return to his own family that he hasn't seen since his captivity. He's anxious to be reunited. But when he returns, he learns that his own family--his very large family--has been trapped in their cave. The entrance is guarded by men intent on capturing them or perhaps even killing them. He needs to find a way to help his family! So he seeks out Elmer...
All three books are great. It's oh-so-easy to recommend these. ...more
I enjoyed reading "B" is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood. It's one I've read before, though I don't remember reading the sequels, or all the sequels in tI enjoyed reading "B" is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood. It's one I've read before, though I don't remember reading the sequels, or all the sequels in this children's series. (Other books include Betsy and Billy, Back to School With Betsy, and Betsy and the Boys). In the first book, readers meet a young girl, Betsy, who is nervous about starting school. Though her anxiety is relieved after a successful day or two at school. The focus throughout the book is on Betsy's life at school and home. Each chapter has an "adventure" of sorts. Some of the adventures are more of an actual adventure. (For example, there is a chapter where Betsy finds and rescues a neighborhood dog from a pit she had fallen into. It may prove more 'exciting' than the chapter on the class' two pet tadpoles.) The book celebrates childhood, family life, friendship, and community.
It was originally published in 1939. In one of the chapters "How Wiggle and Waggle Grew," the class learns about Indians and makes an Indian village.
They made little wigwams of twigs covered with brown paper. They brought little dolls which they colored with reddish-brown paint. Some they dressed as squaws. Miss Grey had told them that the Indian women were called squaws. Some they dressed as Indian Braves. The Braves were the men who did the hunting and fighting while the squaws stayed home and did the work. Ellen brought a tiny doll which Miss Grey fastened on the back of one of the squaws. It was the squaw's papoose, which is the Indian name for baby. Betsy thought the Indian village was beautiful. (50-1)
So it's definitely a product of its time. For better and for worse. Betsy's world is quite different than ours. In Betsy's world, it's safe to walk everywhere, play anywhere, and every adult is a friend.
I wouldn't say it's a must-read children's classic, but, it is an enjoyable enough read for those looking for an old-fashioned read. ...more
I definitely enjoyed rereading Henry and Beezus. Unlike the Ramona series, I've only read the Henry Huggins books once or twice. Henry Huggins, our heI definitely enjoyed rereading Henry and Beezus. Unlike the Ramona series, I've only read the Henry Huggins books once or twice. Henry Huggins, our hero, really, really wants a bicycle. His parents can't afford to give him one, and, he doesn't expect it of them. He doesn't feel entitled to it. If only there was a way to earn enough money to buy it himself.
"Henry and The Roast." Readers meet Henry and Ribsy, learn of his great desire for a bicycle, and witness Ribsy steal a roast from the neighbor's barbecue. Readers also meet Henry's nemesis: Scooter, a boy with a bicycle and a paper route. A boy who happens along just in time to "save the day" or save the roast and save Ribsy from a dog fight.
"Henry Gets Rich." Henry discovers abandoned boxes of gumballs. He needs Beezus' red wagon to carry them back home. But borrowing the wagon means getting Beezus and Ramona to tag along with him.
"Ramona," coaxed Beezus, "can't you play that game some other time?" "What game?" asked Henry. He couldn't see that Ramona was playing any game. "She's playing she's waiting for a bus," explained Beezus. Henry groaned. It was the dumbest game he had ever heard of. "Doesn't she know it isn't any fun just to sit on a box?" he asked, looking nervously up and down the street. If only he could be sure no one else had discovered his gum! "Sh-h," whispered Beezus. "She thinks it's fun and I don't want her to find out it isn't. It keeps her quiet." Then she said to her little sister, "If you get in the wagon, Henry and I'll pull you and you can pretend you're riding on the bus." (40)
Henry thinks the gum a great discovery. He can even sell it to all his friends and classmates. He can make some money for his bike fund. But the teachers aren't happy about all the gum. (Neither are the janitors). And he finds it increasingly hard to sell gum after the first day or two. Maybe the gum wasn't such a wonderful discovery after all.
"The Untraining of Ribsy" Henry has the opportunity to take over Scooter's paper route for a week. A dollar will help his bike fund that's for sure. But can he stop Ribsy from "stealing" papers on the route? Beezus and Ramona make an appearance in this chapter as well. In fact, it is Ramona who accidentally provides a solution.
"Henry Parks His Dog" and "Beezus Makes A Bid" Henry, Beezus, and Ramona go to a police auction. Henry's trying to buy a bicycle at the auction with his $4.04. (He had to spend a dime to buy Ramona a snack. He didn't want to stop at the store and "park his dog" outside, but, he had to do something to get Ramona to behave.) Will he get a good deal? Or will all the kids tease him?
"The Boy Who Ate Dog Food" Everyone is excited about the grand opening of Colossal Market. There will be prizes and free samples. Henry and his parents go. As do Beezus and her family, I believe. (I think all the neighbors go.) Henry is lucky and unlucky. He wins something. But the prize, at first, feels very unlucky. He won $50 of work at a BEAUTY SALON. He doesn't need manicures, waves, and facials. Everyone is laughing. Which leads him to accept a dare to eat dog food. But then he realizes that he can SELL his prize and get the money for what he wants most... ...more