The Bracelet is historical suspense set in Savannah, Georgia, circa 1858-1859. Celia Browning is the heroine. She lives with her father, whom she loveThe Bracelet is historical suspense set in Savannah, Georgia, circa 1858-1859. Celia Browning is the heroine. She lives with her father, whom she loves very, very much. She also lives with her cousin, Ivy, whom she struggles to love. Both Celia and Ivy have practically grown up without a mother. (Ivy's father has long since vanished from the picture.) The two have grown up side-by-side, for the most part, but, not grown closer. If anything, the two have grown further and further apart.
Several potential conflicts greet readers at the beginning of the novel:
1) Celia's best friend, Sutton Mackay, is due to arrive very soon. Celia is completely absorbed in him, and, her not-so-secret plans to become his wife. Where's the conflict? She's unsure if Sutton loves her in that way, or, if he loves her in that way still. She's unsure if he will actually propose to her while he's back in town. She's unsure if he's ready to get married now. What if he wants to marry her, but, wants to postpone the wedding for a few more years? Those aren't the only conflicts, of course, but the remaining would be spoiler-ish. 2) There is a newspaper reporter who plans on writing a series of articles, and, perhaps even a book about two mysterious deaths that happened in the house where the Brownings live. (One of the mystery-deaths is of Celia's aunt--Ivy's mother--who plummeted from the balcony to her death. The second death occurred in the carriage house on the estate. The reporter doesn't have a name for the mystery-woman, at least not when the novel opens.) The conflict? Well, the Browning family looks down on the reporter, of course, and wants to prevent him from publishing anything at all. 3) Celia receives a bracelet that she perceives as a threat against her very life, since, the gems in the bracelet are a diamond, an emerald, an amethyst, and a diamond. Of course, the person who sent it was communicating in the secret language of jewels, right?! So Celia begins investigating, and, she wonders if there is a connection between the past-scandal that the reporter is trying to uncover and whomever sent her the bracelet. She doesn't know how they're connected, or even if they're connected. 4) Her father's health. Technically, I'm not sure if his failing health is a proper conflict, more, of a complication. Since Celia--and most others--are afraid of talking about anything of actual significance of an upsetting or potentially upsetting nature.
If the novel has a weakness, I fear it is that it is so slowly paced in the first half. After a hundred or so pages where nothing happened, or nothing new happened, I realized the book was lacking in something: either development of plot or development of characters. The second half has plenty of plot. That's good. But. For me, it still lacked character development. To me, all the characters felt flat and shallow, lacking depth and substance. I am not saying that Celia's character was "shallow" in nature--meaning she was self-absorbed and vain. No, I just struggled with them as characters. I have come to expect at least one or two characters to be developed in the books I read. I would have loved to see Celia, Ivy, and Sutton all be developed fully as characters and be engaging and interesting and believable. Since I felt Sutton and Celia lacked substance, weren't fully developed, their relationship--their romance--felt flat to me.
The novel's strength is in the second half of the novel when the mystery and suspense are given the spotlight. ...more
On the one hand, I didn't end up connecting with the characters, and, I found much of the book to be confusing and/or too bizarre for my liking. But oOn the one hand, I didn't end up connecting with the characters, and, I found much of the book to be confusing and/or too bizarre for my liking. But on the other hand, I found it compelling enough that I wanted to read it through until the end so that I could see if Cade 'finds' her 'entangled' missing half, Xan.
Entangled is YA Science Fiction. It's several thousand years in the future long after Earth itself has been destroyed--by asteroid, I believe. Humans haven't done a good job colonizing space. In fact, they've done an AWFUL job of it. They're not thriving, and, at best are merely surviving. Humans are the lowest of the lowest of the low. All alien races seem to despise humans as nobodies.
Cade is the book's human narrator. She's a teen musician trying to make sense of her noisy existence. Music is the sole way she copes with her life. Her music seems to help those around her cope better with their own lives too. Even the spacesick humans who have lost their sanity completely. (The spacesick seem to have a need to touch and be touched, to connect with anything and everything outside themselves.)
Soon after the novel opens, Cade is visited by someone--or a remnant of someone. She learns that she is special, that she is 'entangled,' that she has a second-half, Xan, who is in danger, that Xan and Cade together could be the saviors of the human race. It's a lot of information to absorb. But. She takes her visitor seriously and begins a task that seems--at least to her--impossible. Finding a way off the planet and onto a space ship, traveling to the planet, Hades, where Xan is being held prisoner.
It would be a very short and unsatisfying book if Cade didn't find a way off the planet at least. And, as you might have guessed, Cade does in fact make friends with the people she's traveling with. She informs them of her mission, and, they decide to help her. Not that they offer help immediately and without reservation. But. Eventually relationships--friendships--are formed. And Cade begins to feel a little less alone and a little less overwhelmed.
There are a handful of world-building scenes throughout the novel. I'm not sure why they didn't quite work for me. I just failed to engage with this book and the characters within it. I wanted to know what happened. But I didn't necessarily "like" or "enjoy" the characters or the journey. Some characters I liked more than others.
This one may work for you. It didn't quite work for me. But as I said, I at least cared enough to finish it. ...more
I loved the focus of J. Ryan Lister's The Presence of God. The book promises to trace God's presence through Scripture, to reveal how our God is a GodI loved the focus of J. Ryan Lister's The Presence of God. The book promises to trace God's presence through Scripture, to reveal how our God is a God who draws near to His people, and draws near in order to redeem. God redeems us in order to have fellowship with us. How did he redeem us? By becoming one of us--the incarnation.
I love, love, love the book of Revelation. I do. And Revelation 21:3 is one of my FAVORITE verses. It reads, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God." Lister writes, "This objective, though, is not only prevalent at the story’s end, but also woven throughout Scripture’s plot line."
The Presence of God is a book designed to help readers understand the Bible, to help readers see the big picture of the Bible. The presence of God is the unifying theme of Scripture, Lister argues. And it's hard to deny for the case he presents is a strong one! Lister covers books from the Old Testament and the New Testament. Does he cover each and every book of the Bible? I'm not sure that he covers all 66 books of the Bible--at least not equally. But. He covers the whole story--each major section of Scripture. (Law, prophets, wisdom books, etc.) Readers spend time with Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, etc. By the end of the book, readers will have something to grasp--a way to understanding the Bible and the gospel story. In great detail, he traces his theme. God longs to be near to the people He has chosen. God hates sin, for not only is sin offensive and repulsive, it keeps us apart from Him. God draws near in order to redeem us, to restore us. He wants to be with us! He wants us to be with him for eternity!
Read The Presence of God If you are longing for God's presence If you are wanting a deeper understanding of Scripture If you want to grasp the 'big picture' of Scripture If you're looking for a simple but comprehensive way to make sense of the gospel...more
I loved, loved, LOVED Angie Smith's For Such A Time As This. I really did. What did I love about it? I loved the balance of text and illustration. TheI loved, loved, LOVED Angie Smith's For Such A Time As This. I really did. What did I love about it? I loved the balance of text and illustration. The stories felt full, or, I suppose a better word might be rich. Some story books are so concise that all stories are made to fit on a two-page spread. The stories feel complete, whole. Each one just the right length. And the illustrations, well, I think I loved them!!! Breezy Brookshire's illustrations may be my favorite out of the story book bibles I've read the past few years. At first, I wasn't sure if I "liked" how some of the illustrations are done in black and white and some are in color. But. After reading and rereading, I think I like it just how it is.
What else did I love about For Such A Time As This? Well, I loved the format itself.
I loved, loved, loved the prayers!!! I love how Scriptural they are. I love how practical they are.
And did I mention I love, love, love the storytelling? Angie Smith is a gifted writer. She has a way with words. She pulls out the importance and significance from the passages, always helping readers see the big picture. It was just a joy and a delight to read her stories.
For Such A Time As This is perfect for mothers and daughters to read together. (Though dads and daughters could read as well!!!) The book is subtitled "Stories of Women from the Bible, Retold for Girls." But honestly, I think parents could read it/share it with sons and daughters....more
I enjoyed reading How To Catch A Bogle a Victorian fantasy novel by Catherine Jinks. Birdie, the heroine, is an apprentice to Alfred the Bogler. She'sI enjoyed reading How To Catch A Bogle a Victorian fantasy novel by Catherine Jinks. Birdie, the heroine, is an apprentice to Alfred the Bogler. She's bogle bait. Bogles are monsters who consume children. The action begins quickly in this one. Readers soon see Alfred and Birdie hard at work at this one. Birdie sings beautifully, baiting the trap if you will. Alfred carefully waits until just the right moment... Dangerous work it is. Is it too dangerous? One of Birdie's new acquaintances says it is. Miss Eames is something. She is very curious about bogles, about boglers. She wonders about the different types and classes of bogles--monsters or creatures. Where they live, how they live, what they eat, likes and dislikes, etc. She has a different approach than Alfred. Alfred is practical and skilled, but, not curious or scientific. Miss Eames is more interested in his work than he is in her work. She comes to really care for Birdie.
Miss Eames is not the only person interested in bogles. And there is one person whose interest is unethical....
Plenty of action and a bit of mystery!!! I enjoyed this one very much....more
I'm so glad I took the time to reread Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave! I felt ready for the sequel. Of course, I felt ready for the sequel the moment I fI'm so glad I took the time to reread Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave! I felt ready for the sequel. Of course, I felt ready for the sequel the moment I first finished The Fifth Wave! But I felt prepared to fully appreciate the sequel.
First, you shouldn't read The Infinite Sea until you've read the first book in this alien-invasion series. It does NOT stand alone.
Second, if you've read the first book, and at the very least enjoyed-it-in-the-moment, you should pick up this next book.
Third, if you're looking for a quick, compelling read--perhaps for a read-a-thon--then consider this one. What makes it quick is the fact that, like the first book, it is hard to put this one down!!!
Some time has passed--perhaps a few days, perhaps a week or two--since the ending of The Fifth Wave.
The prologue, "The Wheat," is something. I think it does a great job as prologue--reminding readers of the intensity of the series, of the world as they know it.
Book one, The Problem of Rats, "The world is a clock winding down." This first section is narrated by Ringer. I believe this was the first chance for readers to get her perspective. I was expecting the book to begin with Cassie, I almost saw The Fifth Wave, as being Cassie's book predominantly, and opening with Ringer's thoughts, well, it was a good reminder that the book, the series, is so much more than that.
Book one, The Ripping, "From the time I could barely walk, my father would ask me, Cassie, do you want to fly?" This second section is narrated by Cassie. You'll probably notice--beginning with this section--that the chronology of the narrators is interesting and overlaps and goes back and forth a bit. I didn't mind this actually.
Book one, The Last Star, "As a child, he dreamed of owls." Evan Walker gets his chance to narrate. Readers learn much in this section!!!
Book one, Millions, "The boy stopped talking the summer of the plague." I found this section--short as it was--to be so emotional. I loved gaining more insight on Poundcake.
Book one, The Price. This fifth section is narrated by Cassie. I wouldn't say it's the most action-packed section, but that's because it would be too tough to choose. Has there really been a slow section?! But much does happen, and we see it through her point of view.
Book one, The Trigger. Again. So very short. But oh-so-intense. Another Poundcake section. And I thought "Millions" was emotional!
Book two, The Sum of All Things. Ringer's section. Plenty of this novel is told through her perspective, and, I came to appreciate that in a way. Much is learned in this section certainly, or, perhaps I should say much is explained through dialogue?
Book two, Dubuque. Essentially the conclusion of the book. Cassie's perspective, I believe. ...more
I found The Red Pencil to be a mostly fascinating read, even if it was written in verse. (Do remember that I've said many times that verse novels arenI found The Red Pencil to be a mostly fascinating read, even if it was written in verse. (Do remember that I've said many times that verse novels aren't exactly the best match for me personally). In fact, I found the verse to be strong: that is very well-written. The book itself, though perhaps a tiny bit slow in the first dozen pages or so, was emotional and compelling and hard to put down. The strength of the poetry actually helped me connect with Amira, the twelve-year-old narrator of The Red Pencil. What I didn't enjoy quite as much, perhaps, are the illustrations. Part of me knows that to the character, Amira, drawing is essential. She expresses herself through drawing: she draws with a stick in the sand/on the ground. Throughout the book, this is just an important part of who she is, how she sees her world, how she copes. So I could see why the book is illustrated. But even so, I personally didn't "love" the illustrations.
So. What you should know. The Red Pencil is set in South Darfur, Africa, in 2003/2004. Readers meet Amira, her mom and dad, her sister (Leila), her best friend, her neighbors. (Particularly Old Anwar and Gamal.) One gets a sense of place and community. Readers come to know that what Amira wants, really wants, is an education. To learn to read. To learn to write. Readers also know that her mom is very opposed to the idea. (Her father is not opposed.)
Life does not stay the same for Amira and her family. Upheaval is coming. Her life will be disrupted. Things will be forever changed with the war--the unrest--the coming of the Janjaweed. Soon Amira finds herself a refugee living in a refugee camp....
The Red Pencil is a book to be experienced. I found it to be well-written. Is it as informative and as thorough as a nonfiction book would be on the subject? Probably not. The book focuses on an emotional connection, which I believe is just as important. It gives one a reason to care, a reason to look for more information, seek out more stories. ...more
I really liked Lucy Worsley's The Art of The English Murder. There were some chapters that I loved, loved, loved. There were some chapters I 'merely'I really liked Lucy Worsley's The Art of The English Murder. There were some chapters that I loved, loved, loved. There were some chapters I 'merely' liked. But overall, I found the book to be worth reading and informative. Plenty of "I didn't know that?!?!" facts were included. I always enjoying learning as I read. I believe this is the book companion to a BBC documentary A VERY BRITISH MURDER. I'm curious how the two compare. If it's better to read or watch.
So the premise of this one is simple: how did the British become so interested, so entertained, so fascinated by murder: murder in real life and murder in fiction. It even looks at how real life crimes influences/inspires fictional crimes. (Think Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins to name just two.) So on the one hand, it looks at real cases that got plenty of press, and stayed in the news, cases that became, in a way, part of the culture (think Jack the Ripper), and, on the other hand, it looks at fictional cases. (Think Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, etc.) The last few chapters focus on the "Golden Age" of mystery writers. And the very final chapter, I believe, focuses on Alfred Hitchcock.
As I said, this book has plenty of details. For example, it talks of how puppet shows--for the most part traveling puppet shows--were for adults. Puppet shows often depicted famous murders. So there would be puppets depicting murderers and their victims. And the audience would watch the crime unfold in front of them. The book notes that at times, the murder would be (could be) encored several times. So it does go into 'melodrama' and the theatre. I found the chapter on the stage version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fascinating!
I loved, loved, loved Jody Hedlund's Love Unexpected. It is the first in a new series, Beacons of Hope, a series about lighthouses. The book is set inI loved, loved, loved Jody Hedlund's Love Unexpected. It is the first in a new series, Beacons of Hope, a series about lighthouses. The book is set in Maine in the nineteenth century.
In some ways, it reminded me of Love Comes Softly. (Two strangers marry for convenience. The marriage occurs soon after a funeral. The groom has a child already. The bride has no idea how to cook. Appreciation of coffee, check. Burnt biscuits, check. Toddler with temper tantrums, check.) But there are also plenty of things that set it apart and make it unique.
Emma Chambers and her brother, Ryan, are shipwrecked, in a way, stranded due to the work of pirates. Her brother is able to find work and a place to stay. But there really isn't any work for Emma to do, and, while she might find a family kind enough to let her stay for a day or two. She doesn't feel like she'd be welcomed and at ease.
Patrick Garraty has just buried his wife. He has no idea how he's going to tend the lighthouse and take care of a toddler at the same time. His lighthouse duties keep him on duty all night long. And during the day, he needs to go fishing and do general work around the house. (Not to mention getting a couple of hours of sleep at least.) Josiah needs plenty of supervision when he's awake, and, he can be intense at times. He IS a full-time job.
So when the traveling preacher--who knows and loves Patrick--suggests that he marry Emma, the stranger he rescued the night before, he sees that it might just work.
Emma has always wanted to marry, to have a home of her own. Josiah needs a mother.
So. I loved almost everything about Love Unexpected. I loved Emma. I loved Patrick. I loved watching Emma learn how to do everything. I loved seeing the relationships develop between Emma and Josiah and Emma and Patrick. The romance was nice. It was perhaps a bit more mature in nature than Love Comes Softly. But it wasn't horribly inappropriate either--for adults. I also loved the author's note!
I received a review copy from Bethany House. ...more
I wanted a quick, light read: light on history, light on mystery. I was satisfied enough with Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen. Why "satisfied enough"?I wanted a quick, light read: light on history, light on mystery. I was satisfied enough with Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen. Why "satisfied enough"? Well, the book moved quickly for me. I was interested in the time period it was set. (England, spring of 1932) I was also curious about the "royal" aspect of it. (The heroine is 34th in line to the throne.)
The premise of this one is simple. Lady Georgiana (Georgie) may be royal, but, she's also young and poor. Being royal makes her eligible for making a good marriage, perhaps, most likely an arranged marriage. But it keeps her from getting a regular job and earning her own way. To escape a social event designed to match her to someone she doesn't want to marry, she lies to her family and arranges to go to London. Her brother is allowing her to stay at his place--the family's residence--but he's not allowing her to take any servants or providing any money to hire her own once there. She'll be completely on her own for however many weeks she chooses to escape. She'll get reacquainted with some people, meet several new people, etc. She'll also socialize with the queen on occasion. (The queen wants her feedback on the married American woman, David is infatuated with.) One of the people she meets is a potential fling. His name is Darcy. The two could have some light fun together. But. She's uncertain about him and if she even wants to have a fling.
So. The mystery. A body is found in the bathtub. A dead body, of course. (I kept thinking of Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers). She discovers the body, and since it's in her brother's house, well, she fears that everyone will conclude that her brother "Binky" did the crime...
I found it entertaining enough. I didn't find it to be the perfect read, however. In terms of characterization and dialogue and description. It kept me reading at the time, but, I'm not sure it's one that will stick with me.
Still, I think I will read one or two more in the series to see if it improves. ...more
After reading Wounded Tiger earlier this year, I've wanted to read this book. (I've also wanted to read more about Jake DeShazer. But I happened to fiAfter reading Wounded Tiger earlier this year, I've wanted to read this book. (I've also wanted to read more about Jake DeShazer. But I happened to find From Pearl Harbor To Calvary for $1.) This is a short autobiography. Mitsuo Fuchida concisely relates for readers his experiences during World War II; his restlessness after the war, and his quest for answers; and ultimately his conversation to Christ, and his subsequent evangelical work for the Lord. It may be short, but, it is nevertheless compelling.
In chapter one, the author recalls bombing Pearl Harbor.
In chapter two, the author relates his further experiences during the war itself.
In chapter three, the author writes of his experiences after the war, his longing for peace, and his quest for answers.
In chapter four, the author writes of his conversion and shares his testimony.
The final chapters (chapter five through chapter seven), readers learn of his evangelical work, his work for the Lord, how he shared his testimony with others, and how his focus changed so completely, his work to spread the gospel.
I would definitely recommend From Pearl Harbor to Calvary. ...more
The Golden Dreydl is an interesting Chanukah themed fantasy novel for children. There is an album that goes along with it. The book and album put a JeThe Golden Dreydl is an interesting Chanukah themed fantasy novel for children. There is an album that goes along with it. The book and album put a Jewish twist on the Nutcracker story.
Sara, the heroine, of The Golden Dreydl has quite the bad attitude about "having" to celebrate Chanukah and "not getting to" celebrate Christmas like all her friends. But to the family gathering she will go--no matter the fuss. (Sara has an older brother, Seth).
Readers briefly meet Sara, Seth, and their many, many cousins. The "kids" of the family are playing dreydl. Sara is still in a mood. A mood that isn't exactly improved when Tante Miriam shows up with presents for one and all. It's not her fault, mind you, Sara even seems a little inclined to like her present: a golden dreydl. But Seth and her get into a bit of a fight. The dreydl ends up flying through the air and hitting the TV and breaking it. That puts most everyone in a mood.
Readers next join Sara later that evening, for a fantasy adventure. She follows a young girl--a girl claiming to be the Golden Dreydl--through the hole in the TV, I believe. They arrive in a fantasy land, of sorts, with demons, peacocks, a fool, and King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. There is also much talk of a Tree of Life.
Sara is given a quest, of sorts, to save the girl from the demons/demon king. She has the Fool to help her. A few riddle games are played. First, between Sara and the Fool, and, then later between the Demon King and Sara and the Fool.
For those readers who enjoy fantasy novels, going to different worlds, doing quests, this one is enjoyable enough. If you get a chance to listen to the music, it will probably help you 'enjoy' it even more. ...more
I love it. Of course I love it. How could I not? Now, I will admit that I didn't read the actual book until I was an adult. It wasn't one of the SeussI love it. Of course I love it. How could I not? Now, I will admit that I didn't read the actual book until I was an adult. It wasn't one of the Seuss books that I owned growing up. But the christmas special--the cartoon--is one I've seen dozens and dozens of times. The book itself is lovely. If you love one, you'll love the other.
So in case you're unfamiliar with the book or special, The Grinch hates Christmas. His neighbors, the Whos in Who-ville, love Christmas. He is super-cranky this year, and, he decides to steal it. He thinks Christmas is all about the stuff. Take the stuff, do away with it altogether, right? Wrong. The Whos in Who-ville teach the Grinch a lesson about joy.
One of my favorite things about it is it's just SO quotable. Here are a few of my favorite lines:
Every who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot...But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, did NOT!
And THEN they'd do something he liked least of all! Every who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing. They'd stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing. They'd sing! And they'd sing! AND they'd SING! SING! SING!
Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch. But, if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.
Then the last thing he took was the log for their fire! Then he went up the chimney, himself, the old liar.
It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!"
Do you know what it is to be real? One little Christmas bunny will learn this and plenty of other life lessons in Margery Williams' classic tale The VDo you know what it is to be real? One little Christmas bunny will learn this and plenty of other life lessons in Margery Williams' classic tale The Velveteen Rabbit.
The Velveteen Rabbit opens with a young boy receiving a rabbit for a Christmas present. All is lovely for the rabbit that first day. But the toy is quickly forgotten. He becomes one toy of many, many, many toys. He's not exactly special to the boy or the other toys. In fact, I'd say the other toys bully him a bit. All except for the Skin Horse, the oldest toy in the nursery. It is this horse that tells the Rabbit all about being real, what it takes to be real, what it feels like, how it changes you, etc.
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." "Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit. "Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt." "Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?" "It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand." "I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled. "The Boy's Uncle made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always." (5-8)
The Velveteen Rabbit is one of my favorite Christmas books. I love the nursery magic. I love the ending. It was originally published in 1922. The story and illustrations in this edition are original.
The Velveteen Rabbit was published several years before A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and House at Pooh Corner. Chances are if you enjoy one, you'll enjoy the other.
Do you have a favorite toy-come-to-life fantasy?...more
I am not as familiar with the original story (1816) as I am the story of the ballet. (The two are different.) It's an odd book. I'll be honest. It isI am not as familiar with the original story (1816) as I am the story of the ballet. (The two are different.) It's an odd book. I'll be honest. It is just as strange as Alice in Wonderland. (Though, of course, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King came decades before Alice.)
Marie Stahlbaum is the heroine of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. The book opens with Marie and her brother, Fritz, playing together and waiting, waiting, waiting for all the delights of Christmas. They are waiting to enter the large drawing room where the tree is, and where there presents are. Their mother and father are there as well. As is Godfather Drosselmeier. There is a new doll, Clara, for Marie. There are new toy soldiers for Fritz. And there is a lovely toy castle, Marzipan Castle, for them both. The Nutcracker is a gift for the whole family. Marie does take special interest in it, this interest remains despite the fact that Fritz breaks the Nutcracker when he's showing off.
Marie stays up past her bedtime in the drawing room. This is when things get strange: seeing Godfather Drosselmeier on top of the clock, seeing all the mice attack, seeing the Mouse King, etc. She witnesses a battle. Towards the close of that battle, she throws a slipper at the wicked Mouse King.
Marie awakens in bed the next day. Her mother had found her bleeding on the floor near the tree and toy cupboard. She spends the next few days at least in bed. Spending so much time in bed might seem horrible, and, perhaps Marie found it to be so part of the time at least. But her Godfather tells her strange stories which she believes of course.
Plenty of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King is the Godfather's strange, strange story. This story is about "a king, a queen, some mice, and a young princess named Pirlipat." The story is rich in detail:
Princess Pirlipat was very lovely. She had flawless white skin, with bright blue eyes and flowing locks of golden hair. The generals, noblemen, and ministers of the state all told the king and queen that they had never seen a baby like the princess. Not only was the princess beautiful, but she was also born with two perfect rows of teeth!
The queen insisted that Princess Pirlipat's cradle always be guarded. The royal guards were placed at Pirlipat's door, and directly beside her cradle sat six nurses...and with these six nurses sat six big cats. The nurses had strict orders from the queen to keep one cat in each of their laps and pet them all day and all night so that they would never stop purring. This was indeed strange. No one knew why the queen went to such lengths to protect her princess, but still, every night, the sound of purring cats echoed throughout the castle. But the queen had a very good reason to be on guard, for a curse had been placed on her family.
Readers learn of the family curse, of course. And it's something. The story becomes more and more bizarre as it unfolds. But to Marie, it is completely captivating.
Meanwhile, we have not seen the last of the mice or their dreadful King. Marie knows that sooner or later the final battle will come....
There does come a time when the Nutcracker takes Marie to his magical, fantastic home in Toyland
So readers see Marie awaken again from yet another dream. Will Marie's ultimate dream come true?
This story is so strange and bizarre and rich in detail--pure fantasy. ...more
I've read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas plenty of times before. But this is the first time I've read the edition of the poem published as a pictureI've read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas plenty of times before. But this is the first time I've read the edition of the poem published as a picture book in 1912 with illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith.
The poem itself is as delightful as it ever is. I think this is a poem that feels familiar no matter what. You don't have to seek it out year after year. It just finds you and sticks. It's just part of the Christmas culture. (I love the Sesame Street play starring Bert and Ernie as featured in Muppet Family Christmas.)
It was interesting to see the illustrations from this time period. (You may see the illustrations at project gutenberg.) Did I love the illustrations? Not particularly. ...more
Since her dad left, Treasure has struggled with the changes in her life. And she's not the only one struggling. Her younger sister, Tiffany, and her MSince her dad left, Treasure has struggled with the changes in her life. And she's not the only one struggling. Her younger sister, Tiffany, and her Mom are all struggling a bit. In fact, the novel opens dramatically: "Dad has been gone exactly two months, one week, and four days when Mom stands up and says, "I can't do this anymore." Soon, all three will be on their way to Great Aunt Grace's house. The mom will be leaving her daughters behind while she searches several states for her missing husband. That's the goal, the mission. But will it be successful? Will she find him? be able to talk to him? convince him to come back? agree to live together as a family again? Or is that just an unrealistic wish that Tiffany and Treasure are clinging dearly to?
Great Aunt Grace is a character. She is. She's not used to living with kids. And she's not used to being a nurturer. She will struggle. The kids will struggle. But together the three of them may just be surprised at how they come to feel like a genuine family.
I loved the great aunt. I did. I loved Treasure and Tiffany too. I thought Treasure was a great big sister. I loved how she tried to comfort and support her sister. I thought she was an honest character as well. It was just easy to love her and cheer for her. I loved seeing Treasure develop as a character throughout the book. I loved seeing her open up a bit and allow herself to feel. I loved that she got the chance to start making friends.
Life in Virginia with her great-aunt is not perfect. She has not found a "perfect place." But she's coming to terms with life as it is, and she's learning to appreciate the good things of her imperfect life. Overall, I really thought The Perfect Place was a great coming-of-age novel. (That being said, I wish they'd not taken the Lord's name in vain so many times! There were a few language instances that kept me from loving this one absolutely.)
This one reminded me of A Long Way to Chicago. ...more