Very enjoyable book, and as someone who has spent a few years farming in Alaska, very realistic and familiar: the bitterly cold winters, the struggle...moreVery enjoyable book, and as someone who has spent a few years farming in Alaska, very realistic and familiar: the bitterly cold winters, the struggle to eke out crops from muck and permafrost during the crazy-long summer days, and the unbelievable beauty of the wilderness just steps away from precarious civilization.
(Even Mabel's encounter with a river otter brought back one of those intense memories, when I was sitting on the banks of the Little Salmon River reading a book and was startled by a family of river otters swimming downstream, playfully snorting and diving and rolling over each other. Alaska is our national treasure. Everyone needs to go at least once in their life.)
The ending does telegraph itself to the reader somewhat, but that does not make it any less poignant. It's a very well-written story, true to itself and the time and place. (less)
This was an eGalley ARC, and I don't normally bite the hand that feeds me advance eBooks (okay, they do expire so I don't actually own anything at the...moreThis was an eGalley ARC, and I don't normally bite the hand that feeds me advance eBooks (okay, they do expire so I don't actually own anything at the end), but this one fell somewhat short of my expectations. The writing was much too melodramatic at times, choppy narrative at others; it seemed like every few pages was a digression for a lengthy explanation about another factoid, which really hurt the pacing.
I really liked the narrative when it switched to past lives, I just wish the strength of the story at those points was carried through to the modern day sections.
Great premise, I had been really looking forward to this one. :((less)
A very entertaining and adventurous read for second grade and up. Chengli is a young orphan boy living in Chang'an China in 630 AD. He is cared for by...moreA very entertaining and adventurous read for second grade and up. Chengli is a young orphan boy living in Chang'an China in 630 AD. He is cared for by an ancient woman called Old Cook who tells him stories about his father, an Imperial Inspector who was kidnapped by bandits before he was old enough to remember.
As Chengli grows older, he feels the strange desert winds calling to him and decides to join up with a camel caravan traveling the Silk Road. He knows he doesn't want to stay in Chang'an and yearns to find someone who can tell him more about his father. But he comes into more adventure than he bargained for when the caravan is tasked with transporting a spoiled Imperial princess, and her dowry caravan, to meet King Galdan at the edge of the great Taklamakan desert.
Young readers will get a feel for the colorful and perilous life on the Silk Road in the days of the camel caravans, and will enjoy the fast-paced adventures and determined spirit of Chengli. (less)
A thoroughly enjoyable tale set in post-Civil War Arkansas. A 14-year-old girl named Mattie Ross hires a federal marshall to hunt down the outlaw resp...moreA thoroughly enjoyable tale set in post-Civil War Arkansas. A 14-year-old girl named Mattie Ross hires a federal marshall to hunt down the outlaw responsible for the death of her father. The real gem of this story is the "voice" of Mattie. Authentic to the times, we meet a spirited young woman, with a steady gaze, a head for figures, and who takes nonsense from no one. Through her eyes we get to experience one of the best descriptions of life and times in the rough and ready days of the Old West. True Grit is an American classic, through and through.
The first paragraph:
People do not give it credence that a fourteen-year-old girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood but it did not seem so strange then, although I will say it did not happen every day. I was just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and $150 in cash money plus two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.
One scene I particularly enjoyed was when Mattie deals with the horse merchant, forcing him to buy back the horses that her father had purchased before he died. One realizes right there that no one will ever get the best of Mattie without taking some serious lumps in the process.
I would not say that I am a fan of the Western genre, but I really had fun reading this book.
After a life of riding the rails with her father, 12-year-old Abilene can’t understand why he has sent her away to stay with Pastor Shady Howard in Manifest, Kansas, a town he left years earlier; but over the summer she pieces together his story.
Well I had to drop everything and read this year's Newbery Award winner. This is a heart-tugging story set in the dusty days of the depression in a small town called Manifest (slogan: "A town with a rich past, and a bright future") just off the railroad tracks near the coal mines. Abilene has been living the life a a hobo with her father, Gideon, but after she recovers from an illness he sends her to live with a friend while he works on the railroad. From the outset, Abilene misses him terribly and doesn't understand why their inseparable and footloose lifestyle was no longer considered suitable for a girl of 12. Then under the floorboards of her room she finds some hidden letters from the first World War and begins to learn more about Manifest, the town with a past.
The story unfolds at a leisurely pace, as Abilene works off her "debt" for a broken flowerpot at Miss Sadie's Divining Parlor. While Abilene works in the garden, Miss Sadie quietly begins her storytelling--tales of what Manifest was like when her father lived there as a boy. And what tales they are: oppression at the hands of greedy mine owners, confidence schemes, moonshine runners, late night Klu Klux Klan meetings and cross burnings, murders, tent revivals, and county fairs.
I liked the book and cried buckets over the ending. The characters are diverse and lovingly drawn and the richly-detailed descriptions of life in a small Kansas town during the depression added to the authenticity. The story of Abilene is intertwined with the stories from the letters from 20 years previous, so there is some jumping back and forth in the narrative that younger readers might find difficult. Will this Newbery become a perennial favorite of young readers? I think it has a good chance because of the down-home, comfortable style of writing. I can see teachers enjoying this as a class read-aloud.
Possible read-alikes: Because of Winn-Dixie, or the Sarah Plain and Tall books, except this has more mature subject matter with the murders and moonshine and KKK.(less)
One of the few Patrick O'Brian books I haven't read 10 times already! Somehow this one escaped my obsession a couple of years ago. Anyway, the thing a...moreOne of the few Patrick O'Brian books I haven't read 10 times already! Somehow this one escaped my obsession a couple of years ago. Anyway, the thing about this story is the immediate recognition that the main characters are sort of "rehearsals" for the Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin characters in his Master & Commander series. One can see O'Brian trying out all sorts of things that come out later as fully-fleshed out plot lines in his other books.
Unfortunately, fully half the book finds Jack and Tobias shipwrecked and starving after their ship founders sailing around the horn of South America. I felt like the unrelenting and brutal privations were almost too much, especially for a set of younger characters than we are used to in M & C.(less)
I saw a trailer for the movie online and it looked interesting so I checked the book out of my library. It was good! I have heard that the accuracy of...moreI saw a trailer for the movie online and it looked interesting so I checked the book out of my library. It was good! I have heard that the accuracy of the story Philippa Gregory tells is questionable, but I must say that the book caught and held my attention from beginning to end. There were only a couple of places where I felt she fumbled Mary Boleyn's character. I can believe that life at court was similar to what the author details--claustrophobic and backstabbing and treacherous--including the machinations behind the scenes of the Howard family to place one of their women at the King's side. It all hinged on producing that male heir, didn't it? I thought it was a good piece of writing, but can't speak to the inaccuracies. The movie looks tantalizing with Scarlett Johannson, Natalie Portman, and Eric Bana in the lead roles. :) (less)
**spoiler alert** This fifth book in the Master and Commander series is a re-read for me. These tales of friendship and adventure on the high seas dur...more**spoiler alert** This fifth book in the Master and Commander series is a re-read for me. These tales of friendship and adventure on the high seas during the Age of Sail make my all-time favorites list, particularly Desolation Island. I suppose it could be read as a standalone, but one really needs to start with the first book and follow the friendship of the two protagonists, Captain Jack Aubrey and his ship's surgeon, Stephen Maturin. Perilous sickness among the crew, spies and double agents, and one of the most suspenseful sea chases ever written -- I can't recommend this book enough.(less)
I seem to be giving a lot of "three star" scores to books I've read. These all turn out to be enjoyable books, but somehow don't make that leap to gre...moreI seem to be giving a lot of "three star" scores to books I've read. These all turn out to be enjoyable books, but somehow don't make that leap to greatness that in my mind qualify them for that extra star or two.
The Other Queen is the latest historical fiction from Phillippa Gregory, and is set during the time of the house arrest of Mary Queen of Scots. Interestingly, much of the novel focuses on her hostess during the arrest, Bess of Hardwick. The book is written in first-person, bouncing among three points of view: Mary, Bess, and her husband George, the Earl of Shrewsbury. While it keeps the reader guessing as to the exact moments when key pieces of information will be revealed to the other characters, it does get repetitious. We hear Mary's conviction of her absolute divinity as a queen over and over. We hear Bess's worries about her money troubles over and over. And we hear again and again about George's anguish over how to act with honor in the service of Queen Elizabeth even when he disagrees with her reliance on her advisor William Cecil.