First off, let me preface this review by saying that I'm not really what one would call a fan of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland books; if I'm being honestFirst off, let me preface this review by saying that I'm not really what one would call a fan of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland books; if I'm being honest, they scared more than entertained me as a child and even though I dearly love a good tea party, I've tended to shy away from the subsequent movies, etc. (sorry Johnny Depp, you were just too real of a Mad Hatter!) That confession out of the way, I was rather surprised to find that I absolutely loved Jenn Thorson's new book THE CURIOUS CASE OF MARY ANN - it was simply frabjous and nothing short of brilliant - a real rollicking ride of a read.
Based on characters from ALICE IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (there's mention of Alice wreaking havoc a time or two but as this isn't her story, she nicely stays out of it beyond the mentions) the book presents a new set of characters that are every bit as Wonderland as Carroll's but not in the creepy sort of way that used to unnerve me as a child. The title character Mary Ann is more than merely marvelous as she backs her way through Turvy flustering the mouldings and unraveling the mystery at the heart of the book - the malicious murder of Mary Ann's father. In between gathering clues and doing double-duty on her housemaid chores, Mary Ann helps Sir Rufus slay the Jabberwock (who actually has a name - who knew??) and later reunites the testy templar with his lost sense of humor. Callooh! Callay!
Not your typical whodunit by any stretch of the imagination, this marvelous mystery is filled with tongue-in-cheek humor at every turn of a phrase by an author who is a wizard of a wordsmith wielding a wit sharper than a Vorpal sword. I found myself alternately giggling, groaning, and laughing right out loud (truly laughing out loud and not that inane LOL business) at the positively perfect puns and passages like "The oysters won't be so shellfish as to whelk on the deal. They'll clam up. So all the mussel's behind me." I love a good play on words and this book is chock-a-block full of them from beginning to end making it a truly delightful read that I rather hated to see end, a sign that I always consider the hallmark of a good book....more
I began reading the Poldark series by Winston Graham last summer after watching the BBC production (or reproduction as it's a remake from the originalI began reading the Poldark series by Winston Graham last summer after watching the BBC production (or reproduction as it's a remake from the original 1970s series) and wanting to learn more about not just the characters but also the settings in Cornwall. Having just recently finished Book 12 in the series "Bella Poldark" I have to say that I am very glad to have read through all 12 volumes and that I'm going to miss not having the books to look forward to anymore. The stories taught me a great deal of history about the Napoleonic Wars as well as life in England during this time and has of course made me want to go to the Cornwall region and visit all of the sites.
If you like historical fiction with strong characters then I highly recommend this series which has very nicely stood the test of time. ...more
Prior to reading this book I was not exactly enamored of Sophia Peabody having read about her in "The Peabody Sisters" and perceiving her to be a spoiPrior to reading this book I was not exactly enamored of Sophia Peabody having read about her in "The Peabody Sisters" and perceiving her to be a spoiled brat and hypochondriac who instantly started feeling better once she caught the attention of the "handsomer than Byron" Hawthorne. I had heard that they had one of life's great romances but it was hard to imagine that thinking of Sophia as a self-centered, over-indulged and opportunistic person who had a great artistic talent that she squandered however, after reading Robuck's novel, a new picture of Sophia Peabody emerged and I found myself actually liking her and sometimes even empathizing with her. Whoa, what a change! Having visited the Old Manse in Concord and viewing the messages etched in the window glass, visiting The Wayside and standing in Nathaniel's tower where he sought solitude for his writing, and paying my respects at the horribly humble grave of Nathaniel and his family in Sleepy Hollow, I thought I knew a good deal of the Hawthorne family's history but obviously not enough to keep from forming the wrong opinions. Just goes to show that one should never make assumptions when only putting together bits and pieces of a story - especially a historical one that has as many facets as the lives of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Peabody do. Thank you, Erika Robuck, for all of the research you put into this great book and for telling Nathaniel and Sophia's love story with all of the pieces put together properly. I love a good love story and this is definitely one for the ages! ...more
As a rule when I think about Stacey Longo's writing I think of words like "Terrifying and scary!" but the only thing that's terrifyingly scary in herAs a rule when I think about Stacey Longo's writing I think of words like "Terrifying and scary!" but the only thing that's terrifyingly scary in her new book is how well she - as an adult female - has managed to get into the mind of a teenage boy. Even though the opening of the book tells us that Curtis Price is dead, Stacey does a terrific job of bringing him to life along with all of the nuances growing up as an outsider in the 80s entailed.
In "Ordinary Boy" you meet ordinary people who lead ordinary lives but they're ordinary people that you like, ordinary people that you don't like, and ordinary people that you've no doubt met in the course of your own ordinary life. Stacey Longo has written an extraordinary story about an ordinary boy who may have led an ordinary life but who is anything but ordinary as there is a little of Curtis Price in all of us.
Curtis is a good kid with a good heart growing up on the wrong side of the tracks (if Osprey Falls, Maine has tracks that is!) with a mother who can't afford to pay the bills, his older sister Sally that he shares a room with even into his late teens, and his beloved Nana who exits the story way too soon. Like a lot of kids from broken homes, Curtis has a dad who fails to pay his child support and barely pays any attention to the kids he left behind leaving Mom to explain about things like wet dreams and other parts of growing up male that should have been answered by dear old Dad. It's in some of Curtis' conversations with his mother that you really have to wonder if Stacey Longo grew up as a boy in another life as she's got male puberty nailed down quite well.
Growing up in The Meadows, Curtis is not one of the popular kids in school nor is he one in his own neighborhood after a brief indiscretion but he doesn't go out of his way to try to become one either. He frequents his local library (good boy!) where some of his best friends are found in the pages of sci-fi and horror novels, makes a real-life best friend in another outsider - Al - whose family has money but a lack of familial warmth, works at a local nursing home where he truly cares about the residents there, and falls in love with a girl who in turn loves Curtis for the sensitive, good guy that he is. Unfortunately though, there are adults in the book who make a lot of bad decisions which end up in Curtis' tragic death which in turn ends up showing Curtis that he was no "ordinary boy" after all.
The true hallmark of a good writer is when you want to reach into the pages of a story and shake or slap a character or two and that's exactly what you'll want to do with several of them in this book. A story that you're going to have a hard time putting down once you pick it up, I highly recommend an "Ordinary Boy" which left me with a few questions but that's good as it meant I cared about the story's characters and I think you will too. ...more