Friday, November 30, 2018

"Marilla of Green Gables" by Sarah McCoy

Today is Lucy Maud Montgomery's birthday!  To celebrate, I'm reviewing a book that's based on her Anne of Green Gables series, Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy.  As you would expect, this is a prequel to the Anne books, creating a deeper backstory for Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert than is provided in Anne's stories.

I really liked the first two-thirds of this book.  Reading the imaginings about Marilla's life as a quiet, reserved girl who knows loss at a young age, who makes friends with the extroverted Rachel White, and who gradually falls in love with John Blythe was just a joy.  The last third was less delightful for me, and I'm not sure if that's because it was sadder (I don't think I need to say "spoiler alert" about the fact that she does NOT marry John Blythe) or because it got sort of exciting and suspenseful all of a sudden, and the tone didn't quite fit the rest of the book.  So I'm kind of adopting the first two-thirds into my personal head-canon for the Anne universe, and the last third I'll just... gradually forget.

This book is beautifully written, and I do recommend it to fans of the Anne books.  There are a lot of sweet little nuances, moments where you can say, "Oh, THIS is why she's so attached to that amythest brooch!" or "Aww, no wonder she encouraged Anne to go make friends with Diana -- she knows what it is to need a friend."  Also, the Pyes and the Blythes and the Andrewses and so many other familiar names appear, which was charming and fun.

(Mine from Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

"I like doing," said Marilla (p. 22).

"Greatness can be found anywhere.  It doesn't need grandeur.  There's greatness in the ordinary.  Maybe even more than elsewhere" (p. 34).

She was just as she was.  It didn't bother her to be plain (p. 56).

Marilla frowned.  His words rang of fatalism, and despite her no-nonsense nature, she was covertly a hopeful spirit (p. 161).

Silence had always been a Cuthbert comfort (p. 191).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  a soft PG-13 for discussions of death in childbirth, a few minor curse words, a suspenseful part involving men with guns, and some kissing scenes.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

"Jane of Austin" by Hillary Manton Lodge

This is a refreshing book.  It's sweet, salty, full of likable characters and enough problems to keep things interesting.  It's also a retelling of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, set in Austin, Texas, in the present day.

People told me I would love this book.  I got a copy.  Then I resisted reading it for months because I was afraid I wouldn't actually love it.

But I put it specifically on my Autumn To-Do List as something I wanted to read this fall, so I made myself start reading it despite my worries.  After all, the worst that could happen would be that I didn't love it.  Then I'd sell it to the used bookstore and move on with my life, right?

Well, I loved it.  I really did!  It had quite a few surprises to it, not the least being that it's told alternately from the POVs of the Marianne character and the Colonel Brandon character.  They're not named that here, but that's who they are.  And it's really neat to hear the story from a different angle, because in the original, Elinor is pretty down on Marianne, and because I'm more like Elinor than Marianne, I kind of go with that.  But now I think I understand the Mariannes of the world a little better, and that's awesome.

In this, sisters Jane and Celia Woodward must find a way to support themselves and their little sister Margot when their father has to skip the country after getting caught with his hand in the cashbox, so to speak.  They start a tea shop in their native San Francisco.  Celia falls in love.  All goes well.

And then it doesn't go well, and they move to Austin, Texas, to start over again.  There, they meet retired Marine Callum Beckett and charming musician Sean Willis, and they try to find a new place for their tea shop, and of course, one of the new men in their lives turns out to be a skunk, and yeah... it really is Sense and Sensibility in Texas.  No big surprises.  Nothing where they swap up the characters -- and that's my favorite kind of retelling, one where I can connect the dots to the original and have a good idea how the new version is going to wind up, but I thoroughly enjoy the ride to get to the end.

Oh, and this book has a whole bunch of recipes in it that I want to try.  Especially the one for Cranberry Vanilla Scones.  Nom nom nom.

(From my Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

"You're weird."
"I'm idiosyncratic," I retorted.  "That's different."  (p. 50).

Celia's mouth eased into a sideways smile.  "Not everyone has your passion for dead leaves" (p. 62).  (I suspect this whole book was born of the idea of a new way to make this line work.  I love it.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for discussion of a man getting a woman pregnant.  Also, quite a bit of kissing.  Nothing really racy, but not exactly a book I'd hand  my pre-teen to read, either.  No bad language.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A Literary Christmas Challenge 2018

You probably remember me participating in this challenge for the last two years.  It's so fun, I'm doing it again this year!  Basically, you sign up at In the Bookcase, you pick some festive books to read and review, and then you link your reviews back at In the Bookcase.   You can check out other people's reviews too, maybe get ideas for Christmasy books you want to read, maybe make a new blogging friend, etc!

This year, Tarissa is also hosting a giveaway in conjunction with the challenge.  Details on that are here.  It only runs through the end of this week, just so you know!

Me?  I'm aiming to read both of these:

(From my Bookstagramming adventures)

Those are Old West Christmas Brides by six different authors and Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle, for the record ;-)  Also, my daughter decided I needed to have her favorite penguin in the picture because she's obsessed with penguins.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Thank You Notes

This week is a freebie for TTT, hosted now by That Artsy Reader Girl.  I'm doing Ten Book-Related Thank-You Notes.  Here goes!

1.  Dear Cowboy, thank you for being a loving husband who works hard at his job so I can buy books.  You keep me happy.

2.  Dear Public Library, thank you for having a good selection of books so I don't have to buy every book I want to read.  You keep my marriage happy.

3.  Dear Book Bloggers, thank you for faithfully reviewing books!  You keep me from running out of books to read.

4.  Dear Bookstagrammers, thank you for inspiring me to combine my love of books with my love of photography!  You keep me busy.

5.  Dear Readers of My Books, thank you for reading my books, buying my books, reviewing my books.  You keep me writing.

6.  Dear Authors, thank you for sharing your stories with me.  You keep me sane.

7.  Dear Publishers, thank you for paying people to write books!  You keep me hopeful.

8.  Dear KDP, thank you for trying to streamline the self-pubbing process, even though it's a little widgety right now.  You keep me guessing.

9.  Dear Bookstores, brick-and-mortar as well as online, thank you for making my TBR bookcase totter.  You keep me supplied with new friends.

10.  Dear DKoren, thank you for being my writing mentor and best friend.  You keep me growing.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

"An Hour Unspent" by Roseanna M. White.

TODAY is the 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I.  Or, the Great War, as they called it then.  Perfect time to review this book, as it takes place during WWI.  In fact, I tried to hold off on finishing this book until today, but the truth is, I finished it a couple days ago because I couldn't stop reading it.  However, I did manage to hold off on reviewing it until today so I could mark this very important day in a special way on my blog!

I would have finished it even faster if this book had come in at the library for me a little sooner.  And if, right after it came in, I hadn't gone to my parents' for a week and left it behind.  In fact, I started reading it almost two weeks after I got it from the library, and then it came due when I was only ten chapters in, and I couldn't renew it because other people had holds on it too.  What's a girl to do?

A girl is to know, ten chapters in, that she loves this book so much, she must own a copy of it, and order one from Amazon, and finish reading it once it arrives on her doorstep, obviously.  Hurrah for Prime shipping.

So.  This book focuses on Barclay Pearce, older "brother" of the women featured in A Name Unknown and A Song Unheard.  I kind of wish he'd been on the cover, but I guess the publishers wanted the books to be all matchy and feature only women or something.  And there IS a woman who's a major part of the book, but... but... Barclay is the center of it, and they should have put him on the cover, so there.

I'm not reviewing this very well.  So, basically, it's about former thief Barclay Pearce walking literally into the muddled life of Evelina Manning, an upper-middle-class London clockmaker's daughter who is reeling from a broken engagement.  Really, Barclay is there to help her father with an important gizmo that will revolutionize air warfare.  She decides to flirt with him to prove to herself that she is independent and desirable and mistress of her fate.  And then she falls in love with him, and there's a middle section where everything went wrong and I wanted to shake her.

But like I said, this is Barclay's story, really.  He is such a glorious character, struggling with his own private issues, trying to reconnect with his past, but all the while opening his home and his heart to those in need.  Wonderful guy.

The ending has a few thrilling heroics tossed in for good measure, much like the endings of the previous two books in the trilogy.  And it all ends satisfactorily, so yay!

Particularly Good Bits:

Blast it all.  Why had she made friends with these people?  They didn't follow the rules, didn't ever grant her the comfort of her preconceived notions.  Even before she'd known the whole truth about them, she'd recognized that, so why had she become so attached? (p. 306)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate it:  PG for some peril and violence.  No bad language or questionable content.  There's some kissing, though.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

"Return to Gone-Away" by Elizabeth Enright

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.  I would have LOVED this book as a kid!  Not that I didn't love it now, cuz I did, but I would have read it over and over and over and over as a kid, just like I did the book that preceeds it, Gone-Away Lake.  

This book picks up where that one left off, with Portia's family renovating the abandoned mansion that her parents bought the previous summer.  It's all about fixing an old house, and I have ALWAYS wanted to fix up an old house (in theory, anyway -- my adult self realizes that would be a LOT of work).  Plus, you get to spend another whole book hanging out with Portia and Julian and all their friends, young and old, and hanging out with fictional friends is one of my favorite pastimes.  

There are adventures and surprises and discoveries and treasure hunts, and it is altogether jolly good fun.  I read this aloud to my kids, which was awesome, and I fully intend to re-read it in a few years.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  There's one part where kids get stuck in a dumbwaiter that's a little tense, and very little kids might find that freaky.  But it's clean as a whistle.

This is my 9th book read and reviewed for the OldSchool Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018.  I need to read one more, and I'll have reached my goal for this challenge!

Friday, November 2, 2018

"Soldier On" by Vanessa Rasanen -- Guest Review on SDMW

Wow.  This book is intense.  It deals with the struggles faced by a married couple who are separated when the husband is deployed to the Middle East.  I love how it gives a clear picture of two Christians with mature faith who still struggle to live out their faith in their daily life.  

There are no easy answers provided here -- simply reading the Bible and praying and going to church don't fix every problem, though turning your back on Word and Sacrament certainly exacerbate troubles at times.  Depression and doubt are depicted realistically, but shown to be survivable, not the end of life or faith.

I've reviewed this book fully here on Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife, if you want to know more.  You'll also have a chance to enter a giveaway there!

Particularly Good Bits:

Church wasn't a place to go only when life was going well.

They might not be like other couples, attached at the hip and sickeningly cute, but this was them, with their own brand of marriage and love, however odd it might seem to the outside world.

She looked down into her mug, wishing she could disappear into the abyss, drown herself in coffee.  That would be a weird way to go.  Very Lutheran of you.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for scenes of war violence and danger, soldiers using occasional crass language and making jokes about people's mothers, a realistic depiction of more than one kind of depression, and discussions of child neglect and a suspected suicide attempt.  Gritty, but not gruesome or gross.

I received a complimentary advance copy from the author, and in no way did I agree to provide a positive review in exchange.  These are my honest opinions.