Thursday, June 30, 2022

"Emma" (Manga Classics) by Jane Austen (original story), Crystal S. Chan (story adaptation), and Po Tse (art)

This was sweet and fluffy and fun, but I think the adapters here may have lost some of the deeper meaning contained within Austen's original.  I don't think they show Emma maturing as much here as she does there, in other words.  Actually, this has inspired me to want to reread the original, so that's pretty cool :-)

If they don't portray Emma's maturing from a judgmental and meddlesome young lady to a kinder and more contented young lady, that might partly be because the Emma here starts out fairly nice and kind and sweet.  Which makes the whole manga light and enjoyable, and that is not all bad.  I suspect my ten-year-old is going to love it.

The language feels more updated and modern than in the previous Manga Classics I've read, which was a little jarring, but I was mostly okay with it.  

This is a minor quibble, but I really disliked the goatee they gave Mr. Knightley.  It looked like a villain's goatee from a cartoon, and I was not a fan.  

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G for clean and unobjectionable.

This has been the 32nd book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer Reading, Having a Blast...

This week's prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is "Books on my summer 2022 reading list."  I have actually already chowed through several books on my summer TBR list, thanks to lots of extra reading time while laid up with my broken arm, but here are ten that are still waiting for me:

  1. The Black Swan by Rafael Sabatini
  2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  3. Laertes by Carly Stevens
  4. Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner
  5. Possibilities by Debra White Smith
  6. The Prince of Thieves by Alexandre Dumas
  7. Robin Hood the Outlaw by Alexandre Dumas
  8. Rose Petals and Snowflakes by Kendra E. Ardnek
  9. Simply Sara by Hillary Manton Lodge
  10. What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge

(from my Instagram)

How about you?  Do you have some books you've been saving for this summer?  Or new releases you're looking forward to?

Sunday, June 26, 2022

"The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found" by Karina Yan Glaser

This series continues to delight me! I love that the kids age and mature as it progresses -- this fourth book takes place about two years after the first book.  Unfortunately, that means the adults also age, and a loss that has been hovering for a while finally occurs.  Glaser handles grief and mourning so sensitively, yet honestly -- she really, really impressed me here.

This book also involves the issues of homelessness for kids and absent parents, and how those can affect even kids like the Vanderbeekers who have a loving and stable home.  But it also shows how they can impact the life of someone who is struggling, without seeming condescending or pitying.  Again, I was impressed.

No one in this book ever says the phrase "love your neighbor as yourself," but that message is woven all through this book, and the series as a whole.  Wonderful stuff!

Also, yes, I've read a LOT of middle-grade books and manga while laid up with my broken arm.  They have been such mood lifters!!!

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for dealing with the heavier topics of death and homelessness and abandonment that might be disturbing to some very young readers.

This has been my 31st book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022

Thursday, June 23, 2022

"Jane Eyre" (Manga Classics) by Charlotte Bronte (original story), Crystal S. Chan (story adaptation), and SunNeko Lee (art)

These Manga Classics were so perfect for me in the first days of recovering from my broken arm!  They held my attention that was sometimes really drifty thanks to pain meds, and I could read them in little chunks as my awakeness permitted.

Since Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is my favorite novel, I was prepared to be picky about this adaptation.  But I was also prepared to be charmed.  Happily, I was mostly charmed!  They really captured the essence of the characters so well -- Jane is valiant but yearning, Rochester is mercurial but kind, and St. John Rivers is cheerless and misguided.  

Best of all, they did not glide over the twin turning points that Bronte hinges her story on -- that Rochester repents of his former ways and attitudes and asks God to help him do better, and that Jane stops relying on her own strength and intelligence and asks God to guide her.  It's those two moments that combine to make the happy ending possible, but filmmakers almost never get that right, which means that this manga is superior to most filmed versions of Jane Eyre, imho.

(Mine from my Instagram)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for mild depictions of a madwoman, mentions that Mr. Rochester had mistresses and lovers before he met Jane, and speculation that Adele may be his daughter.  My youngest is 10, and I'm letting her read this, but I don't know if I would give it to younger kids.

This has been my 30th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

"The Count of Monte Cristo" (Manga Classics) by Alexandre Dumas (original story), Crystal S. Chan (story adaptation), and Nokman Poon (art)

This manga blew me away.  Particularly the artwork by Nokman Poon.  I mean, the Anne of Green Gables in this series was super cute, but this retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo is fabulous.  The artwork in particular is magnificent.  Sometimes, I would stop reading and just bask in the glorious art.

The original book is my second-favorite novel of all time (you can read my review of it here), so I had high expectations for this manga.  And it did not disappoint.  At all.  They included nearly all the parts I consider necessary and portrayed nearly all the characters in ways that absolutely delighted me -- there was not enough of Grandfather Noitier's beautiful relationship with his granddaughter, but that's my only real quibble.  As soon as I finished reading this, I handed it to my kids, who all took turns devouring it too!

(My favorite page...)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate it: PG for plot points involving poison, illegitimate babies, attempted infanticide, kidnapping, dueling, and murder.  They're handled delicately, but I probably wouldn't give this to a kid under 10.

This has been my 29th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

"Pollyanna" by Eleanor H. Porter

I was a teen when I last read Pollyanna.  I worried a little, this time, that I would see a lot of flaws in it, or be less enchanted by the book as I used to be.  People these days like to turn their nose up at it and call it unrealistic and goody-goody and blah blah blah.  What if I'd gotten old and it just didn't work for me anymore?

Um, yeah, I inhaled the book in two days.  It absolutely engrossed and charmed me.  I pity the jaded folks who find this book saccharine or treacly or whatever.  It does not offer a trite "spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down" philosophy.  But it does show that attitude and perseverance can make a difference in how people endure -- or do not endure -- hardships. 

This book does not flinch away from hardships.  Pollyanna's mom died when she was tiny, and now her dad has died too.  She travels across the continent to live with an aunt who does not hide the fact that she does not want this child.  Pollyanna is told not to mourn her beloved father because her aunt didn't like him.  She's told with words and actions that her aunt does not want her or like her, but is only taking her in out of a sense of duty.  Not even out of pity, much less kindness, but only duty, like paying taxes.  Porter never writes as though those trials don't hurt this girl.  She shows us a forlorn child who cries, who mourns, who trembles in fear, and who desperately wants to be loved and cared for.  But she also gives her heroine a loving father who, before he died, taught this girl a valuable truth: attitude matters.

Yes, Pollyanna strives to find something to be glad about in every situation.  And she teaches everyone around her the "glad game," from a crabby invalid to a reclusive crank to a fellow orphan.  The only person she can't teach it to is her aunt, because her aunt has forbidden Pollyanna ever speaking of her dead father.  Then, something tragic happens, and Pollyanna has to learn her game over again.

Some people seem to think Pollyanna Whittier is an Anne Shirley rip-off?  Well, I mean, it's true that Pollyanna is an orphan girl taken in by someone who doesn't want her at first.  She's cheerful and makes friends easily.  But that's all the similarity I can see.  Stories about orphans overcoming adversity were a HUGE trend in the early twentieth century.  I think Pollyanna has a little more in common with What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge -- particularly the big adversity that both Pollyanna and Katy must grapple with.

Anyway, I loved rereading this book.  I'm so glad I joined the #DisneyOriginsBookclub on Bookstagram this year, because it got me to pull this off my shelf!  And then, about a day after I finished reading it, I fell while roller skating and broke my arm.  I have lots of chances to play the Glad Game now!  I'm glad I only broke one arm.  I'm glad I didn't break a leg.  I'm glad it was me and not one of my kids.  I'm glad my husband was right there to get me to the ER.  I'm glad it was me and not my husband because he couldn't work with a broken arm.  I'm glad my kids are done with school for the summer.  I'm glad this didn't happen when my kids were really little.  And on and on and on :-D

Particularly Good Bits:

"He said if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it" (p. 160).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Clean and lovely and uplifting.  Suitable for all ages!

This has been my 45th book read for my third Classics Club list!  Getting close to that magical 50 again!

Saturday, June 18, 2022

"Swallowdale" by Arthur Ransome

Awwww.  This book is just plain charming.  Funny and exciting and real.

I read Swallowdale aloud with my kids over a few weeks, and we all enjoyed it so, so much!  I think we may have liked it even better than Swallows and Amazons, which I read aloud to them last summer.  We all agreed that we wish we could have had childhoods as uninhibited as these kids, sailing and fishing and hiking and getting into a little trouble now and then, but being resourceful and brave and getting out of trouble again without too much help from adults.

This series is such a delight that I'm tempted to read the next book aloud to them this summer too.  I love how the kids in it aren't perfect and aren't horrible.  They aren't unrealistically good at stuff, but neither are they hopelessly bad at it.  They squabble and quibble and rescue each other and are just... absolutely awesome.  I love them.

This book concerns four siblings, aka the Swallows, who camped out on an island the previous summer (in the first book) and eventually made friends with two sisters (the Amazons) who had similar attitudes toward important subjects such as piracy and fairness and adults.  They are all hoping to be reunited for more jolly adventures this summer, but a horrible Great Aunt and a sailing mistake change all their plans and create new kinds of adventures for them instead.

Particularly Good Bits:

...Roger, who took things as they came and was content so long as things kept on coming (p. 91).  (Roger might be my favorite...)

That was Susan's strong point.  She never allowed excitements such as sleeping in the open half-way up a mountain, or a naval battle, or a dangerous bit of exploring, to interfere with the things that really matter, such as seeing that water is really boiling before making tea with it, having breakfast at the proper time, washing as usual, and drying anything that may be damp.  Really, if it had not been for Susan, half the Swallows' adventures would have been impossible (p. 308-09).  (Susan is my spirit animal.  I identify strongly with her pretty much all the time.)

This has been my 44th book read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list, and my 28th read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

"Liar" by Jan Burke

This Irene Kelly mystery really kept me guessing.  I was quite convinced the whole way through that one character I really liked was going to end up being a villain because... that happens in a lot of series to new characters I like a lot.  Happily, Liar did not go that route.  In fact, I'm hoping this new character pops up again in later books. 

In Liar, Irene Kelly's aunt dies in a hit-and-run accident that turns out to have been a deliberate homicide.  Who would want to kill her reclusive, barely-making-ends-meet aunt?  That is the question!  And, suddenly, suspects come crawling out of the woodwork.  Was it Irene's cousin Travis, son of the dead woman, who lives in a purple camper and travels around telling stories to kids at libraries?  Was it the dead woman's brother-in-law who says he's had nothing to do with the family for years?  Was it a creepy private investigator who seems to be stalking Irene now, but was watching her aunt before she died?  Or was it one of the five other people with possible motives and less than stellar personalities/alibis?  

Yup, kept me guessing, like I said.  I never did figure it out before the reveal, which is how I prefer to experience mysteries.  No wonder I enjoyed it!

I also love that each Irene Kelly book takes place shortly after the previous one, so Irene and her husband Frank and the other recurring characters are still dealing with stuff that happened before.  They tie together really naturally that way, and I dig that.

Particularly Good Bits:

Trauma runs the marathon, not the fifty-yard dash (p. 90).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: R for bad language, violence, non-detailed descriptions of murder scenes, discussions of marital infidelity and illegitimate children, and mentions of child abuse.

This is my 27th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Is There Any More?

Well, this is a day late because I was in surgery to repair my broken right arm yesterday.  But That Artsy Reader Girl's topic of "What books do you want epilogues for?" is so cool, I didn't want to skip it, so... here we are.

Some books end super satisfyingly, letting me visualize how life will go for the characters after that.  And some... don't give me as much closure as I want.  So, here are ten books I really want to read at least a quick epilogue for, just to be sure everything turns out okay a few days or weeks down the road.

I'm typing with only my left hand right now, so I am not providing descriptions or pictures or anything more than titles this time.  But all titles are linked to my reviews, if you want to know more about them.

  1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  2. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  3. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare
  4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schafer and Annie Barrows
  5. Shane by Jack Schaefer
  6. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  7. Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery
  8. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  9. Girl in Disguise by Greer MacAllister
  10. Christy by Catherine Marshall

Shhh, yes, I know that some of these books have actual sequels by the original authors, or sequels written by others, but that's not the point.  I still want an epilogue.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

"Vengeance Valley" by Luke Short

I don't believe I've ever read anything by Luke Short before.  I picked up a copy of this on a whim at a used book store because a) it was a vintage paperback and I have a weakness for those, b) I liked the alliteration in the title, and c) I happen to know that Luke Short was the name of a real gunfighter in the old west that rubbed shoulders with people like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.

Well, according to the internet, it's unclear if the author, whose real name was Frederick Dilley Gladden, knew that there was actually a gunfighter named Luke Short once upon a time, or if he just thought the name had a good punch to it.  But either way, it did its job of grabbing my attention.

Anyway, the story was a solid one.  An unwed mother's older brothers come to town, looking to either avenge her stolen innocence or force her baby's father to marry her.  They're unsavory sorts who aren't too particular over which of those outcomes they bring about.

Owen Daybright is the foreman of a big outfit, the Acorn.  He's kind to the young mother, Lily Fasken, as are a few other people in town, while others despise and shun her.  Lily refuses to tell anyone who fathered her baby, not even her brothers.  Because Owen has been helping her, the brothers assume he's the father, or else know who is, if he's not.

Lots of trouble ensues, including a pretty cool ambush scene at the end that gave me several surprises.  I will definitely give Luke Short another try if I find one of his books again.  His writing may not be up to the standard of L'Amour or Grey, but he's still got a snappy way with words and plots, and I quite liked his characters.  His women were interesting and distinctive, as well as his men, which can be hard to find in vintage westerns sometimes.

Lots of Luke Short's westerns got made into movies, including Vengeance Valley.  In fact, it got made into a movie starring Burt Lancaster, a favorite of mine, so I'm going to have to see if I can track it down and watch it!

Particularly Good Bits:

Besides, there was no use meeting trouble halfway, because if it wanted you it found you anyway, whether you ran from it, sat waiting for it, or went out to meet it (p. 17).

"Isn't that why you marry, so you can live with someone who's like you, so you can be what you are, so you aren't watching yourself or them" (p. 80).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some mild cussing, western violence, and genteel discussions of unwed motherhood.

This has been my 25th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Monday, June 6, 2022

"Isabella's Daughter" by Charity Bishop

Is there anything more awesome than a book series ending on an absolute high note?  Having the last book in the series also be the best book?  I think there are few storytelling highs as lofty as that.  Well, Isabella's Daughter brings the Tudor Throne series to an incredibly satisfying conclusion.  I thought there was no way I was going to love any book in this series more than The Last Fire Eater, but I was wrong.  I love Isabella's Daughter even more.  Even though there were a couple chapters where I was just super angry at everyone for not being where they needed to be, and very, very, extremely worried about their wellbeing.


Also, um, I was really quite convinced that Thomas Lovell was going to die in this one.  Because he's been my favorite all through the series, but he's not exactly the main character, and he just has been on this very gradual redemption arc, and I was pretty sure he was going to end up giving his life to defend someone.  And that made me worried.  I purposely didn't look up his actual history because I didn't want to know how things ended for him, in case they were spoilery, and because I was afraid I would get sad ahead of time.  And who needs advance sadness?

Well, Bishop explains at the back of the book that she did take a few liberties with history to wrap things up in this book, and one of those involves Lovell, but I won't spoil you more than that.


I was very excited that Davina and Lambert got to take part in this last book because I kind of thought they had exited the storyline, but they fitted back in quite naturally, and even got to do some Important Things.  Quite awesome.

This book centers around Katherine and her sister Juana, daughters of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, and the political intrigue surrounding them in regards to the English court.  Plus, you've got Suffolk trying to organize another rebellion against King Henry VII, Isabel Lovell is pregnant and worried she'll lose her baby because her husband won't repent of all the things he's done in the king's service, and poor Nan Browne can't get her baby daddy to marry her the way he promised to.  Intrigue and mystery and suspense galore!

Particularly Good Bits:

"I admire the deviousness of your enforcer.  He snuck a note to me last night inside a roasted duck to inform me of this meeting."

A cruel twinkle in his eyes, Lovell kisses her cheek and strides away.

They will make their mothers proud.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for a scene with childbirth, discussion of a child born out of wedlock, violence, suspense, and a smattering of bad language.

This has been my 26th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

"Anne of Green Gables" (Manga Classics) by L. M. Montgomery (original story), Crystal S. Chan (story adaptation), and Kuma Chan (art)

I am enchanted by this manga version of Anne of Green Gables. So enchanted that I can't read more in the Manga Classics series!  And this one has definitely found a home on our shelves.

Obviously, this is an abridgement of the original text.  There are a few chapters that only get one or two pages in this, Crystal S. Chan sets forth all the really key parts in loving detail.  Anne driving through the White Way of Delight for the first time?  Check.  Anne flying into a rage when Mrs. Rachel Lynde twits her about her looks?  Check.  Anne breaking a slate over Gilbert's head?  Check.  And so on.

Kuma Chan's artwork is completely adorable.  Every few pages, I would just stop and marvel at the sweetness and cuteness.  It is every bit as charming as it ought to be.

Now that I've read it myself, I've passed it on to my kids, and my ten-year-old read the whole thing in a little over an hour this afternoon.  She also completely loved it, and she is begging me to get some Manga Classics that retell Jane Austen books.  So look for more reviews of this series to come, because you know I have a great fondness for Jane Austen!

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Absolutely clean and wholesome.

This has been my 24th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.