Scenes from a Book #2

Here’s another of my favourite Christmas scenes from a book… this one comes from the prairies.

Little House on the Prairie // Laura Ingalls Wilder

little-houseIn this Christmas story, Laura and Mary are worried that with all the rain, Santa Claus won’t be able to get to the little house. But then, on Christmas Eve, who should show up but Mr. Edwards! And he’s brought them Santa’s gifts…

The Scene:

Mr. Edwards came and sat on the floor by their bed, and he answered every question they asked him. They honestly tried not to look at Ma, and they didn’t quite see what she was doing. …

Well, the first thing Santa Claus said was, “Hello, Edwards!” (“Did he know you?” Mary asked, and Laura asked, “How did you know he was really Santa Claus?” Mr. Edwards said that Santa Claus knew everybody. And he had recognized Santa at once by his whiskers. Santa had the longest, thickest, whitest set of whiskers west of the Mississippi.) …

Then Santa Claus said: “I understand you’re living now down along the Verdigris River. Have you ever met up, down yonder, with two little young girls named Mary and Laura?”

“I surely am acquainted with them,” Mr. Edwards replied.

“It rests heavy on my mind,” said Santa Claus. “They are both of them sweet, pretty, good little young things, and I know they are expecting me. I surely do hate to disappoint two good little girls like them. Yet with the water up the way it is, I can’t ever make it across that creek. I can figure no way whatsoever to get to their cabin this year. Edwards,” Santa Claus said, “Would you do me the favor to fetch them their gifts this one time?”

“I’ll do that, and with pleasure,” Mr. Edwards told him. …

And Santa Claus uncinched the pack and looked through it, and he took out the presents for Mary and Laura.

“Oh, what are they?” Laura cried; but Mary asked, “Then what did he do?”

Then he shook hands with Mr. Edwards, and he swung up on his fine bay horse. Santa Claus rode well for a man of his weight and build. And he tucked his long, white whiskers under his bandana. “So long, Edwards,” he said, and he rode away on the Fort Dodge trail, leading his pack-mule and whistling.

Laura and Mary were silent an instant, thinking of that.

Then Ma said, “You may look now, girls.”

Something was shining bright in the top of Laura’s stocking. She squealed and jumped out of bed. So did Mary, but Laura beat her to the fireplace. And the shining thing was a glittering new tin cup.

Mary had one exactly like it.

These new tin cups were their very own. Now they each had a cup to drink out of. Laura jumped up and down and shouted and laughed, but Mary stood still and looked with shining eyes at her own tin cup. …

There never had been such a Christmas.

Little House on the Prairie, Chapter 19

What I Love About this Scene

I love the friendship Mr. Edwards displays for this family. He knows how dangerous it is to cross the river, but he does it anyway… for Laura and Mary. (While “Santa” couldn’t make it across the raging river, Mr. Edward could and did!) And it’s amazing how he makes it into an experience for the girls. A whole story! (I also love how Wilder includes the little questions the girls have when they see a potential plot hole in his story. But Mr. Edwards never missed a beat.)

I also love how Laura and Mary are thrilled with the simple gifts they receive: their tin cups, candy, a little cake made with white sugar, and a penny each! What bounty!

Advertisements

Photo Challenge #50 / Black and White

20180819ma_4789“Bump, Bump, Bump” / Theme: Black and White

A little about this photo…

This shot was inspired by A.A. Milne. “Here is Edward Bear coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way… if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it!”


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

All Things Jane

20171112ma_5274
Every so often, I get on a Jane Austen kick.

I’ll go to the library to check out literary critiques of Austen’s works. One of the books currently on my nightstand is called Flirting with Pride and Prejudice (edited by Jennifer Crusie). The book is a compilation of various essays about the most famous of Austen’s books. My favourite essay is entitled “Plenty of Pride and Prejudice to Go Around” by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. In it, she compares Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet with the many incarnations of the Elizabeth in the movies either based upon or inspired by Pride and Prejudice.

Baratz-Logsted questions why the Elizabeth Bennet characters have been deteriorated “into characters who, however lofty their careers, however many modern choices arrayed before them, are charming ditzes at best, babbling and insecure bumblers at worst?”

Which makes me think of a comment made by one of my friends regarding Bridget Jones Diary a few years ago. It’s no great secret that Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Diary was inspired by Pride and Prejudice. My friend pointed out that Bridget is in fact NOT really an Elizabeth Bennet. She argued that the book is really the story of Mr. Darcy and Lydia Bennet. And I think she has a point. Bridget Jones really does have more in common with Lydia. She’s just masquerading around behind the mask of the Elizabeth Bennet character.

But back to the book on my night stand (which is now on my lap since I had to look up that quote above). The book isn’t just essays. It also has some pieces of… what to call it?… fan fiction, I guess. Fictionalized mini-stories based on various characters from the book.

And for some reason, these type of stories always make me cringe. It feels wrong to me somehow. Here’s another person trying to take Jane Austen’s place and write Georgiana’s story. Or tell what happened to Elizabeth after she married Darcy.

The one account I did manage to read (it wasn’t long—about five pages) was “The Secret Life of Mary”. Boy, was it convoluted. I mean, a love story between Mary and some Irish footman named Rory who works for Sir William Lucas?! Where Mary becomes famous for writing Austen-esque sketches of her family?! Um…

It’s stories like these that make me NOT want to read Austen-inspired rip-offs works. It makes me want to shout, “People, please leave the Jane Austen characters in the capable hands of Jane Austen!”

Yes, it’s bad Jane-Austen-inspired-stories that make me shy to read the good ones. And there ARE ones out there that aren’t bad. But to find the good ones… That is the problem. It means wading through so many disappointments. (At least for me.)

Here’s a list of books I liked/didn’t like. And some I thought were okay, but nothing to get too excited about…

Books I Liked

Austenland and Midnight in Austenland // by Shannon Hale
A Walk with Jane Austen // by Lori Smith (this is more of a memoir)
Bridget Jones Diary // by Helen Fielding (although, it’s been quite a while since I read this book; and I haven’t read the sequels because they didn’t really interest me)

Books I Thought Were Okay

Emma // by Alexander McCall Smith
Sense and Sensibility // by Joanna Trollope
Pemberley // by Emma Tennant
Prom and Prejudice // by Elizabeth Eulberg

Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits // by Mary Jane Hathaway

Books I Did NOT Like

Eligible // by Curtis Sittenfeld (DNF)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies // by Seth Grahame-Smith (DNF)
Confession of a Jane Austen Addict // by Laurie Viera Rigler (Not crazy about the time-travelling thing)
Longbourne // by Jo Baker (DNF)
Jane and the Man of the Cloth // by Stephanie Barron (Jane Austen solving mysteries? That was just weird.)

So… Sometimes I think I’m better off to just re-read the originals. And hey! Pride and Prejudice (or Emma, or Persuasion, et al) do very well on multiple re-reads.

Because Jane Austen was the master!

What about you? Do you like to read books inspired by Jane Austen’s world? Have you read any good ones that you’d recommend?

Scenes from a Book #1

This is a new feature at my blog that I’m calling Scenes from a Book. It’s where I get to discuss some of my favourite scenes in books… And since it’s December, I’m going with a Christmas theme.

In honour of this inaugural post, I’m picking a scene from one of my favourite books of all time. 🙂

Anne of Green Gables // by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green GablesThis is scene where Matthew insists on puffed sleeves

So, in this part of the book, Miss Stacy has decided to get up a concert to take place on Christmas night. Of course, Anne is to take part and she’s extremely excited. Matthew decides it’s high time to give Anne what’s she’s always dreamed about: puffed sleeves. Except, being so shy, he has a little trouble making this dream come true. (Pretty much because Marilla thinks puffed sleeves are not necessary.)

The setting is Lawson’s store. Normally, Matthew patronizes Blair’s… but he chooses Lawson’s because he’s afraid that Mr. Blair’s two daughters will be there to wait on him. How was he to know that Lawson had hired a lady clerk?!

The Scene:

“What can I do for you this evening, Mr. Cuthbert?” Miss Lucilla Harris inquired, briskly and ingratiatingly, tapping the counter with both hands.

“Have you any—any—any—well now, say any garden rakes?” stammered Matthew.

Miss Harris looked somewhat surprised, as well she might, to hear a man inquiring for garden rakes in the middle of December.

“I believe we have one or two left over,” she said, “but they’re upstairs in the lumber room. I’ll go and see.”

During her absence Matthew collected his scattered senses for another effort.

When Miss Harris returned with the rake and and cheerfully inquired: “Anything else tonight, Mr. Cuthbert?” Matthew took his courage in both hands and replied: “Well now, since you suggest it, I might as well—take—that is—look at—buy some—some hayseed.” …

“We only keep hayseed in the spring,” she explained loftily. “We’ve none on hand just now.”

“Oh, certainly—certainly—just as you say,” stammered unhappy Matthew … “Well now—if it isn’t too much trouble—I might as well—that is—I’d like to look at—at—some sugar.”

“White or brown?” queried Miss Harris patiently.

“Oh—well now—brown,” said Matthew feebly.

Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 25

What I Love About this Scene

I love how Matthew comes up with this ingenious plan and then it backfires on him. Poor shy Matthew’s attempts at telling this woman that he wants to buy a dress. And he can’t quite bring himself to do it. He buys a rake, tries to buy seed, purchases some brown sugar. But NO DRESS! And I like that Miss Harris is clueless about the whole thing. Poor Matthew.

**Spoiler for those who haven’t read the book. He doesn’t get the dress from Lawson’s. But he does get the dress. Matthew ends up going to Mrs. Lynde, and that wonderful lady makes sure that Anne gets the dress of her dreams for Christmas!

Photo Challenge #49 / Warmth

20181129ma_6298

“Fireside Chat” / Theme: Warmth

A little about this photo…

I saw this amazing fireplace in the lobby of a store. I just happened to have my camera with me, so I took a snap. I’ve been wanting to get a fireplace for my Warmth prompt, and it turns out that this is that photo. 🙂


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

Review: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street

duchess-of-bloomsbury-streetBook: The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (1973)
Author: Helene Hanff
Genre: Adult, Memoir
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Basic Plot: This is the sequel (of sorts) to 84, Charing Cross Road. In this memoir, Helene Hanff finally makes it to London. And it’s here that she becomes the “Duchess of Bloomsbury Street”.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved touring London through the eyes of Helene Hanff. The book is in the form of a diary she wrote during her stay (from June to July 1971). She records all her first impressions, and I felt like I was on the tour with her.

2) I enjoyed meeting a whole new cast of characters in this book… all the different people who took Helene around London and over to Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. This includes Frank’s wife Nora, P.B. (of the succinct notes), Leo and Ena Marks, and so many others.

3) My favourite quote in the book: “I despair of ever getting it through anybody’s head I am not interested in bookshops, I am interested in what’s written in the books. I don’t browse in bookshops, I browse in libraries, where you can take a book home and read it, and if you like it you go to a bookshop and buy it.” (Entry for Friday, July 2) 

My thoughts exactly!

4) I loved the part when she gets the cheque from Reader’s Digest, meaning she can stay a little longer. I think I was celebrating as she much as she did in the book!

5) As she neared the end of her stay (and the end of the book), she exactly captured that feeling of “I only have so much time left”. And the “I don’t want to go home!” feeling. I felt the same way reading this book. I didn’t want it to end. 😦

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Nothing to add here!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – This book was really a wonderful read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was so close to giving it 5 stars, but when I compare it to 84, Charing Cross Road, it doesn’t quite have the magic. But it’s close. (If you haven’t read my review for that book, check it out here.)


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Autumn Reading Bingo Challenge / November

mgc-bingo-11nov2018

Here’s my bingo card for Middle Grade Carousel’s Reading Bingo challenge. This month, I finished only eight middle grade books. Well, eight titles that fit the descriptions on the bingo card. (I actually read more than eight books, including a few books for adults.)

How Does It Work?

Pick your challenge, grab a book, and fill in the squares. Try and get 5 in a row, or attempt to fill in the whole sheet if you’re a speedy reader.

Rules

  1. Because this is a Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during June.

Here are my results… (The * means that’s the book that got me my Bingo!)


*A Book of Short Stories

Funny Business // by Jon Scieszka, ed.

MG, Contemporary (2010)

funny-businessThis is a Guys Read book. I’ve seen these around for quite awhile, but this is the first time I’ve ever picked one up. And I’m glad I did. While I’ve read many of the authors before, there were some that were new to me. It was nice to get a hint of what they write. It was also nice to read new-to-me short stories by authors I already knew.

I particularly enjoyed the story “Artemis Begins” by Eoin Colfer. From what I can tell, this is a true story about his brother being the inspiration for his character Artemis Fowl. And then there was a story called “Your Question for Author Here” by Kate DiCamillo and Jon Scieszka. It’s about a boy who has to write an author for a school assignment, and he gets a little more than he bargained for! [4 stars – Most stories were 3 stars, but there were a couple really good ones!]


*Red Cover

public-school-superheroPublic School Superhero // by James Patterson

MG, Contemporary (2015)

This book is about Kenny, who has been labelled by the school bullies as a “Grandma’s Boy”. But he’s invented an superhero alter-ego: Stainlezz Steel. After an incident, he (the victim) ends up with the same detention as the boys who pick on him. This eventually leads to him having to teach chess to one of the bullies: Ray-Ray.

This was an interesting book. I really like the story arc with Ray-Ray. And I love the principal. And the grandma. And of course, Kenny, himself. [4 stars]


*Pick Your Prompt / Based on a Classic

pinocchioPinocchio // by Michael Morpurgo

MG, Fantasy (2013)

I’ve never read the original classic written by Carlo Collodi, but I have seen the Disney movie LOTS of times. (I always hated the part about the donkeys!) So, when I read this, I could see some of the differences, especially the changes Walt Disney made. (And to tell the truth, I thought his changes were pretty decent. For example: In the end, Pinocchio is [SPOILER] swallowed by a shark. Disney changed this to a whale, which generally makes more sense to me. Wouldn’t a shark just rip both him and Geppetto to pieces? Whales, on the other hand, swallow their food whole.) [END SPOILER]

I enjoyed this book, which is told through the voice of Pinocchio, himself. Although, I will say that Pinocchio drove me crazy with all his stupid decisions! Just go home to Geppetto, Pinocchio. And apparently Morpurgo departs from both the Collodi and the Disney ending slightly with regards to Pinocchio becoming a real boy.

And the part about the donkeys? Yeah, it still bothers me. [4 stars]


*A Disabled Character

al-capone-throw-me-a-curveAl Capone Throws Me a Curve // by Gennifer Choldenko

MG, Historical Fiction (2018)

The disabled character is Natalie (she has a form of autism). Choldenko based her on her own sister. I love how this book (series) tells of the challenges and rewards of living with somebody like Natalie. I love how Moose struggles with this, but how their dad (especially) remains so positive and loving towards his daughter.

This is the fourth book in this series. While it’s not the best in the series, it’s still worth the read. (I absolutely love the first two books.) [4 stars]


*A Best-Selling Author

spy-school-goes-southSpy School Goes South // by Stuart Gibbs

MG, Espionage (2018)

I do love this series. However… the past few books aren’t quite as stellar as the first books. (I hate to make the joke, but they really have started to go south. Yikes!)

There are still things I like about this book, though. Erica Hale, for one. And her mother! And Ben still remains our likeable protagonist. (I’m not crazy about Mike being in Spy School. And I’m not sure what I think about Zoe.) The Farkles Family Reunion is a cute part of the plot. And I’m glad Murray is part of the plot from the beginning and does not just swoop in with the bad guys at the end of the story like he has in the past. [3 stars]

P.S. I feel like this might need a more in-depth review in the near future.


Other MG Books I Finished this Month…

    • Color in the Title // Diary of a Mad Brownie // by Bruce Covill
    • Case in the Title // Case of the Purloined Parrot // by E.W. Hildick
    • Author’s Last Name Starts with “B” // Freckle Juice // by Judy Blume

Final Thoughts…

November Bingo is complete! Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you thought of them.

Photo Challenge #48 / Light

20180709ma_3869“Grampa’s Lamp” / Theme: Light

A little about this photo…

I love this light! It hangs in my grandmother’s home. My grandfather (apparently) put it together from a kit way-back-when. I love the pattern on the ceiling. And I like how you can just make out the photo in the background. (My grandmother and her sister when they were kids in their matching dresses and their bobbed hair! Grama’s the one on the right.)


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek