My Top Ten Reads… from 2019

So many good books read in 2019! It was hard to pick only ten. But I did it. Click on any of the titles below to read my reviews…

The Strangers* | The Best Christmas Pageant Ever | Brave | Birdie | Planet Earth is Blue | El Deafo | Pay Attention, Carter Jones | Front DeskFinding Langston | Arcady’s Goal

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I made my Goodreads Reading Challenge! 100 books for 2019. Once again, I actually read over my goal with 108… Not bad, eh?

This year, I didn’t do as many discussion posts… but I did manage to squeak in a few. As always, I loved hearing what other people bring to a topic. Here are the top three posts that you (my blog readers) liked 🙂


What was your favourite post from 2019? Your favourite book? Feel free to share links from your own blog, or somebody else’s… Let me know in the comments!

Why I Re-read Books

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I’ve heard that a lot of people refuse (or just don’t) re-read books. I’ve never understood this. I agree that there ARE books I will never re-read.

Here are three reasons why I re-read books all the time.

Reason #1 – Books are Friends!

Books (to me) are kind of like friends. When I find a good book, just like when I find a good friend, I want to send time with that book. And yes, that means a re-read.

Reason #2 – Following the Clues

I get more out of the book each time I read it. There are things I miss the first, second, even third time I read a book. Sometimes it might have to do with my own age or situation (at the time when I am reading). But I often find new little insights when I re-read books. Perhaps it’s just a little in-joke put in by the author. Or set-up that later pays off in the climax. These are what make re-reading worth it.

Reason #3 – An Enjoyable Read

I know I’m going to enjoy the book. This is especially true if I’ve already read and re-read this book multiple times. I know this book will be a good one. I’m not going to want to throw the book across the room because the author didn’t live up to their promise of writing a good book. I already know it’s a good book!

Note: This post has been brought to you by the Swallows and Amazons series (by Arthur Ransome). I was first introduced to these books in a Children’s Literature course I took at university. And I loved them. There are some I love better than others. But I recently picked up Swallowdale and Winter Holiday to re-read. 🙂


YOUR TURN…

Do you re-read books? Do you re-read often? What are your favourite books to re-read? Let me know in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Love in Books

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It’s Valentine’s Day! And hearts abound… So, today I’m going to post about some of my favourite books under the theme of L-O-V-E!

*Note: There are so many books I could have listed here. The ones below are really just scratching the surface of this topic.


Love Between Friends

Anne of Green Gables // by L.M. Montgomery
Frog and Toad are Friends // by Arnold Lobel
Bridge to Terabithia // by Katherine Paterson
Charlotte’s Web // by E.B. White
Maniac Magee // by Jerry Spinelli


Sibling Love

Little Women // by Louisa May Alcott
The Penderwicks // by Jeanne Birdsall
Till We Have Faces // by C.S. Lewis
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry // by Mildred D. Taylor
A Wrinkle in Time // by Madeleine L’Engle


Romantic Love

The Blue Castle // by L.M. Montgomery
Jane Eyre // by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice // by Jane Austen


YOUR TURN… What are your favourite books about love? Whether it’s brotherly love, romantic love, or true friendship… Let me know in the comments.

 

Are You an Emotional Reader?

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I have a question for you… Do you get emotional when you read books? Do laugh out loud (or even silently) when you read a funny scene? Do you cry when something devastating happens to the main character? Do you blush when the protagonist ends up in an embarrassing situation?

I’m an emotional reader. To me, when a book can make me laugh or cry, that’s a good book. But I’ve heard others tell me they’re not emotional readers. It’s just the way they are.

So, that made me curious about you as readers. Which kind of reader are you?

Take the poll below…

And then talk to me in the comments! Let me know what kind of emotional reader you are…

Two Different Books, Same Topic

I recently read two middle-grade books that take place during Hurricane Katrina. What an interesting experience to read these books back-to-back.

finding-someplaceFinding Someplace // by Denise Lewis Patrick

Genre: MG, Near-Historical (2015)

My Thoughts: This one had a lot of potential, but it got mixed up with too many characters and too many themes. It’s a book that doesn’t quite know what it is. The main character is Reesie, the only daughter in an African-American family living in New Orleans. It’s her goal in life to be a fashion designer. And guess what? It’s her birthday!

That’s when Hurricane Katrina strikes. So far, so good. We soon learn that she’s terrified of water! (Backstory: She almost drowned in a swimming pool once.) But here’s where things start to go downhill. When there’s water all around her, does she freak out? Does she have a panic attack? No and no. The only other time this fear is mentioned (that I recall) is when her neighbour says something about it toward the end of the book. Like “I noticed you were afraid, Reesie.”

Also, there was also too many characters. So many people came and went. They were developed, then BAM! They were gone. (And don’t get me started on the kiss that was not set up properly.) What I really wanted was to spend more time in the book as she connected with (and possibly have conflict with) Miss Martine!

That said, I did like Reesie! Perhaps they rushed publication on this one? The book needed to be longer in order to deal with everything Denise Lewis Patrick introduced to us. [3 Stars]


zane-and-hurricaneZane and the Hurricane // by Rodman Philbrick

Genre: MG, Near-Historical (2014)

My Thoughts: I read this book after the one above. But this book was so much tighter. In a lot of ways, it was very similar. But there are differences. Zane is half-black and comes from New Hampshire. But guess what? His mom sends him down to visit his great-grandma in New Orleans. And it just happens that this happens right before Hurricane Katrina strikes.

There is an old neighbour character (Tru), and there’s conflict with the sassy girl (Malvina). This book stays pretty much within the time-frame of the hurricane and the day or so after. (Unlike the other book which jumps us to Christmas in New Jersey and then back to New Orleans in the spring. Not necessarily bad in and of itself; but like I said, that book tried to cram too much into not enough pages.)

I really enjoyed the character dynamics between Tru, Malvina, and Zane. We got to know them and care about them. We wanted them to survive! [4 Stars]


So, if you have to pick between these two books? I’d definitely go with the second one by Rodman Philbrick. The one by Denise Lewis Patrick had potential, but (unfortunately) it did not live up to that potential. I wish it was so much more! Zane, on the other hand, was well-written and knew what it was going for.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

*Note: I’m posting this for the first time for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

A Few of My Favourite Reads… from 2018

My Favourite Reads of 2018! Click on any of the titles below to read my reviews…

84, Charing Cross Road | A Tale of Two Cities | Winnie’s Great War |

Louisiana’s Way Home | Code Name VerityCaroline |

The Duchess of Bloomsbury StreetThe Snow ChildOkay For NowSquint

goodreads2018Also, I made my Goodreads Reading Challenge. 100 books for 2018. Actually it’s 102 books, but I’m still reading one book so ???. Maybe I’ll squeak another read in before the new year!

In addition to writing reviews, I also wrote some discussion posts… I always find it interesting what other people bring to a topic. So, what were the most popular discussion posts from my own blog? Here are the top five posts that you (my blog readers) liked 🙂


What was your favourite post from 2018? From your own blog, or somebody else’s… Let me know in the comments!

 

Scenes from a Book #3

Another of my favourite Christmas scenes in a book…

3 – Little Women // by Louisa May Alcott

Little WomenI love the Christmas sequence that opens Alcott’s masterpiece. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbles Jo. And then on Christmas morning, as they’re about to enjoy their Christmas breakfast, Marmee comes and spoils it all. She suggests they give their breakfast to a poor hungry family!

The girls know their duty, and they agree to the charity. And they end up doing it cheerfully. Later in the day, they go on to giving a performance. And after the performance, there’s a surprise waiting for them them…

The Scene:

It was like Marmee to get up a little treat for them, but anything so fine as this was unheard of since the departed days of plenty. There was ice cream, actually two dishes of it, pink and white, and cake and fruit and distracting French bonbons and, in the middle of the table, four great bouquets of hot house flowers.

It quite took their breath away, and they stared first at the table and then at their mother, who looked as if she enjoyed it immensely.

“Is it fairies?” asked Amy.

“Santa Claus,” said Beth.

“Mother did it.” And Meg smiled her sweetest, in spite of her gray beard and white eyebrows.

“Aunt March had a good fit and sent the supper,” cried Jo, with a sudden inspiration.

“All wrong. Old Mr. Laurence sent it,” replied Mrs. March.

“The Laurence boy’s grandfather! What in the world put such a thing into his head? We don’t know him!” exclaimed Meg.

“Hannah told one of his servants about your breakfast party. He is an odd old gentleman, but that pleased him. He knew my father years ago, and he sent me a polite note this afternoon, saying he hoped I would allow him to express his friendly feeling toward my children by sending them a few trifles in honor of the day. I could not refuse, and so you have a little feast at night to make up for the bread-and-milk breakfast.”

Little Women, Chapter 2


What I Love About this Scene

I just love the March sisters. I like how each of their personalities come out in the above passage as they’re trying to figure out WHO gave them the breakfast party.

I also love how they do a really hard thing at the beginning of the book. They give up something they want. This leads to an even better surprise!

And I love how this is an excellent introduction to Laurie!

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!

All Things Jane

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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!