Friday, July 26, 2013

Review of Linda Buckley-Archer's "Gideon" Trilogy


 


This is the story of a boy named Peter Schock who is sent back in time to 18th-century England along with a girl named Kate Dyer. 

Sounds like a science fiction book, right?  Right.  And yet also, in a way, wrong. 

Because this series is just as much about the history as it is about the science of time travel.  Peter and Kate are forced to acclimate to live in the 18th century among friends (usually historical characters, but also the Gideon Seymour who lends his name to the trilogy’s title) and enemies (mostly the fictional Lord Luxon and his murderous henchman the Tar Man).  The more you know about your British 1700’s history, the more you’ll enjoy these books. 


That is not to say, however, you can’t enjoy them without being a history buff.  That’s where the science fiction comes in.  Back in the future, Peter and Kate’s parents are distraught and a team of scientists is trying to get them back.  Author Linda Buckley-Archer is very good with coming up with a logical method of time travel that doesn’t involve solar flares or flying counterclockwise around the globe, and she makes some good choices about the toll traveling back and forth through time takes on her characters. 

It’s the characters, though, and not the history trivia or the glitzy science fiction, that makes these books worth a read.  Our heroes: Peter, Kate, and Gideon, are all flawed, realistically drawn personalities with goals, motivations, fears, and backstories.  The villains are evil, but their motives are rational and their goals are far from the cheesy, “Time to take over the world!” cliché.  To prove that these characters are all individuals and multidimensional, each one responds to the idea of time travel differently.  Some think of it as a tool to learn about our past or change things for the better.  Others aren’t so noble, and would use it as a weapon.
 



RECOMMENDED READING AGE: 13+

PARENTAL NOTES: Although not described in much detail or glorified, there is violence in the book relating mostly to the more gritty time period (hangings, tarring, stabbings; the worst example is a teenage boy dies after a fall on the stairs).
 
AVAILABILITY: This series was released under a different title in the UK (Gideon the Cutpurse, The Tar Man, Lord Luxon), but can be purchased in the US under the (more generic, in my opinion) titles The Time Travelers, The Time Thief, and The Time Quake (if they had tried to keep the reference to Lord Luxon in that last book it would be The Time Lord and would require the time machine in the book to be blue and bigger on the inside).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fairy Tale YA

Retelling fairy tales is in vogue now.  We have TV series like Grimm and Once Upon a Time, movies like Jack the Giant Killer or Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and so many Snow Whites it’s a wonder the Evil Queen had enough poisoned apples for all of ‘em.  And where television and movies are trendy, the books are sure to follow…or lead.  Today instead of reviewing one book I’m going to review three:

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
 

Not to be confused with Ella Enchanted (which in turn is not to be confused with the Anne Hathaway adaptation which is nothing like Gail Carson Levine’s book) or the Disney movie starring Amy Adams, this novel by Alethea Kontis is a mishmash of fairy tales and Mother Goose rhymes centering on the Frog Prince story.  Sunday is the seventh daughter of a magical family (all her other sisters correlate to fairy tales like Cinderella, and altogether they are almost-twelve dancing princesses).  One day Sunday meets a frog and befriends it, but it turns out this frog is a prince.  Awesome, right?  Except maybe the prince is possibly to blame for Saturday’s older brother Jack going missing. 

 I liked how this book intertwined all sorts of storybook concepts (Sunday and her sister’s names are from this poem, among other things).  There was a lot going on (which was good), but all the names ending in “–day” confused me (which was bad), and then at the end I had so many questions.  Honestly this is one YA book that could have been made into a series, each one focusing on a sister, perhaps.  According to the Amazon description, Enchanted is part of a series called “The Woodcutter’s Daughters”  so hopefully my main bone to pick with this book will be nullified soon.

The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meier 

 
This series retells the Cinderella and Red Riding Hood stories in a science fiction setting.  Opening in a future earth where there are identity chips and androids and hovercrafts and space ships, humans live in fear of the looming threat by the Lunars, humanoid aliens who not only can read minds but manipulate willpower.  Add to that an plague outbreak, and you’ve almost got a dystopia going on in this first book.  Enter Cinder, a teenage cyborg mechanic who by chance befriends the dreamy Prince Kai.  He asks her to this ball…not knowing that one of her legs is, well, detachable.  Shenanigans ensue.


Fast forward to Scarlet, which adds the titular character (a feisty redhead in search of her kidnapped grandma) as well as follows Cinder on her further shenanigans.*  Scarlet is joined in her search—which becomes increasingly dangerous and violent—by a street-fighter named Wolf who has been genetically altered for strength, agility, and to have big teeth, my dear. 

There are two more books scheduled to come out for The Lunar Chronicles, but I enjoyed both the first ones enough to recommend the first two for fans of the TV show Firefly as well as fans of science fiction, Steampunk, and fantasy.  I look forward to reading the other two.


*Which I can’t describe for spoiler reasons since I don’t want to ruin the first book.
 

RECOMMENDED READING AGE: 13+

PARENTAL NOTES: Not much to worry about for any of these books.  As with many YA books, there are a few swear words (usually religious words used in a nonreligious way).  The Lunar Chronicles, particularly Scarlet, got a little “boy-crazy” talking about how dreamy Kai was or Wolf’s tight black T-shirts.  It was unintentionally hilarious. 

AVAILABILITY: You can get Enchanted here although as it is a relatively recent publication it should be available in larger bookstores.   As for The Lunar Chronicles, they are also new publications, and you can even preview the first five chapters of both Cinder and Scarlet for free on Kindle.  They are also new publications, so in addition to local large bookstores you can also buy them here and here via Amazon.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review of Scott Westerfeld's "Leviathan" Trilogy


This is the original, superior cover
Source: http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1275694232l/6050678.jpg
Let’s cut to the chase.  I don’t like Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy.  Despite knowing that TONS of people LOVE this series and consider it the QUINTESSENTIAL read for STEAMPUNKERS…I didn’t like it.  Don’t reach for your tomatoes (and perhaps sharper objects) to throw at me quite yet.  It is rare that I actually read a book I dislike—usually it’s apathy at worst—so please just hear me out. 

Don’t get me wrong.  There are specific things I liked about the series:

-          The Steampunk.  To give this multifaceted subculture a crude definition, is basically Victorian Sci-Fi.  Think awesomely anachronistic technology made up of clockwork and powered by steam, and you’re getting close to understanding what it is.  The reason I like steampunk is because I love Victorian fiction, including H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, and Steampunk is a hearkening back to that kind of literature.  

-          The German characters.  I like Alek (the main boy protagonist, son of the recently-assassinated Franz Ferdinand) and his bodyguard/mentor, Count Volger. 

-          The alternate history.  This partly goes along with the Steampunk element, but I always like historical novels that also ask, “What if?”  I like contemplating the various directions events could have gone in if a mere element was out of place or altered. 

-          In Behemoth I like the setting of the Ottoman Empire and the character Lilit.

-          Nikola.  Tesla.

“A-HA!” shout the Westerfans.  “So you admit you like pretty much everything about the books!  What’s not to like?”  To which I reply, “Not so fast!”  I admit I like stuff in the series.  Unfortunately this is all the stuff that Westerfeld proceeds to destroy in one way or another.

-          Westerfeld creates a world with AWESOME technology…and then pretty much stereotypes everyone who uses that technology as evil protonazis?

-          The German characters are all evil or weak.  The awesome Count Volger never is an actual villain, but he’s treated like an uneasy alliance.  And Alek!  Well, I’ll talk about that a little later.

-          Again, really?  Westerfeld starts out strong with a fixed historical event (the start of WWI), and I was really interested in what would happen to a fictional heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.  Not that any of the myriad of consequences that came to mind ever paid off, however. 

-          Another thing that didn’t really pay off was Lilit, whose character I expected to be more prominent in the climactic book Goliath. 

-          Tesla we’ll save for later because I won’t finish this post if I get worked up in the middle of it.

 What did I NOT like about it?  DERYN.

DERYN DERYN DERYN.  Here’s a girl whose father died in the British Air Service who decides to compound her family’s grief by running away and trying to get herself killed, too.  She poses as a boy named “Dylan” (as if that were actually a common name at the time…and for that matter who named at girl Deryn in this time period?).  We are told over and over she is very awesome.  If she’s so awesome, I kept thinking, stop telling me one thing while all she does is smirk and be smug about how she’s gotten out from under the thumb of her Oppressive Relatives Who Want Her To Be A Lady. 

Because Westerfeld wants us to think that Deryn is awesome, he ruins the Alek character.  This opens up a whole can of gender-role worms for me, because much as I like to see Strong Female Characters in fiction, I hate to see Weakling Male Characters juxtaposed with them.  Especially in such cases as Deryn/Alek, in which they fall in love and I have no idea why Deryn (if she’s so AWESOME) would fall for Alek (who seems to be made useless in order to have Deryn be cooler than him at everything) in the first place.  THEN there’s the clumsy handling of Deryn’s dilemma: She’s a girl, pretending to be a boy, but now she’s in love.  The way it is handled is for her to be “Oh dear I’m in love whatever shall I do how can I bear hiding my love from my love aaaaagh.”

That’s the main thing I dislike about the book.  There’s three.  The second is: The Darwinists are good.  See, the entire series hinges (when it’s not mooning about Daryn and her personal issues) on the conflict between the Awesome Steampunk Technology Germans (AKA “Clankers”) and the Darwinists, who are the British people who use natural science to breed mutant animals which they use instead of technology.  And they’re supposed to be the good guys.  Sorry, but that just seems WRONG to me.  Where was the WWI PETA to shut these mad scientists down?  I mean, a talking Loris is cool—creepy, but cool—and all, but how many other lorises had to suffer for such a result? 

(It also makes me uncomfortable that Westerfeld (and the Darwinists) idolize evolution so much, knowing that in REAL history, Social Darwinism was a huge factor in the Holocaust and several other ethnic purges.) 

The personification of the Darwinists is Dr. Barlow, a relative of Charles Darwin and a lady scientist who is completely obnoxious, self-satisfied, and one-dimensional.  I felt like Westerfeld was telling me throughout this book “Look!  I’m not a misogynist!  I have strong female characters!”  yet neither Deryn nor Dr. Barlow are emotionally relatable to me.  A strong character doesn’t have to be invulnerable (or melt into a puddle o’ loooove when they are vulnerable) in order to be well-rounded, realistic, or heroic.  I could literally talk for hours about this, comparing other female characters and what makes them “empowered,” but this is about one book series so I’ll stop here for now.

LASTLY, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, is how Westerfeld treated the great Nikola Tesla, innovator in electricity, radio, and all around awesomeness.  Spoiler ahead for the last book:  Tesla is the main villain and Alek electrocutes him.  My reaction was one of shock: “Did you just kill Nikola Tesla!?”  Westerfeld did.  In a Steampunk novel, he killed the one person that almost all Steampunk fans agree PERSONIFIED Steampunk. 

I could go on.  But frankly I’m exhausted by this rant.  You can go ahead and reach for your tomatoes now if you like.

 

RECOMMENDED READING AGE: If you must, 13+

PARENTAL NOTES: Aside from teaching us that Darwinism is Always Right even though it may be cruelty to animals and lead to the Holocaust, and aside from me taking issue with how gender roles are fleshed out, there’s also the whole gender-bending Deryn/Dylan thing.
 
AVAILABILITY: Fine.  You really want to own these?  Here, have the new covers.  I don’t even care if they’re in hardcover.  Do your own research! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Reviewing Kate Milford's "The Boneshaker"


Before I start this review, it might be helpful to define a genre that not every reader, particularly a casual one, is familiar with: Magic Realism. It’s not realistic literature. It’s not fantasy or science fiction. It’s…both. Kind of.  

If you look it up in a dictionary (or search the term online), you’re going to get a lot of Salvador Dali paintings and some paragraphs about Latin literature such as the works of Gabriel Marcia Garcia or Isabel Allende. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

YA Fiction Trends


Trends in publishing are not confined to YA books. Diary of a Wimpy Kid comes out and suddenly the shelves are deluged with copycat books with doodly illustrations. But in no other section are trends more evident than the teen shelf.

 
You know you’re in the YA section (even if it’s not labeled as such), whether it be library or bookstore or just perusing* a friend’s shelves, when the spine colors are predominantly black.


Before, when Harry Potter was the mainstay of YA, hand-drawn covers like the ones from A Series of Unfortunate Events was the main cover art. As of this writing, thanks to Twilight and The Hunger Games, black is the new black.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Inkheart": A Review


The original cover for Inkheart/Tintenherz.
Source http://kalafudra.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/funke_tintenherz_gr.jpg
“Her curiosity was too much for her. She felt almost as if she could hear the books whispering on the other side of the half-open door. They were promising her a thousand unknown stories, a thousand doors into worlds she had never seen before.”
Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

As part of this week’s theme of YA fiction, I’m going to start by reviewing some “stand-alone” novels.  This is because there are few YA novels I’ve read that are truly stand-alone; either they are part of a series, or they are so similar to another novel that the two beg to be reviewed and compared together.

Now you probably are wondering, “Hey, I’ve read the title of this post.  And I know that Inkheart is the first in a series.”  This is true.  Inkheart (Tintenherz in its original German) is the first of a trilogy, followed by Inkspell and Inkdeath (Tintenblut and Tintentod) that chronicles the adventures of a young girl, Meggie, and her various relatives and friends. 

The reason I’m going to break protocol and NOT review the second two books is that when I was reading them I had the distinct feeling that Funke had planned for Inkheart to be stand-alone, but after she’d finished she decided to add on to the story.  I have several reasons to suspect this, but first let me give a short synopsis of the first book so we’re both on the same page…er…so to speak.

Inkheart opens with Meggie traveling around Europe with her father, whom she calls Mo because it makes her sound like a hippie child.  Her father is a mild-mannered bookbinder who nevertheless has a tragic past and a powerful secret.  This secret is not so much a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t read the book, since we’re tipped off in the dust jacket blurb: Mo is a “Silvertongue” which is a person who can read aloud so fluently that the things in the book are transported to our world.  Unfortunately whatever “magic” this is caused by has rules, and something from our world goes into the book. 

The story is written from Meggie’s point of view, and so she and the reader both slowly come to discover the tragic past that comes along with this powerful secret.  When Meggie was little her father accidentally read out two characters from the book Inkheart and the Random Magic Russian Roulette picks Meggie’s mother to go into the book.  The two characters that are read into reality are Dustfinger, a shifty and selfish fire-eater, and Capricorn, one of the side-villains in the novel.  While Capricorn sees his chance to get Main Villain Status in this world, going around destroying copies of Inkheart so no one can ever read him back into it, kidnapping other Silvertongues to read out treasures and slaves from other books, and generally having a field day, Dustfinger thinks only of getting back…for some reason.  So as Meggie comes to realize, Mo continues traveling not because he’s a nomadic spirit, but because he’s on the run from these two characters who want him to use his Silvertongue-ness for their own purposes.

Whew. I’m going to leave the synopsis at that.  Because this book is heavy.  Not only long, but it has so many references to other books that you would soon be confused—if you aren’t already—by my trying to explain it. 

Alright, so as promised let me just give you my reasons why I think this was stand-alone. 

First: I loved the first book, but Inkspell immediately changed in tone and seemed to alter the characters’ personalities and motivations so drastically it was almost as if Funke was writing a different series altogether. 

Second: If Funke had always meant for this to be a trilogy, I think she would have developed one Big Bad character to be the villain throughout the series, which instead she split between Capricorn and the Adderhead…and frankly I was never afraid of the Adderhead because of his goofy name and ineffectual evilness. 

Third: The theme of Inkheart is books.  Their physical forms, the stories they contain, their characters, the “relationship” between the reader and the writing, writing books and storytelling, and so on.  Inkspell and Inkdeath transport some of the Real World characters (such as Meggie and her family) into Inkheart where the theme is much more about fate and determinism.  

Maybe these reasons are way off the mark, and Cornelia Funke always intended for this to be a trilogy. Maybe my objections are just my personal opinion.  Well, here is another opinion of mine: at least read the first book.  Especially if you are a book-lover.  And if you’re brave, you might try reading it out loud.

 
RECOMMENDED READING AGE: 12+

PARENTAL NOTES: This book was originally written in German, and German children’s books are a bit less strict including swear words such as the D-word.

AVAILABILITY: Get it in hardcover either at abebooks or Amazon.  If you disagree with my review and want the whole trilogy, far be it from me to keep you from getting this nice box set.  And when I say “get it in hardcover,” I’m not just being my normal hardcover-hardcore-booksnob self (although that does come into play).  Books this thick are simply not capable of standing up to wear and tear in paperback form. 

ADAPTATIONS: Although it makes some drastic departures from the book, the adaptation starring Brendan Fraser is pretty good.  I particularly appreciate the portrayal of my favorite character, the horned marten Gwin as well as Paul Bettany's portrayal of Dustfinger who is my second favorite character--probably on account of him getting to carry around a marten in his satchel.  If anything this film is worth watching to finally find out what Andy Serkis looks like when not covered in CGI.  I think the moviemakers might have agreed with me that Inkheart is a standalone, though, since there are no adaptations planned (that I know of, anyway) for the two sequels.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Back to the Classics Reading Challenge 2013



After weeks of procrastination, I have finished the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge hosted by Sarah Reads Too Much! This is my second completed reading challenge after the European Reading Challenge that I did back in May. According to the instructions for the wrap-up post, I'm supposed to note that I finished one "Entry" for completing all the required category reads as well as two "Entries" for completing all the optional categories. 

Total Entries (unless I counted wrong, which would not be unheard of because math is evil and I hate it): 3

The Many Mutations of YA

After a week off for good behavior, I’m back to my Summer Reading Program Recommendations and Reviews.  Up next: YA.  Ja.  It’s gonna be fun.  Just watch.

To those not in the know, YA stands for “Young Adult.”  Libraries alternately label such books as “Youth” or “Teen Lit,” and if it seems like these books are hard to peg at distinct age-level, that’s because this section of literature is transitional by nature.  Adolescence is a transitional period in a person’s life, and it affects each individual in a different way.  Therefore each individual reader will be mature enough for YA books—and outgrow them—at varying time periods. 

Source: http://library.salvereginablogs.com/files/2013/02/yadisplay2.jpg 
 
Here are a few criteria for Young Adult Fiction (there’s a whole ‘nother subgenre of YA nonfiction, but I’m ignoring that):

1.      Its target audience is for teens (a broad age of 12-20).

2.      It deals with themes that are relevant to this age group.

3.      Its content is more mature than Juvenile Fiction, but less mature than Adult Fiction.

4.      Convince teens that reading is cool.

As I began to define YA, before I did any research I looked back on my personal experience…and then realized, to my shock and wonder, I didn’t really have any.  This doesn’t mean I haven’t read any YA.  I’ve read tons.  However, the majority of YA books I read were not when I was actually a teen, but since I’ve been an adult.  In fact at my childhood library they didn’t even have a YA section until after I had already moved to the Adult Section for my literary needs.

“Is this YA thing a new trend?” I asked myself.  Time to go beyond my personal experience and use Google.  Which gave me lots of ads for the newest YA publications, but no information on the “History of YA.”  Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I went on Wikipedia, where all the information is true…actually I went to Wikipedia and used it to find references to actual articles. 

At the outset I guessed that YA was a newer “thing”…say, maybe originating around the 1980’s.  But, if you take into account different names that books-marketed-to-teenagers have been called by in the past century, really the origins of YA go all the way back to the early 1900’s.  Ja. This is the “style” of book I like to call

DIME NOVELS – Also called “Pulp Fiction” or in the UK “Penny Dreadfuls,” these are the fluffy adventure books targeting teenage boys—teenagers were just starting to be treated like a separate “age group” from children and adults—that were written fast and sold cheaply.  Basically these are the novel form of comic books.  Good examples of this type of mass-produced, adventure-central writing are the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard, Eugene T. Sawyer, and other men using three names or initials.  A more modern example would be The Hardy Boys series. 

You’ll notice that the target audience was adolescent, but confined to boys.  Girls were still stuck jumping ahead to adult novels such as Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, until Nancy Drew showed up on the scene in 1930.  So as early as, say, 1886 (when Eugene T. Sawyer’s first Nick Carter story came out), publishers were targeting young adults.  Was it YA?  Not yet. 

HIGH SCHOOL FICTION – According to my skimpy research, real YA began with J.D. Salinger’s 1951 book The Catcher in the Rye, as well as other books that have been standard High School Reading all my life such as The Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird.  Starting around the 50’s, Young Adult reading seemed to shift from the pulp adventure genre to serious thematic works such as these.  Was it YA?  According to David Lubar in his article The History of Young Adult Novels, yes.  But guess what?  I disagree with David Lubar, mostly because his article makes want to devise a time machine to go back and stop myself ever from reading a book labeled “YA.” 

I haven’t read The Catcher in the Rye, but I have read the other two examples given above.  Yes, they fit Criteria #2 and #3 of my definition of YA fiction.  However, I did not get the impression these books were targeted to teens specifically.  Honestly I think To Kill a Mockingbird is a book for all ages mature enough to comprehend the themes.  The Lord of the Flies—which to be frank I didn’t care for—may have adolescents as the main characters, but it’s more of an allegory of human nature.  Besides, Criteria #3, while a mainstay in how many people define YA, cannot be confined to YA.  I’ve read picture books with more philosophical depth than some teen lit. 

My main problem with calling High School Fiction “YA,” however, is it lacks Criteria #4: at least in my generation, teens only read these books if they’re assigned them in high school by adults.  There is not intrinsic entertainment value in them; it’s a reading assignment—maybe a less arduous reading assignment than Great Expectations*, but a reading assignment nonetheless.

THE MODERN YA -  Let’s talk about Criteria #4.   In this excerpt from education.com, you’ll notice the focus on how YA books’ purpose is to encourage a love of reading in teens.  This is the age that children who love reading start to drift away in favor of video games, movies, and the mall, all in an effort to be “cool” in the face of peer pressure that often declares bookishness to be “nerdy” and uncool.  But YA is the type of book that disproves these scurrilous lies.  Look at the Harry Potter series.  Look at Twilight…or, uh, not.  Look at The Hunger Games trilogy.  Why are we looking at books I’ve never read? Because unlike me, a lot of people like to read what other people have read.  When I entered college people widened their eyes in horror when they found out that I hadn’t read Harry Potter. 

“But EVERYONE has read Harry Potter!” they shrieked. 

See how reading can be made cool?  That’s how the current series of The Hunger Games and Twilight have been in more recent years.  That’s the power of YA.

Don’t get me started, however, on this new monster called New Adult….

 
*Which a lot of people think is an arduous read, although it’s one of my favorite Dickens novels.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Astrid Lindgren's "Pippi Longstocking": A Review



Pippilotta Delicatesa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraimsdaughter Longstocking is a bright, brave, strong, creative, and independent young girl. 

She also is a child anarchist against adult discipline. 

I read these books as a child, and even as a child I did not so much live vicariously through Pippi’s rebellion against the parents, teachers, and other authorities she encountered, as I gasped along with her straight-man friends Tommy and Annika at her improprieties and hidden loneliness.


Because, even though she lives in a children’s book, Pippi is like a real person.  

She has good qualities—including her superhuman strength and never-ending cheer—and since she is the titular character we can’t help but root for her against burglars and other villains like “pluttifikation.”  

But then there is the other side of Pippi, which makes her human and fallible as if she weren’t a literary hero. She is ignorant—oh, she’s clever enough, but she lacks education. She can barely read (!!!!), which means if she were a real person she wouldn’t be able to read her own stories. She also is rude.  For every gift she gives on her birthday there’s an occasion for her being thoughtless about others, or disrespectful of elders. And then there’s the whole situation with her living alone in Villa Villekulla with a horse and a monkey while her father abandons her for a cannibal kingdom….

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"A Little Princess" and "The Secret Garden": A Double-Feature Review


“I’ve often thought,” said Sara, in her reflecting voice, “that I should like to be a princess; I wonder what it feels like.  I believe I will begin pretending I am one.”

~ A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Chapter V. Becky

If it seems that the children’s novels I’ve been recommending have a similar tone—that of overactive imaginations, spunky orphan girls, etc.—I assure you that this pattern has only just now occurred to me as I’ve been making them. The truth is these are the classic children’s novels I loved as a girl, and if I loved them—before all my English Literature courses in college or reading all the documentations on how to classify and analyze and critique literature, back when I enjoyed it with a naïve enthusiasm that children tend to have for stories—then I’m sure other people will love them.

Maybe these books have been recommended to death. Maybe what I say about them is nothing new under the sun. Oh well. Nowadays for every plug for A Little Princess there’s five reviews of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s all well and good for new books to be brought to readers’ attention. But it’s also good to remind them of the “golden oldies,” as it were. And that’s what I’m going to do today.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cover Fail: Anne of Green Gables



Source:


This is the story of blond, attractive, self-assured, and plaid-bedecked Anne Shirley as she graduates college and moves into a trendy coed dorm after conning her way into the lives of two loser farmers and forming a cheerleader clique with Diana and regularly pushing resident nerd Gilbert Blythe into his locker.



At least that’s what I get from this cover.

Monday, July 1, 2013

"Anne of Green Gables": A Review





“They were on the crest of a hill. The sun had set some time since, but the landscape was still clear in the mellow afterlight. To the west a dark church spire rose up against a marigold sky. Below was a little valley and beyond a long, gently rising slope with snug farmsteads scattered along it. From one to another the child’s eyes darted, eager and wistful. At last they lingered on one away to the left, far back from the road, dimly white with blossoming trees in the twilight of the surrounding woods. Over it, in the stainless southwest sky, a great crystal-white star was shining like a lamp of guidance and promise.”

~ Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, Chapter 2: Matthew Cuthbert is Surprised


Anne of Green Gables is the first in a series of nearly a dozen novels and short story collections which first made Lucy Maud Montgomery famous and later drove her crazy. Like Arthur Conan Doyle with his creation of Sherlock Holmes, the Anne Shirley character was so beloved by her audience that she soon took on a life of her own, and Montgomery was stuck writing stories for her ad nauseam. It’s pretty clear from Montgomery’s tone in the later books that the creator was sick of her creation, and though she didn’t throw Anne Shirley off the Reichenbach falls, one can’t help suspecting Montgomery was sorely tempted.