Friday, March 24, 2023

Jennifer Donnelly Does It Again

I have been a fan of Jennifer Donnelly since I read Revolution, which is one of my favorite books (something a reader doesn't say lightly). It is mentioned in three of my previous blogs (2/5/13, 3/7/15, 12/3/17) because I hold other YA historical fiction books to that standard. I've also read some of her other works: A Northern Light (reviewed 10/29/17), These Shallow Graves, and The Tea Rose. I intend to read all of her books, eventually.

I haven't looked for anything new from Donnelly since she wrote the mermaid ones, so you can imagine my surprise and delight when I saw her name on the only two books that caught my eye at our school's Scholastic Book Fair: Stepsister and Poisoned. The covers attracted me, and the author's name cinched the sales. 

I just finished reading Stepsister, and I absolutely loved it! The story begins where the stepsisters in Cinderella cut parts off of their feet in order to try to fit into the glass slipper. We all know how that turned out, but we don't know what happened to the stepsisters after that. 

The story is about what happens to the stepsisters after Ella (as she's called in the book) rides away with the prince to her new life. While we hear about the stepmother and the other stepsister throughout the book, the story primarily focuses on only one of them, Isabelle. 

I don't want to give anything away because I was delighted at exactly how Donnelly chose to set the story up. I also love that none of the story claims that the story of Cinderella, as we know it, was different or wrong in a way that "twisted fairy tales" often claim. This wonderfully written tale just continues the story of Isabelle, while also flashing back from time to time to scenes from her childhood to help explain a few things from her past.

Who would I recommend this book to? Everyone. I mean, it's certainly appropriate for 10 years old and up, but it's just a really good story for anyone. I don't know if you know how rare it is these days for me to find something that's just a really great story that would work for students from 6th grade to 12th grade, but this one would. I know not everyone loves fairy tales, but it's so much more than that. I also think guys would like this book. There are male characters that play major secondary roles in the story. There's also fighting and battles and...just a good mix of things that make an interesting and adventurous story.

I talked about this one so much, my middle daughter is now reading this one on her Kindle Paperwhite (she's over 30), and I just sent a paper copy to my sister-in-law (she's over 50). Not my copy, of course. My copy is here with me. The first photo in this blog was taken before I read the book, see the second photo to know what it looks like now.

I didn't expect to tab this one, but the writing was just too good to resist flagging a few excerpts I want to refer back to later and share with friends and students. 

I'm really looking forward to reading Poisoned, but I'm holding off for now because I don't want this type of tale to be over too soon. I devoured Stepsister in one day. I didn't mean to, but I got carried away during my Spring Break. No regrets, though, I completely enjoyed that day. :)

Happy reading!

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Okay, I Admit It: I Am Not A Pioneer Woman

It's very, very seldom I don't finish a book. I don't feel it's fair to review a book I don't finish, which is why I have shlogged through some real duds in my life. The older I get, though, the less I'm willing to finish a book I feel is a waste of my precious reading time. 

I managed to get through almost 70% of Laddie: A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter, but I couldn't make myself finish it. It was one of the books listed as a "classic" (it was published in 1913) that should be read as part of a child's education. My vote is that it should not be. 

If you read my earlier post about Little Britches, I could see where it would appeal to some people. There are parts of Laddie that I also found appealing, even funny (Chapter 3 was my favorite), but the stories just went on and on and on. I couldn't take it anymore.

Laddie is really an autobiographical "fiction" novel written about the author's life and her love of her oldest brother, Laddie, and his long-term courtship with a young lady. It has some sweet and funny anecdotal moments, but when I reached the halfway point of the novel, I felt like it would never end. There were too many detailed descriptions. I tried to make myself finish it by listening to the audio version, but I started dreading my daily commutes to work because if I had to hear one more detailed description of the farm with the geese and the horses and the trees or a wedding dress or a bonnet, I was going to scream.

In all fairness, I should tell you that I am not a fan of the whole "pioneer woman" genre. Don't get me wrong, I greatly admire women who moved to a new country to start a new life or traveled in wagons to move out West, but I don't want to read about them. At least, not in the way this book was written...or the Little House in the Big Woods series...or, if I'm honest, Anne of Green Gables (I only read the first one, enjoyed it okay, but didn't want to read anymore of the series). 

They are all wholesome, good books, but they bore me. And I say this as someone who loves historical fictions. In fact, it is my favorite genre! But the style of writing in this type of "pioneer" story is like watching paint dry. 

I say all this to say, if you ARE the type of person who likes Laura Ingalls Wilder books, you'll probably love Laddie. I do not think, however, that it belongs on a list for today's young people to read as a part of a "classics" list, unless you want them to dislike reading. I would not recommend this book to any of my students, much less make it required reading in class.

I just keeping thinking....

I'll never get the time back I spent on this book. Ugh.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Hard to Breathe

I have a few books on my bookcase, just a handful, that I avoid reading. I fully intend to read them someday, but I know I'll have to be in just the right frame of mind. It may sound odd, but there are these rare moments when I get a feeling about a book. I know that it may cut a little too close to that place I keep tucked away in the deepest recesses of my heart. I know when I read it, I'm going to need a recovery period. This is why a few books remain untouched on my shelves until I'm ready. And I decided, just a few days ago, that I was ready to read one of these books. 

I've had The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson for a couple of years. There have been several times I've touched its spine, even pulled it from the shelf and held it in my hand, feeling the weight of it and rereading the synopsis on the back. I've run my fingers over the front of the cover, which is made to look like the edges have been burned. But I always stopped there. I always put it back on the shelf...until now.

I've been reading The Gargoyle for the past few days. I haven't finished it. I am about 100 pages away from the end, and I'm finding it hard to breathe. I was correct in my initial assessment about the book, I know I'll have to recover after this one. I'm putting off the ending because, so far, it's been written so well that I know there will be an unforgettable climax and resolution, but it may just break my heart with its truth. 

So, this is not a book review. It's a book anticipation. I anticipate that I will be unable to write a book review for this book when it is over. It cuts too close, it will hurt too much, and I will not have the words for how this book will devastate me in the very best way.

My advice to you, as a reader? If you don't mind your books a little dark and twisted and deep, you should read it.