Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary

Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary is one of that author's stand-alone works.

Emily Bartlett is a lively young girl growing up in the small town of Pitchfork, Oregon. She dreams of the town having its own library, and her mother is working toward that goal as well. Emily has many amusing adventures, like the time she feeds the hogs some rotted cider apples just before her mother's fancy ladies' tea, causing the hogs to behave in a decidedly undignified fashion. Or the time she bleaches the family's white plowhorse, because her horse-crazy big-city cousin Muriel is coming to visit and Emily wants to make a good impression. Or the time she goes for a ride in her grandfather's new automobile, and they encounter some interesting mechanical difficulties . . .

This is a gentle story, not as charming as the Ramona books, but still a pleasant read. Some of the attitudes portrayed do not jibe with modern sensibilities, but reflect the stereotypes and prejudices of the book's time. I picked this up because I could not remember if I had read it as a child -- now, having read it, I still can't remember! Some of the episodes in the book seem familiar, while others don't strike any chords for me. I would recommend it only to readers who are big fans of Cleary's writing and wish to read everything she has written -- readers unfamiliar with Cleary would be best advised to start with one of her more popular series about Henry or Ramona or Ralph.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy is the second book in the League of Princes series.

Ever since their big adventure together, the members of the League of Princes have been at loose ends. When another threat to their kingdoms arises, can they band together again, or will their many differences keep them apart? The evil witch Zaubera is gone, but the juvenile bandit king Deeb Rauber has moved into her fortress and established a small kingdom called Rauberia, from which he plans to take over the world. Rauber is not the only one with plans for world domination: Briar Rose has been cooking up some schemes, as well. She also hasn't given up on marriage to Prince Liam, though marrying bratty Briar Rose is the last thing Liam wants to do. When Liam falls into her clutches, he learns of her schemes, as well as some startling facts about his own past. Can the League of Princes save him from his matrimonial fate? And can they save the kingdoms from Rauber's machinations? To do so, they'll have to storm the castle . . .

This book has the same good points as its predecessor, and the same downfalls, as well. It's full of action and humor, and the characters are just as quirky and amusing as before. The book is quite a hefty chunk, though after the first book, that's to be expected. And, though it certainly has substantial length, there's still not a lot of depth to it -- but again, that's in keeping with the tone of the first book in the series. It has just as many fun and often improbable plot twists, and readers who enjoyed The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom will find this book just as enjoyable. The series certainly doesn't end here, though: the ending of this book definitely sets up the major conflict of the as-yet-unpublished third volume in the series.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson is a tale of homesteading in the WWI era.

Hattie Brooks has always been "Hattie Here and There" -- an, orphan, passed from one set of relatives to another. When an uncle she has never met leaves her his homesteading claim in Montana, Hattie grabs the chance to have a place of her own . . . even though she doesn't really know much at all about farming. In Montana, she quickly learns a lot: how to milk a cantankerous cow, how to string a barbed wire fence, and the importance of tying an old mitten on the frozen pump handle instead of grasping it with one's bare skin! Hattie is helped along by her neighbors, Karl and Perilee Mueller. However, in those wartime years, anti-German sentiment runs high, and not all of the people in the area are as convinced of Karl's good nature as Hattie. Hattie has her own troubles to worry about, too -- Traft Martin, the sometimes-charming son of a well-to-do rancher, is intent upon expanding his father's holdings, and one parcel of land he's particularly interested in is the claim belonging to one Hattie Brooks. Can Hattie meet the requirements to prove up on her claim, or should she sell out while she can?

I reviewed the sequel to this book during the 48-Hour Book Challenge, and though I actually read this book before that one, I am just now catching up. I first read Hattie Big Sky shortly after it received its Newbery honor, and I liked it best of that year's crop of honorees. This time through, I find it stands up well to rereading. It's interesting to note that homesteading, something I think of in conjunction with Laura Ingalls Wilder and Oregon Trail, was still going on less than a hundred years ago. Larson brings together an interesting mix of elements, between homesteading and World War I, and it works beautifully.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill is a tale of an inspirational teacher in a remote Alaskan village.

Though she is just ten years old, Frederika has seen many teachers come and go from the school in her village. For some, it is too remote from the rest of civilization. For some, the hardships are too great. For some, the constant smell of fish is just too overpowering. In October of 1948, one such teacher leaves the village -- and another one comes. Miss Agnes, a veteran teacher who has worked for years in another part of Alaska, was on her way home to England, but she agreed to stay through the school year to help out Fred's community. Miss Agnes is a teacher like none Fred and her friends have ever met. She wears pants! She throws away the battered old schoolbooks and brings out her own collection of books, maps, and supplies! She even encourages Fred's older sister, who is deaf, to attend school, and she and the children learn sign language together. Miss Agnes talks about children from Fred's village as if they have a future beyond the confines of their rural area, and the children start to believe it, too. But what will happen when the year is up and Miss Agnes returns to England? Will everything go back to the way it was?

I had never heard of this book until I picked it up from the library shelf, where it was languishing in quiet obscurity. It portrays a way of life that will be unfamiliar to many readers, coupled with the tale of the triumph of alternative methods of education. I enjoyed the story, though it's a quiet one that will not necessarily appeal to all readers.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen is the second book in the Ascendance Trilogy. I reviewed The False Prince last year, so if you have not read the series yet, you may want to start there. Please note that there will be some unavoidable spoilers for The False Prince in my review below:

Sage is now Jaron, King of Carthya, but his position is nowhere near secure. Even with the scheming Connor behind bars, Jaron is mistrusted by both his regents and his fiancee. Moreover, the pirates plunder and pillage the borderlands, and a greedy neighboring kingdom threatens war. If Jaron can overthrow the Pirate King and gain the allegiance of the pirates, he will prove himself to his regents and be prepared to withstand an invasion. He has a short time in which to work, but Jaron is always ready for a challenge. With the help of friends both new and old, he may just be able to hold on to the reins of his kingdom . . . for now.

As with the previous book, I liked this but did not love it. I had trouble suspending disbelief at some of Jaron's escapades among the pirates, and the storyline, while action-packed, lacked some of the twists and turns that made the first book in the series so captivating. I did enjoy watching Jaron's friendship with Imogene continue to develop, and I will be on the lookout for the conclusion of the trilogy -- partly because, readers beware, this second book in the trilogy carries with it the inevitable cliffhanger ending.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline and The Case of the Gyspy Good-Bye by Nancy Springer

The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline and The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye by Nancy Springer are the final two books in the Enola Holmes mystery series.

In these two books, Enola solves the mystery of her landlady's disappearance, which is strangely related to Florence Nightingale, rescues a kidnapped lady, and discovers the truth of her mother's disappearance. As with the rest of the series, I listened to these on audiobook, and of course Katherine Kellgren's narration did not disappoint. Audiobook listeners, especially those who enjoy this sort of story, should definitely take a look at this series!

(Reviewed from audiobooks borrowed through my library system.)

Homecoming and Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt

Homecoming and Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt are some of my childhood favorites.

Dicey, James, Maybeth, and Sammy Tillerman's momma left them in the car while she went into a shopping mall. They were on their way from Provincetown, Massachusetts to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to stay with a relative. But the hours passed, and Momma never came back. Dicey knew that she had to do something -- something to keep the family together. If she went to the police, would they be split up and sent to foster homes? It was a risk she didn't want to take. So, Dicey and her younger siblings set out on the long walk to Bridgeport, hoping that Momma would somehow find her way there. But even Bridgeport may not be the home they had hoped for, and their journey might take them even further away, to Crisfield, Maryland, and the grandmother they didn't even know they had.

That's the story of Homecoming: how brave, resourceful Dicey, brainy James, sweet Maybeth, and stubborn Sammy make their way to a place that they all can call home. In Dicey's Song, the children are learning their way in a new place, and it's not an easy transition for any of them. And then, of course, there's Momma, who is at a hospital far away in New England, who may never get better. Dicey and her siblings have found a home, but now they have to find a way to be, to belong.

I've loved these books for years. The story of the Tillerman family is so rich, so bittersweet. Voigt just nails it on so many levels: the interactions between the characters, the way she describes the hardships of the journey without ever making the story drag, the descriptions of food and music and simple pleasures. These are books that I can revisit again and again.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copies.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey

The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian Farrey is a creative and enjoyable juvenile fantasy.

Jaxter Grimjinx is a thief. In fact, members of his family have been thieves for generations. But Jaxter has a problem: he's clumsy. So clumsy, in fact, that he manages to set a house on fire during his first real heist. Jaxter's bumble lands his family in jail, until an all-too-convenient prophecy arises, featuring numerous disasters set to befall the city of Vengekeep, and naming the Grimjinx family as the city's only possible saviors. It's a con, of course, created by Jaxter's mother . . . but then the prophecies start coming true. Can the Grimjinx family save the city -- and live to tell the tale?

This story is simply a lot of fun. There's humor, mystery, and adventure. I particularly like the way that the story plays with the "Child of Prophecy" trope that is so popular in juvenile fantasy, since the prophecies in question were created (and inadvertently brought to life) by one of the main characters. Highly recommended to fans of juvenile fantasy!

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson is a Southern Gothic retelling of Bluebeard.

When her father dies, 17-year-old Sophia Petherham goes to live with her mysterious godfather Bernard de Cressac at his enormous house in Mississippi. At Wyndriven Abbey, Sophia is given everything she could want -- a sharp contrast to the life of genteel poverty her family has become accustomed to. She also enjoys the doting attentions of M. de Cressac, a man not so old that his attentions are not flattering. Sophia wonders if she could be falling in love with her guardian. Occasional glimpses of his unstable and alarming temper soon make her question her brief infatuation, but despite her cooling affections, his possessive ardor soon becomes overbearing. Moreover, Wyndriven Abbey holds many secrets, most of them related to de Cressac's past. Sophia learns that she is not the first lovely redhead to live at the abbey, though all who came before her suffered tragic, mysterious fates. If Sophia cannot escape, she may be destined to follow in their footsteps.

This engrossing read is fascinating and creepy, and the setting is perfect for a Bluebeard retelling. The characterization is perfect, as the reader discovers de Cressac's true nature along with Sophia. The pacing is steady -- as befits a Southern Gothic, it never rushes, but neither does it drag. If you enjoy a story with great characters and atmosphere, with some suspense and creepy elements, I certainly recommend this book!

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice is a quirky story of poetry and parents.

Before Emily Elizabeth Davis was born, her mother found a copy of the complete poems of Emily Dickinson in a used bookstore and declared that her daughter was destined to grow up to be a poet. The poetry book became for Emily what a baby book is for other children, with her mother noting Emily's childhood milestones in the margins of significant poems. However, sensible, methodical Emily (now in elementary school) is not sure she wants to be a poet -- she'd rather write romances like her idol Danielle Steele. More than anything, though, she wants to know who her father is . . . but her mother always says that she will learn about her father when fate brings it about. Then, one day, Emily's mother reveals that she wrote the name of Emily's father on one of the pages of the poetry book -- but before Emily can search the book for his name, the poetry book is accidentally put in a box of items that are donated to a charity shop. Emily and her friends embark on a quest to all of the city's used bookstores in order to recover the book, and along the way Emily questions whether destiny controls her actions, or whether she is in control of her own destiny. Will Emily ever find the poetry book? Will she ever find out about her father?

I'm not sure if it's the reading slump I've been in this year, my personal aversion to the poetry of Emily Dickinson (don't shoot! It's all of those -- dashes that drive me -- Crazy) or something lacking in the book itself, but I never really connected with the story or the characters, other than to be extremely irrritated by Emily's stereotypical "Dreamy Poet" mother. Another reader might get more out of this book than I did, but it's not one I really see myself recommending.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Jinx by Sage Blackwood is a stellar juvenile fantasy, possibly the best I've read so far this year.

When Jinx is taken into the Urwald to be abandoned by his stepfather, he knows he will soon die. After all, nobody steps off the path in the Urwald and lives for long, not with the witches and wizards and monsters that roam the forest. But then Jinx meets Simon Magus, who takes Jinx in as a servant. Though Simon is a wizard -- are all wizards evil? -- he treats Jinx better than anyone else ever has. But will Simon ever teach Jinx any magic?

This book reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones in all the best ways: great characters, fun plot, little touches of humor. The ending is a bit muddled, but by that point I was completely enthralled by the story and the characters. This is definitely an exciting debut; I can only hope that we will see a lot more by this author in the future!

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

McKenna by Mary Casanova

McKenna by Mary Casanova is part of the American Girl line. I received this copy as part of a prize package from last year's 48-Hour Book Challenge, so it seems fitting that I am finally getting around to reading it as part of this year's challenge!

Fourth-grader McKenna is a highly motivated young gymnast, but when it comes to schoolwork, she's finding it a little more difficult to stay focused. When her parents and teacher arrange for her to be tutored, she feels embarrassed and angry -- and when her friends on the gymnastics team ask if she's getting special gymnastics coaching when she leaves class, she finds it all too easy to say yes. Can McKenna catch up on her schoolwork, adjust her priorities, and sort out her friendships -- or will something have to give?

As you can probably tell from the description, this book is a little message-heavy. I think kids will enjoy reading it, especially those who share McKenna's interest in gymnastics, but readers outside the book's targeted demographic won't find much to engage their interest. This copy is going to a new home in my uncle's fourth-grade classroom, where I'm sure it will find many appreciative readers.

(Reviewed from a finished copy courtesy of the publisher, received as part of a gift package from the 2012 48-Hour Book Challenge.)

A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson

For a change of pace during the 48-Hour Book Challenge, I read A Lady of High Regard, an inspirational romance by Tracie Peterson.

Mia Stanley, a young woman from one of Philadelphia's elite families, has had everything in life handed to her on a silver platter -- but that does not mean that she is not deeply concerned for the welfare of the poor in her city. Writing for Godey's Lady's Book has opened Mia's eyes to issues of social justice -- but when she uncovers corrupt dealings among landlords by the docks, she finds herself in danger. More than once, she is rescued by her handsome neighbor -- a man she's often tried to match up with one of her friends, as she feels he would make some woman an excellent husband. But Mia is not ready to settle down, herself -- or is she?

Fans of the historical inspirational romance genre will probably enjoy this book, but I don't see it reaching a wider audience. Mia definitely has her Too Stupid To Live moments, and I found her hard to like. The romance is obvious from the beginning, and suspense is built only by numerous interrupted conversations, where one or the other of the pair was on the verge of declaring themselves. I also thought some of the actions Mia took, as well as some of the advice she was given by other characters, was a little out of period for the 1860s, though not glaringly so. All in all, a fine fluff read for those who like this sort of thing, but not something I'd recommend more broadly.
(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

48 HBC: Finish Line

I actually finished at 9:30 this morning, the end of my 48 hours, but I had church, and then a party, and then a nap . . . so here I am, finally writing the post!


Total reading/blogging time: 19 hours
Books started: 9
Books completed: 7
Total pages read: ~1857

List of Books Read:
Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson
Garden Princess by Kristin Kladstrup
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson
McKenna by Mary Casanova
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (audiobook, unfinished)
The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy (unfinished)

I will complete both of the unfinished ones; they're just what I was reading and listening to when my 48 hours ran out.

Here's a picture of the ones I finished:

I'm pretty pleased with my participation this year -- I wasn't able to read as many hours as last year, but I finished more books (last year I spent the bulk of the challenge reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, which is a good book, but massive)!  I enjoyed the limited amount of socializing that I have done, and plan to visit some more blogs one I get this post up and see what everyone else has been reading.  Thanks again to everyone who has read and commented here; it's always nice to feel like part of a community.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

48 HBC: Saturday Update

As I predicted, I didn't get much reading done today, due to that whole pesky earning-a-living thing that I have to do sometimes.  I did manage to squeeze in 30 minutes of reading at lunch time. Then, after work, I read from 5:30-8:00, bringing my total for today up to 3 hours.  I also finished two more books: A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson, and McKenna by Mary Casanova.  Reviews to come.

I have a couple of things I have to do this evening, but hopefully I will be done in an hour or so, and can cram in some more reading time before bed.

ETA: 11:45 -- I managed another 2 hours of reading, and will get in maybe another 45 minutes of listening tomorrow morning before my 48 hours are up.  I'll put up a Finish Line post tomorrow afternoon -- see you then!

48 HBC: Bedtime Update

I have to go to work in the morning, so it's time to call it a night.  I'm pretty pleased with today: I got in a total of 13.25 hours of reading and blogging.  In addition to the books I posted about in my last update, I finished Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken -- reviews of both posted below.  I also started in on my audiobook, Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.  And, for a change of pace from all of the middle grade stuff I've read so far, I started A Lady of High Regard by Tracie Peterson.  Not bad for a day's worth of reading!

I probably won't update again until tomorrow evening, but I may squeeze in some socializing while on my break at work tomorrow.  Thanks to everyone who has stopped by!

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken is just the sort of book that I would have loved as a child.

High-spirited, slightly spoiled Bonnie Green is full of excitement at the prospect of her cousin Sylvia's arrival. Even though Bonnie's parents are about to leave on a long journey and Bonnie and Sylvia will be left in the care of a new governess who looks strict and cold, Bonnie knows that she and Sylvia will become close friends. The reality is much different than the two girls could possibly have expected, though: as soon as Bonnie's parents are away, the erstwhile governess takes control of the manor, turning away all but the worst of the servants, rooting through the papers in the library, and sending Bonnie and Sylvia off to a cruel orphan school that is no better than a workhouse. With the help of a goose boy who lives in a cave on the grounds of Willoughby Chase and a few loyal servants, Bonnie and Sylvia must find a way to escape. Even if they do, where will they go? What has become of Bonnie's parents -- have they fallen victims to foul play? Can anyone bring order back to Willoughby Chase?

This is a great, old-fashioned read with lots of adventure. I enjoyed it tremendously, and can't believe I waited so long to read it!

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde

Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde is an entertaining twist on The Frog Prince.

When Princess Imogene is tricked into kissing an annoying village boy-turned-frog, she succeeds in turning him back into a human . . . but rather than breaking the curse, she ends up trapped in frog form herself. She goes to the witch for help, but the witch proves spectacularly unhelpful. Imogene must either remain a frog, or find someone else to kiss and take on the curse in turn. Before she can figure out what to do about the situation, she finds herself captured by a boy-crazy teen runaway and a ragtag acting troupe who plan to use her in their show, and have no intention of returning her to the castle. Even if Imogene can escape, can she find a way to break the curse without condemning someone else to the same fate?

Frogged is a quick, amusing read, with plenty of humor. It doesn't break any new ground -- E.D. Baker already covered the princess-turned-frog ground pretty thoroughly in The Frog Princess -- nor is it particularly deep. However, the writing is clever enough, and the plot enjoyable enough, that young readers are likely to find it quite satisfactory.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech is a Newbery Medal winner that I have been meaning to read for quite some time.

As Salamanca Tree Hiddle travels from Ohio to Idaho on a road trip with her grandparents, she tells the story of her friend Phoebe Winterbottom's missing mother. Layered under that is the story of Sal's own missing mother, who went away to figure a few things out, and never returned.

This book is masterfully written and fully deserving of the honors it has received. The author makes excellent use of foreshadowing and other literary techniques to hint at the conclusion of the story, without blatantly giving too much away. I thought I had solved some of the book's mysteries early on (and for the record, I was correct!), but I could never be sure until the end. And some of the things that happened in the story really did throw me for a loop! This book brought both laughter and tears, and I highly recommend it.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

Garden Princess by Kristin Kladstrup

Garden Princess by Kristin Kladstrup is a middle-grade fantasy about a princess who loves to garden.

Princess Adela would rather be in the garden than anywhere else, and when one of the gardeners -- a handsome young man named Garth who has been Adela's friend since childhood -- receives an invitation to the mysterious Lady Hortensia's garden party, Adela decides to go along. Lady Hortensia's garden is truly marvelous: all kinds of flowers blooming out of season. However, Adela accidentally discovers the secret behind Lady Hortensia's garden: Hortensia is actually a witch, and she turns the young ladies she invites to her garden parties into flowers. As for the young men, she bewitches them and they become willing, lovestruck servants. Adela must find a way to escape and bring an end to Hortensia's evil deeds, and with the help of a talking magpie, she searches for a way to escape.

Sadly, this story fell flat for me. I never got a good sense of the characters as distinct, developing individuals. The climax of the plot came too early in the book, leaving a lot of winding down afterwards, including the wrapping up of a couple of romantic subplots that I just never bought into. And on top of it all was a fairly heavy-handed message about internal vs. external beauty. So, though I love fantasy stories and stories about gardens, this one just didn't do the trick for me.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson is the sequel to Newbery Honor book Hattie Big Sky (which I reread before the challenge, and will review later). This review contains some slight, necessary spoilers for Hattie Big Sky, if you're concerned about such things.

Hattie is working hard in Great Falls, Montana, but it's hardly what she wants to do forever. Ever since the newspaper back in Iowa published her short articles about homesteading life, Hattie has cherished a secret dream of becoming a journalist like Nellie Bly or Ida Tarbell. When the opportunity to travel to San Francisco falls into her lap, Hattie seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start -- even though her heart tells her to travel to Seattle, where her dear friend Charlie has made his own fresh start. It's clear that Charlie wants Hattie to come to Seattle and become his wife -- but Hattie wants more out of life than just domestic bliss. And San Francisco beckons, promising to reveal not only Hattie's future, but possibly Uncle Chester's past as well. . . .

I loved Hattie Big Sky and was excited to see what was ahead for Hattie, especially since I was not expecting a sequel. This book did not disappoint! Hattie's exploits in San Francisco were completely believable, but also exciting and dramatic. I knew what I wanted to happen for Hattie, but I was never sure that those things would come to pass, so I was on the edge of my seat up until the very end of the book. I certainly don't want to give anything away, but I will just say that I found this book a satisfying continuation of Hattie's adventures.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

48 HBC: Afternoon Update

Well, I'm a little more than six hours in to the 48-Hour Book Challenge, and I figure I am due for a bit of socializing time!  So far, I have finished three books:

Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson
Garden Princess by Kristin Kladstrup
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

My dog has been my steadfast reading companion -- she likes having me home all day, but can't understand why, even though I have two hands, I only pet her with one of them.  If I'd just put the book down and give her all of my attention, it would be so much better!  On the other hand, she was very pleased about the frozen pizza I cooked for my lunch, because she always gets a few bites of pizza crust.

I haven't written reviews yet, but will try to get that done before starting whatever I decide to read next.  Before I do that, though, I want to see what everyone else in the challenge is reading and doing!

48 HBC: Starting Line

Here I go!  My official start time is 9:30 Friday morning.  For the next 48 hours, I'll be squeezing in as much reading as possible.  I'm going to start with Hattie Ever After since I finished a reread of Hattie Big Sky last night.  After that, who knows?  I'll post here with updates later today.

48 HBC: The Eve of the Challenge

This weekend, I'm participating the the annual 48-Hour Book Challenge.  Last year was my first time doing this challenge, and I had a lot of fun.  I learned some things, too: this year I am not going to attempt to read any thousand-page doorstops!

To prepare for the challenge, I washed the dishes and folded the laundry.  I chopped up some fresh fruit to snack on, and brewed a pitcher of iced tea.  I downloaded a couple of audiobooks to my iPad; the challenge allows for one, so I'll see which one I am in the mood for when I get to a point where I need to listen rather than read.  I'm all about choices this year -- I have a nice selection of library books (mostly juvenile fantasy), all of my owned to-be-read books collected in one place (well, more or less) so I can easily pick and choose, and some light reading loaded on my Kindle app if I feel like reading in that format.  And of course, if I feel like picking up an old favorite, I can do that, too.

I'll be starting in the morning -- probably around 9:00, though if I feel like sleeping in it may be later.  I don't have much else to do tomorrow, so the bulk of my reading will be done then.  I have to work on Saturday, so that will take a chunk out of my reading time, but I figure I can pick up some hours Saturday evening as well, easily putting me over the 12-hour mark, though I don't think I'll make it to 24 this year.

I'm excited to begin -- are you participating this year?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger is the first book of a new series, set in the world of the Parasol Protectorate books.

Sophronia Temminnick is active, curious, and not at all interested in clothes or flirtations -- or attending finishing school. But when an offer of a place at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality comes just after an embarrassing incident involving a dumbwaiter and a flying pudding, Sophronia's mother decides that something must be done about her daughter's manners and deportment. Neither Sophronia nor her mother are aware of the exact nature of Mademoiselle Geraldine's, however -- a school where the word "finishing" has more than one meaning.

Like the Parasol Protectorate series, this book is witty and well-written, with excellent plotting and pacing, sparkling dialogue, and a feisty heroine who gets into (and out of) all sorts of predicaments. There are a few significant differences, of course -- this book is written for the young end of the YA spectrum, with hardly any romance yet. Also, though set some 20 years before the events of Soulless, there are a number of differences in the worldbuilding, particularly as relates to the numerous steampunk elements. One assumes (or at least hopes) that the author will explain, at some point during this series, what becomes of all of the mechanicals that are present in Etiquette & Espionage but absent in Soulless.

Several of the reviews I read before reading this book found more to criticize than I did. I'm not sure whether that served to lower my expectations, or whether I am just inclined to be less picky in this particular case, but I found this book quite as enjoyable as others by the author, and would certainly recommend it.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)