Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Little Blog on the Prairie

little blog on the prairie

Okay, let's be honest. I picked this book up from the children's section of our library while I waited for J to choose her books a few weeks ago. I didn't expect much of it and I only picked it because, well, I'm most certainly, without a doubt, a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. No question about that one! When I was in grade three, I went through a phase where I would only wear a dress because Laura and Mary wore dresses and did farm work, so I could wear dresses and be in grade three. Oh and did I mention that I was a tom boy? My mom tells me I'm the only person she knows who could grass stain the knees of a dress.

So this book, Little Blog on the Prairie, well, Gen's mom decides that a great, bonding family vacation would be to head to the farm for six (or so?) weeks as a family and live in 1890 in a one room cabin. Except that they don't usually spend time together. And her dad is connected to a Blackberry all the time. And none of them have ever done anything remarkably farm related.

So they go, they give up their modern conveniences and everyone is miserable. At first. But then Gen develops a crush and starts sending text messages (on a cell phone she's smuggled in) to her best friends who turn them into a blog.

And then everything goes nuts. There's a television crew and a disaster and a few heated arguments.

It was cute. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and would certainly recommend it to the 11-14 year old crowd. I'm not sure that J will appreciate it when she's that age though...the technology will have all changed by then!

Oh, and if you'd like to read Gen's blog, it's here and it looks just like she described it in the book!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Under A War-Torn Sky

under a war-torn sky

As I've mentioned before, I inherited a bizarre love of World War II from my mom - not just novels, but history too - so this story about Will, an American pilot, and his journey through occupied France after being shot down by a German plane grabbed my attention and held on. And I've just discovered there is a second book - A Troubled Peace - that I'm trying to track down in the library system.

The story of Will's journey through France and all of the people who helped (and some who hindered) his quest for freedom reminded me of how lucky we are to live in a time of relative peace. At least in North America.

The book also reminded me of a book I read when I was a kid - it was a banned book I think because it told a sympathetic story of a family on the wrong side of the war. I'm trying to track it down, but I can't remember many of the details...

Anyway, Will relies on the generosity and discretion of the people he encounters in the French countryside to find his way back to Allied troops so that he can go home - he meets a variety of resistance workers - the farming family who's young boy is Will's caretaker, Claudette, a feisty young girl who wants to be more involved than her boyfriend will allow and various groups of maquis of assorted political persuasions, but all with the common goal of liberating France from the Germans and the puppet Vichy government.

I'm on a hunt for good non-fiction about the French resistance now, so if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Red Herring Without Mustard


I LOVE Flavia de Luce. I love these books and I can't wait to read the fourth one (my pile of library books in getting smaller and I'm now tackling them by due date...which means I have to wait a bit to read it). This time Flavia gets herself mixed up in a bloody murder, a brutal beating and a counterfeit antique business...and of course she solves most of the crimes. In this book more than in the first two, I really felt bad for Flavia - she is very isolated at Buckshaw and her only friends seem to be Dogger and Mrs. Mullet. Her sisters torment her, as older sisters do, and because she doesn't go to school, she doesn't seem to interact with the other children in the Bishop's Lacey.

I love Flavia's obsession with chemistry and I love even more that she has her own lab. I would have loved to have a my very own lab when I was 11...

I've wondered from the very beginning about the fate of Flavia's mother, Harriet and it looked like maybe this book had some clues that confirmed some of my suspicions, but no, it was just a trick Ophelia and Daphne played on Flavia that Bradley played on his readers. Hello actual red herring.

I'm so glad I discovered Flavia de Luce!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Shadow in the North

the shadow in the north

I didn't enjoy The Shadow in the North as much as I enjoyed The Ruby in the Smoke, but it was still quite good. I found it harder to follow because Sally and Fred weren't exactly working together but were working on the same case. There was a big gap between books and I missed Rosa. Pullman did a good of explaining the changes to the business and in the characters' lives during the gap.

I loved how independent Sally was, but I wonder how realistic it would have been. The University of London was the first university in England to admit women and grant them degrees in 1878, so I guess it's possible...

I hope I like The Tiger in the Well more than this one!

The Ruby in the Smoke

ruby in the smoke

I'm not sure why I picked this book up. Actually, I picked the first three of four up. I really liked The Golden Compass and have meant to read the other two books in the series His Dark Materials, but I have never gotten around to doing it. I also had a stack of about ten other library books to read when I decided to take these three books home.

Well, I'm glad I did. Sally Lockhart is a great, independent character. She had a very unconventional upbringing by a single father after her mother was killed in a mutiny in India. After her father dies, she is sent to live with a distant relative, Aunt Caroline. She gets mixed up in a big mess involving stolen books, opium, a cruel woman living in Wapping, a photographer and his sister, Trembler their employee, a young boy named Jim and a few other assorted characters. And with the help of Jim, Trembler and Frederick and Rosa Garland, she gets to the bottom of the mystery and finds out a few pieces of her own story that are a great surprise to her.

So, it's on to The Shadow in the North. I have a lot of reading to do before the library demands all of their books back!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

the weed that strings the hangman's bag

This is the second Flavia de Luce book and I just got an email from the library that the third and fourth ones are waiting for me to pick up! I am really enjoying this young British sleuth!

In this book, a travelling puppeteer shows up in Bishop's Lacey with a broken down van and a very unhappy assistant. Two shows are arranged for the church hall and during the second one, the puppeteer is killed. Flavia noses around and collects clues and discovers a surprising connection between the pupeteer's death and a death five or six years earlier.

Alan Bradley does such a good job of weaving his mystery that I wasn't sure who did want and who was innocent and who wasn't innocent, but had no hand in either death...I love Flavia and her potions and chemistry! I'm looking forward to A Red Herring without Mustard.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Septimus Heap: Darke


Darke is so far my favourite of the Septimus Heap books. And it was dark! I did have to keep reminding myself that this is a kid's book, because there was a whole lot of "happily ever after" that happened, but it was good. Some of the key characters from the other books were noticeably absent (the Wendron Witches, the four Heap brothers who live in the forest, and Aunt Zelda and Wolf Boy conveniently arrive at the end of the book) and I missed them.

Compared the number of pages dedicated to the rest of the book, I thought the time that Septimus spent in the Darke Halls was short and not as detailed as I would have liked.

I'm also a bit frustrated that six books in, I don't really have a picture in my head of what any of them look like, except maybe Merrin (ugh). The sketches in the book don't show the characters the way I think they should be, but I'm not sure what the way I think they should be is. Confused?

With Harry Potter, I pictured this scrawny kid with messy dark hair, glasses and a lightening bolt scar. With Septimus Heap, I see green eyes, a tall teenaged boy and messy straw-coloured hair, but I see all those things independently of one another. Maybe it's because there is a picture of Harry on the front of the first book or maybe it's because J. K. Rowling is better with description, but I feel like I'm missing out on something because I can't picture the characters.

I'm looking forward to book 7...apparently it's still being written, so maybe it will be 2013 before I read it?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Septimus Heap: Syren


Oh, I enjoyed Syren so much more than Queste! I'm so glad!

I took this book with me to Guide Camp, but of course I only read a few pages. This week has been a bit ridiculous, so I was thrilled last night when J put herself to bed 45 minutes earlier than usual and I had a bit of time to do some reading.

This book had an adventure and introduced some new characters and new kinds of characters, but I felt like it also could have been the last book in the series if it wanted to be. The loose ends all seemed to be tied up at the end and there's a two year jump between Syren and Darke.

I love that the book developed Milo, Jenna's father, a bit more, but I wish there was more of Silas and Sarah Heap. The strong family relationship is often mentioned, but they don't get a lot of print themselves.

I'm curious about Syrah and what happens to her and I'm hoping that Darke will have more about her in it (the signs are good so far!)

And I've decided that this is a series that I'd like to read with J when she's older...which means I must like it!