Monday, October 29, 2012

When Marnie Was There by Joan Robinson (Book Review)

Title: When Marnie Was There
Author: Joan G. Robinson     Illustrated: Peggy Fortnum
Publication Information: Armada paperback, original pub date 1967
Genre: Children’s Fiction / Time Slip
Plot: Lonely Anna, an inarticulate orphan who lives with a kindly older couple who do not understand her, goes to stay in Norfolk with their friends after being ill with asthma. Exploring the area, she is entranced by the Marsh House on a creek nearby and by Marnie, an outgoing girl her age who appears and disappears mysteriously from the house. When Marnie is there, she is the perfect friend – she is imaginative and comes up with great games – but the reader guesses she is not real and the locals think Anna is talking to herself. As in Tom’s Midnight Garden, the loneliness of two children in the same place but many years apart results in a friendship that transcends time. Although her friendship with Marnie is not without sadness (which she does not understand), it helps prickly Anna learn how to be a friend and how to accept affection. The outgoing Lindsay family that moves into the old house on the creek after Marnie disappears for good completes the process, showing Anna what it is like to be part of a large and lively family and helping her come to terms with her foster parents and the birth family she feels abandoned her.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Girl Named Digit (Book Review)

Title: A Girl Named Digit
Author: Annabel Monaghan
Publication Information: Houghton Mifflin Hardcover, 2012
Genre: YA Suspense

Plot: Farrah Higgins is a gifted high school senior, already admitted to MIT, who learned the hard way that if she reveals that she is a math genius, she will seem like a freak and won’t have any friends. She escaped the dreaded nickname “Digit” by switching schools and camouflaging her intelligence to fit in at school, which saddens her father who had enjoyed sharing logic games with her. However, when Farrah notices an odd pattern of numbers shown on a TV show, analyzes it and unlocks a terrorist code, she suddenly finds herself on the run with a handsome young FBI agent. The terrorist plot is not incredibly convincing but the depiction of Farrah’s quirky family, John’s father (who, charmingly, approves of their burgeoning romance and really understands Farrah), and Farrah’s friend Olive (who she completely underestimated) make this a very appealing read.

What I liked: Of course, I love books about smart girls and guys who appreciate them! There are lots of books about girls who are aspiring writers but fewer about girls who are good at math or science. While I enjoyed the cute Princeton hero, what made the book for me were Farrah’s hilarious internal monologues. I added a few quotes to those already on Goodreads.
What I disliked: Ugh, I hated the character’s real name and her nickname. I guess it was meant to make the reader accept that a nickname suited her better than her name but still. Why would her clueful father ever have permitted such an absurd name? And aren’t FBI agents trained not to get into cabs that are trying to pick them up?  Please, John!

Source: I got this from the library after reading Ms. Yingling Reads’ review but plan to buy a copy for my nieces.  Disappointed I missed seeing the author speak in Newton in September.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Secret Keeper (Book Review)

Title: The Secret Keeper
Author: Kate Morton
Publication Information: Simon & Schuster/Atria Hardcover, October 2012
Genre: Fiction
Plot: As her mother approaches death, Laurel Nicolson, an acclaimed actress, remembers a day and a secret from her childhood that has always haunted her – she was hiding in a tree when a stranger approached her mother, who stabbed him to death with the knife usually saved for birthday cakes. Laurel gave information to the police that supported her mother’s explanation of self-defense but is now determined to find out what really happened that summer day, causing her to leave home and never fully regain the easy, affectionate family life of her childhood.
Starting with just an inscription in a book and a photo from London in the 40s, Laurel traces the fatal friendship between her mother, Dorothy Smitham, a put-upon companion to a cranky but aristocratic old lady, and her glamorous neighbor, Vivien Jenkins. Dorothy’s sweetheart from the country, Jimmy Metcalfe, photographed Dolly and Vivien together as London faced World War II and the Blitz, providing one clue. As Laurel unlocks the secrets of the past, she finally understands what caused her mother to act so deliberately when her family was threatened and can console the dying woman.