Thursday, January 30, 2020

Bettina's Book Tagging Game

Finishing School: Further Studies in Schoolgirl Literature is primarily a group for literary analysis and general discussion of children's books.   This week, my friend Bettina posed a tagging game, asking for a book:

1. Containing a map?

I found several, and chose a book that was my mother’s before it was mine, At the Sign of the Golden Anchor by Ruth Langland Holberg (1947), set in Gloucester, Massachusetts, about an hour away from me.  The map is of Annisquam Harbor (Massachusetts), 1812.
2. With a Sunday School prize plate?

This took me much longer to find than I had expected!   Long Barrow by Gwendoline Courtney (1950) finally yielded a book plate – Nancy MacIntosh earned it for good attendance in 1956-57.   One can’t help wondering why they didn’t give her a more recently published book!  They must have been big Courtney fans like me.  I think Gill Bilski found this for me.
3. Showing defiant girl on the cover?

I think this heroine, a Paul Revere wannabe, looks pretty defiant in Midnight Rider by Joan Hiatt Harlow (2005).
4. With a character or place with your name?

Constance by Patricia Clapp is an old favorite.   She was a real person who sailed on the Mayflower and this book was Runner-up for the National Book Award for Children's Literature in 1969.
5. Which is a Puffin paperback?

I have quite a few but the first one I found was Thursday by Catherine Storr (1972). This is about a troubled teenager who disappears and Bee, his only friend, who tries to find him.  I am a bigger fan of her Marianne Dreams.
Three of these books are set in Massachusetts which is fun but unintended!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Time for you to try some D.E. Stevenson?

Just a quick post to share this delightful speech that D.E. Stevenson gave to the "book trade" in Glasgow in or around the late 1960s.   Check out the Dean Street Press blog to read it.

Stevenson (1892-1973) was a bestselling author of light romantic fiction, known for her warm and captivating characters, her humor, her vivid settings (often Scotland but sometimes London), and her wonderful storytelling.   Reading about how she crafted her stories was very interesting for a fan like me.
For those who have never read her books, several have been reprinted by the Furrowed Middlebrow imprint of Dean Street Press.   Try one of these in book or electronic form:

Spring Magic - 25-year-old Frances Field escapes to a small village in Scotland to finds herself

Vittoria Cottage - Caroline, a young widow, and her children, find romance in small English town - but it's complicated . . .

Mrs. Tim Christie (aka Mrs. Tim of the Regiment) - Set in the 1930s, this is written in the form of journal entries about Hester Christie's quirky life as the wife of a British military officer.
I look forward to adding to my shelves soon!

Monday, January 20, 2020

A Sister's Courage, historical fiction set in Britain during World War II

Title: A Sister’s Courage, Victory Sisters #1
Author: Molly Green
Publication: Avon, Paperback, 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Plot: This is the beginning of a trilogy about three English sisters determined to do their bit in World War II.  Raine Linfoot, the eldest sister, living in Kent just before WWII, is captivated by aviation and is determined to learn how to fly. Her father supports her dream but tries to appease Raine’s French-born mother who is more traditional and would prefer her daughters focus on pretty clothes and young men (and clearly has a Hidden Sorrow from her Past). Raine’s sisters have goals of their own: Suzanne is musical and Ronnie loves animals and being outside. Although gifted academically, Raine leaves school when she secures a clerical job at a nearby airbase and manages to score flying lessons from good-natured pilot Doug White.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Favorite Reads of 2015

Here is my Best of 2015 list. Better late than never!

Children’s Books

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015)
As some of you know, I love evacuation stories! This is the best one I have read since Back Home by Michelle Magorian in 1984. Here, when Ada and her brother are evacuated to the country during WWII, a whole new world is revealed to Ada, who has never left her family’s apartment due to a twisted foot – and a twisted mother.

Historical Fiction
The King’s Falcon by Stella Riley (2014)
Third in her Civil War series (which has attracted diehard fans), this book follows Ashley Peverell and Francis Langley, minor characters in previous books, who have accompanied Charles II into exile in Paris. Ashley becomes involved with a beautiful actress, Athenais de Galzain, who has a powerful enemy, as if Ashley didn’t already have more trouble than he can handle . . .

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Bookworm Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

Title: The Bookworm Crush 
Author: Lisa Brown Roberts
Publication: Trade paperback, 2019, Entangled Publishing
Genre: Young Adult

Plot: Amy McIntyre, a rising high school senior, longs to win the chance to interview her favorite romance author but is worried that her natural reticence will prevent her from making the necessary impression on social media.  In desperation, she asks for help from her classmate Toff Nichols, a star surfer who rarely takes anything else seriously.  Toff is very popular and has always overlooked Amy, but he is intrigued by her request that he coach her to self confidence and agrees, with hilarious – if predictable – results.  Amy has long had a crush on Toff but once they start spending time together she learns that he has insecurities too, which may prevent him from recognizing he has feelings for her.

My Impressions: This is a delightful book I happened upon when visiting Tattered Cover in Denver in November.  I was standing in the YA department with my friend Camilla when it caught my eye.   You know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”?  I picked it up for its cover and then found the description equally appealing so purchased it for my sister and read it on the plane flying back to Boston.

Roberts is skilled at creating vivid characters, both major and minor.   I really enjoyed Amy and Toff, who were secondary players in a previous book, The Replacement Crush (which I am now waiting for from the library) by Roberts.  Amy’s pesky but cute little brother is portrayed more accurately than many siblings in fiction and his interactions with Toff are well done.   Even the grumpy Officer Hernandez is memorable.  And naturally, I appreciated that everything reminded Amy of a book because that happens to me too!

In some books, Toff’s surfing dedication and lack of interest in books might make him a sexy but one-dimensional character.  Instead, the reader learns that losing his mother who read him Harry Potter may have turned him off reading and how a surfing injury forces Toff to reevaluate some of his priorities.   Most importantly, Toff begins to mature and also reads a book or two!   I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Off the Blog: Meghan and Harry checking out of the Royal Family!   I understand their reasoning and agree Meghan has been treated abysmally by the British Press but I do not approve of Harry neglecting his duty and making such a decision without the Queen's approval.  And I hate that William and Harry, after all they have been through, may be estranged.  Somewhere Wallis Simpson is smirking . . .

Are you Team Meghan or Team Queen?

Source: Copy purchased for my sister’s birthday.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: From Daisy Jones and the Six to This Song Will Save Your Life

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is Kate’s starting book this month.  It got great reviews and I actually checked it out from the library over the summer but did not get around to reading it.   Still, I know it’s about a rock band so I stuck with the theme of rock music for my first book:
Till the Stars Fall by Kathleen Gilles Seidel (1994).  This book is about siblings in Minnesota, Krissa and Danny French, who realize one of them needs to make it out of their poor mining community.   Danny somehow gets to Princeton (although Krissa is the brilliant student) and makes friends with Quinn Hunter, and they start a rock band that becomes very successful.   Krissa and Quinn fall in love, although as I recall, the book is much more than a romance and the romance is very rocky.   I remember reading this book in manuscript form when I worked at Penguin; it was uber-talented editor Jennifer Enderlin who acquired two books by Seidel and was eager for my feedback. I also remember we argued about the cover design forever and the end result was unimpressive (my memories of Penguin include a lot of cover arguments between sales and editorial; oddly enough, when I worked at Putnam Berkley sales was not allowed at cover meetings, so I wonder how it works now that the two companies are merged).
Rock stars made me think of my second book, Mel by Liz Berry (1988), an English writer who produced several offbeat but memorable YA novels.  Here, 17-year old Mel is dealing with her mother’s hospitalization and the old Victorian house they live in when she is (I can’t recall exactly how) swept off her feet by charismatic rock star Mitch.

My third book is about rock wannabes: Our Secret Better Lives by my friend Matthew Amster-Burton (2017), perhaps better known for his charming book Hungry Monkey which I enjoy giving at baby showers.  Our Better Secret Lives is coming of age story about Katy, a college student who suddenly finds herself playing the guitar, writing songs, and starting a rock band.   This book practically made me feel I was part of the grunge scene.

All the rock stars above are benign, as I recall, but the one in my fourth book is a jerk.  Audrey, Wait is by Robin Benway (2008), whose books are getting better and better (I really liked Far from the Tree).  In this one, Audrey’s annoying ex-boyfriend-rock-star's song about their breakup reaches the top of the charts and she's suddenly famous – and not in a good way.
My fifth book is Born to Rock by Gordon Korman (2006).  Korman wrote his first book when he was 12 and his writing seems to be split between lighthearted middle grade or YA fiction and some more suspenseful series.  I have to admit I especially enjoyed his Chasing the Falconers series and a YA novel called Jake, Reinvented that was a retelling of The Great Gatsby. This book is about a conventional teenager who learns his biological father is the lead singer of punk rock's most destructive band.
My sixth book is a little different.  Although there is at least one rocker in it, This Song Will Save Your Life (2013) by Leila Sales is about music and a lonely teenager who becomes a DJ.  It was a 5-star book for me that year.  I attended a book signing at the Brookline Booksmith a couple years ago and enjoyed meeting her.
I was tempted to use The Exes by Pagan Kennedy, a fairly well-known novel about an Indie Boston rock band composed of musicians who have slept together.  However, I didn’t want to include something I hadn’t read.   I wonder if this would be a good choice for my book group?   It is my turn to choose (I wish I got to pick every month but it is a reward for the hostess) but I already chose The Game by George Howe Colt (married to Anne Fadiman) for when I host later this month.  So far it is fabulous!
Next month's book is Fleishman is in Trouble by a woman who writes for the New York Times Magazine and likes to profile celebrities.   She is best known for a piece about Gwyneth Paltrow.