First up, THE SECRET CHORD BY GERALDINE BROOKS 🙂
Author: Gail Carriger
Length: 357 pages
Publication Date: 2015
Reason for Reading: I rather enjoyed Gail Carriger’s previous “series”, the Parasol Protectorate (this series is a spin-off of that one, about 20 years later), and another series she’s currently writing, Finishing School “series”.
SUMMARY (from Goodreads):
When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances – names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?
My Thoughts: I liked this book. It was okay. I don’t know why exactly I just didn’t feel like it was as good as Carriger’s other books. I simply can’t pinpoint it. The fact that this book has probably 10-15 spelling errors doesn’t affect the rating–that’s not Carriger’s fault, it’s a bad editing job is all.
This book is centered around Prudence (aka Rue), the daughter of Alessandra Tarabotti and Lord Maccon, the main characters of the Parasol Protectorate quintet. Rue has “powers” similar to her mother’s, but even cooler–while Alessandra can basically neutralize the supernatural powers of others by touch (so, a werewolf or a vampire would lose it’s supernatural-ity/becomes mortal while in contact with her), Rue actually steals the supernatural powers (so, a werewolf becomes mortal and Rue becomes a werewolf). I think it might’ve been Rue’s rashness that made her less likeable than the other characters Carriger has written. Just like I don’t like every person I encounter, I don’t like every character I read–it’s just unfortunate she’s the main character Regardless, I’ll give the second in this series a try before I lay it to rest for good. Everyone deserves a second chance!
Title: Etiquette and Espionage
Author: Gail Carriger
Length: 307 pages
Published in: 2013
Genre: sci-fi/fantasy (alternative historical fiction)
Source: public library
Reason for Reading: Gail Carriger wrote the Parasol Protectorate quintet, which I loved, and this is the first in her new series, Finishing School
Summary (from Goodreads):
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education. Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail’s legions of fans have come to adore
My Thoughts: I’m really happy that Carriger is coming out with a new series. I thought this book was funny and delightful. I was especially glad to see a character from her Parasol Protectorate series, Sidheag Maccon. I’m hoping this means she will somehow connect the two. I wanted so much to know if Sidheag’s special talent would come out and how it would affect the story. But I guess Tgat@p for another book.
Title: Dreams of Joy
Author: Lisa See
Length: 353 pages
Published in: 2011
Genre: historical fiction (communist China)
Source: personal collection
Reason for Reading: I love Lisa See, especially Shanghai Girls, which was a prequel to this book.
Summary (from Goodreads):
Reeling from newly uncovered family secrets, and anger at her mother and aunt for keeping them from her, Joy runs away to Shanghai in early 1957 to find her birth father—the artist Z.G. Li, with whom both May and Pearl were once in love. Dazzled by him, and blinded by idealism and defiance, Joy throws herself into the New Society of Red China, heedless of the dangers in the communist regime.
Devastated by Joy’s flight and terrified for her safety, Pearl is determined to save her daughter, no matter the personal cost. From the crowded city to remote villages, Pearl confronts old demons and almost insurmountable challenges as she follows Joy, hoping for reconciliation. Yet even as Joy’s and Pearl’s separate journeys converge, one of the most tragic episodes in China’s history threatens their very lives.
My Thoughts: I found this a little slow-moving towards the beginning, like I did with Peony in Love, but it turned around and got quite interesting. I’ve never read much about what life was like in communist China, and while this is fiction, I know See is pretty good at her historical fiction 🙂 As usual with her writing, I was easily able to picture life in Shanghai and in the countryside. And the characters’ emotions were so well described that I was excited, anxious, happy, mad, and disheartened throughout the story.
Title: The Last Runaway
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Published in: 2013
Genre: historical fiction
Source: borrowed from library
Reason for Reading: Loved Girl with the Pearl Earring and Remarkable Creatures by Chevalier, so I’ve been waiting for her next to come out 🙂
Summary (from book jacket):
Ohio 1850. For a modest English Quaker stranded far from home, life is a trial. Untethered from the moment she leaves England, fleeing personal disappointment, Honor Bright is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in an alien, untamed landscape. The men sweat and spit; the women drink whisky and shoot copperheads, even as they stitch bonnets and quilts.
Ninteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her noew home, Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community famed for championing human equality.
Drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two exceptional people who embody the startling power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal cost.
My Thoughts: This book really struck home with me. Having lived my entire life in Ohio, about 1.5 hours drive to the setting of the book, I was totally engrossed in the historical aspect of the book. I could so easily picture Chevalier’s descriptions of the landscape and weather. I’ve never known another landscape or extreme weather shifts (today it is 50 and tomorrow it should be in the 20s!), though it certainly has changed since Honor first came to know Ohio. I often forget just how different England and America are, especially in the 1850s. I’ve been to Scotland for a trip, but did I pay attention to whether or not there were such mundane animals I’m used to seeing like squirrels and raccoons? Of course not! I can only imagine the shock an immigrant would feel upon changing European city-life for backwoods Ohio–even settling in New England would have been better than the polar opposite that was the untamed midwest.
But I digress…I read this book in three sittings. I haven’t read a book so quickly in such a long time. It is a simple story, yet Honor has some very complex feelings about fitting in and belonging. As I’ve never really moved far from my family and friends and all I know, I cannot identify with Honor. But that just made her story all the more interesting to me. I don’t quilt or sew, but Chevalier’s inclusion of that small aspect of daily life made me want to grab my friend who does quilt with her family and see just what it’s like. Oddly enough, I felt that the Quaker ways didn’t seem all that different from the Amish as they are today.
One last thought. This cover is beautiful! I just love it 🙂
A Favorite Quote:
“I think now that the stunning show of leaves in red and yellow and orange in the autumn was one last gift from God to see us through these colourless winter months.” (p185)
What a beautiful way to describe the changing colors of fall in Ohio…
Today is September 13th, Roald Dahl’s birthday! That makes it Roald Dahl Day 🙂
This year the BFG turns 30, so I will be reading it. Haven’t read it in over 15 years when it was read to me by my favorite teacher, Mrs. Bernardo, in the third grade!
Which of Dahl’s amazing stories will you be reading today?!
Synopsis from the Barnes & Noble website for Shanghai Girls:
In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldn’t be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.
As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown’s old ways and rules.
At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection, but like sisters everywhere they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other, but each knows exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other the most. Along the way they face terrible sacrifices, make impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are–Shanghai girls.
I love Lisa See’s books. This is my third, having already read Snow Flower & the Secret Fan and Peony in Love. This had a more modern setting than the other two and the majority was actually set in America, something I hadn’t expected. (By that I mean I knew it would be in America some, but I didn’t know it would be the majority setting.) To be honest, though, there were some major events that happened that I foresaw–I don’t know if they were obvious next-steps or if I just was lucky. There was only one major event that I didn’t see happening. And it seemed almost like it was just added to change from the body of the story to the ending–the transition just seemed sudden and obvious, whereas it usually isn’t so easy to tell where that point is.
But I really enjoyed this story, as it was different and interesting. I have always been interested by immigration into the US, and there was a large window of time that it occurred. As a teacher and a person just generally interested in history, I think a lot of people (at least in America) often forget that there were millions of immigrants that came to the US on the west coast–not everyone came, seeing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (and, yes, I realize those weren’t always in the east, too). I’m also getting more and more interested in the relationship between China and Japan, especially since modernization and this showed me a little about it.
So, this was a great book. I would recommend it to any Lisa See lover. But be advised that it is a bit different from some of her other books. It is still wonderful in its own merit.