Mini-Reviews–fairy tales, questionable parenting, and a very upsetting lecture

Hello, friends!

Another week has come and gone, taking with it most of my brain power and leaving me with lots of Tired. (Honestly, who approved this exchange? I most definitely got the short end of the stick here.)

All that to say, it’s Friday. Which means…blog post. Yes.

Well, of course I have a blog post for today! Why do you ask?? I certainly wouldn’t get to Friday morning and find I hadn’t even started the post for today HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I have the post. Let me just….go grab it.

*frantic clanging and crashing sounds from backstage*

***

Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver

My Very Informative Summary: Liesl’s father recently died, and her stepmother Never Lets Her Leave the Attic ever (which is totally normal and healthy parenting). When a ghost shows up in said attic, Liesl finds herself starting out on a journey with said ghost (and the ghost’s ghostly pet) that will involve magic and train cars and the DEAREST alchemist’s apprentice you ever did see.

I Am Here For:

  • THE DEAREST ALCHEMIST’S APPRENTICE I EVER DID SEE
  • Really now. Will is a dear
  • Po is so grumpy and tired and also a dear
  • Liesl is the sweetest and also a dear
  • MO. Wholesome human. Adopts cats and gives hats to children
  • What’s a book about ghosts without a little morbid humor, eh?
  • The illustrations are beautiful
  • It’s so charming–the writing, the setting, the magic, the characters
  • The Kate DiCamillo vibes. And let me tell you, coming from me, this is high praise. Kate DiCamillo is one of my absolute favorites.

Not So Here For:

  • …I don’t think there was anything wrong with this book?
  • Oh, though I would have liked to find out more about Po

Conclusion: A thoroughly charming little book that you should all read

Spindle by W.R. Gingell

My Very Informative Summary: Polly has just been kissed awake by a strange man who has no concept of personal space. Turns out it was a very long nap. And she has very long hair. And…is someone trying to kill her? Huh. Interesting.

I Am Here For:

  • I do love a good fairy tale retelling–particularly when the author combines multiple fairy tales and makes the story entirely their own
  • POLY. Just Poly being herself.
  • The Howl’s Moving Castle vibes. (The book is actually dedicated to Diana Wynne Jones, and the influence is evident)
  • Luck being so brilliant and so oblivious
  • ONEPIECE, MY SON
  • Clever and unique magic
  • “Why are you chasing my son?” YES YES YES
  • Banter. So much banter
  • “Desist, Mother!”

Not So Here For:

  • Not gonna lie, some of the world building/rules of magic was…maybe a little too smart for me. Maybe could have been made clearer? Suffice it to say, there was Confusion
  • Sometimes Luck’s failure to comprehend personal space was funny and sometimes…it was a little weird. (For some reason the repeated grabbing-Poly-by-the-chin was weird to me? I mean, I know he was looking at the curse, but…also why.)
  • ….Kissing? Kissing someone to break a curse is one thing, but all the random flirting, people joking about how much they wanted to kiss someone, kissing to make people jealous, “Well, we can’t be together, but let’s kiss”—Maybe I’m just too much of a Christian Homeschooler, but I don’t get it

Conclusion: Okay, my “Not So Here For” section looks way longer, but that’s just because I was trying to explain things. It’s a delightful, clever book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech

My Very Informative Summary: Sophie is about to cross the Atlantic ocean with three uncles and two cousins. In a boat. For fun. Because some people consider that to be fun.

I Am Here For:

  • SAAAAAAILING
  • I would never do this myself because a) TERRIFYING and b) my motion sickness can hardly handle a ferry boat, but I do love to read about it
  • Sophie being so excited and in love with the ocean and a dear
  • Cody being a goofball–but oh, there are FEELINGS
  • Brian. What a kid
  • COUSINS
  • UNCLES
  • Family dynamics. Yes, please.
  • Dual narration
  • UNRELIABLE NARRATION
  • Oh, I love it so
  • Stories

Not So Here For:

  • ….Did I have any complaints about this book? I think not. If anything, I might have liked it to be a little longer

Conclusion: There are COUSINS, okay? AND unreliable narration. How could I not love it?

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

My Very Informative Summary: After the death of her father, Rose is brought to live amongst a great number of relations–cousins, of course, but also aunts and uncles. Particularly Uncle Alec who believes in oatmeal.

I Am Here For:

  • Cousins, of course. I came here specifically for cousins
  • The cousins being this veritable pack of children who migrate from house to house, rarely seen without each other–because that was my experience with cousins
  • Uncle Alec advocating for oatmeal and deep breathing and throwing medicine off the balcony
  • Aunt Myra being so convinced that everyone is going to die
  • “Will and Geordie are the troops when we march, and the stags when we hunt, and the traitors when we want to cut any heads off” <<- 100% accurate. Older cousins are the heroes in games and younger cousins do whatever the older cousins want (For example, if you play Pride and Prejudice, cousins 1-4 are Lizzy, Darcy, Bingley, and Jane. Cousins 5? Eh, you be Wickham. [Not speaking from personal experience or anything.])
  • Aunts and uncles and cousins and siblings, and general lowkey family chaos

Not So Here For:

  • I’m not quite sure how to articulate this. The best I can do is to say, it’s one of those books where I picture mothers saying, “Rose is such a good role model for my girls”
  • Not that that’s bad. But…Rose is kind of perfect. She has petty little flaws, but it feels like they only exist so that she can learn a lesson, bravely overcome her flaws, and be even more perfect. There was a trend in the Victorian era of “The Angel in the House”, where women were basically perfect and pious and needed to save men with their angelic influence, and I see that in this book. It’s not my cup of tea.
  • Aunt Jessie’s lecture on books. Admittedly, I don’t know exactly what was in the books her boys were reading. I suppose I can understand if she doesn’t want them reading books that glorify dishonesty and and romanticize crime. But she doesn’t want them to read books where the characters use bad grammar? Even if it’s grammar that’s accurate to the way the character would actually speak? Lady, do you realize you’ve just written off all of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn??? (I mean, she doesn’t because they haven’t been written quite yet, but she’ll never let her boys read them when they are written). And she even disapproves of the books with morally upstanding protagonists if they story is too grand and unrealistic. Because it’s not “natural for lads from fifteen to eighteen to command ships, defeat pirates, outwit smugglers”. Do you mean to say you will never let your children enjoy a good adventure novel? Because you don’t approve of stories where the hero has “hairbreadth escapes and adventures enough in one small volume to turn his hair white”? Because you believe that stories should be “natural and helpful–tales in which the English should be good, the morals pure”. And you can tell that what she’s saying is supposed to be right because Aunt Jessie is one of the most good and sensible adults in the whole book. I don’t know why it bothered me as much as it did, but…it really bothered me.

Conclusion: Lectures, morals, and angelic natures aside, it was charming and full of cousins. (Unfortunately, sometimes they were difficult to put aside)

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

My Very Informative Summary: Remember that one time Holmes and Moriarty fell to their deaths in a waterfall? Well, even in the absence of Moriarty, bad things are still happening in London. Very bad things. So, in the absence of Holmes, Pinkerton agent Fredrick Chase and Scotland Yard detective Athelny Jones will have to do something about it.

I Am Here For:

  • Oh so clever mystery writing
  • American vs. British dynamics
  • Authentic historical voice/setting (Of course, I’ve never been to 1891 myself, but it felt authentic)
  • The DANGER
  • Suffice it to say, Aunt Jessie would NOT approve of the number of hairbreadth escapes
  • The number of times I just stopped and slow-blinked down at the page
  • The narration
  • Characters who are strangely endearing
  • Characters who are completely terrifying

Not So Here For:

  • Mysteries tend to prioritize plot over character, and perhaps there was a bit of that here? But honestly not really?
  • Honestly, I don’t think I actually have any complaints

Conclusion: …Just read it, guys. I can’t say anymore until you do.

The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

My Very Informative Summary:

I Am Here For:

  • Perry trying SO HARD to win approval and love
  • SIBLINGS
  • Complex and/or unhealthy family relationships
  • Elements of fairy tale retelling (…and possibly Bible story retelling?)
  • It’s hundreds of years before The Two Princesses of Bamarre, so it’s not about the same characters, but the few things that did tie into that book made me quite happy
  • Aunt Nadira
  • Did I mention the siblings though??
  • In chapter 38 there’s a questions beginning with “What other young man would…” And the answer is Howl Pendragon

Not So Here For:

  • I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the ending. Which isn’t quite fair. Because it’s related to Two Princesses of Bamarre, I naturally found myself comparing it to that, and that book has such a perfect, bittersweet ending. We can’t all be Two Princesses of Bamarre.

Conclusion: I was surprised how much I enjoyed this. I think it’s longer and more complex than any other Gail Carson Levine book I’ve read, and she pulls it off rather nicely.

***

That’s all for today! Considering that I read some of these books two months ago, I’m not sure how accurately I’ve remembered them, but ah well. Such is life.

What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of these? Did your opinions differ drastically from mine? Did Aunt Jessie’s lecture irritate you? What’s the best book you’ve read recently? Do tell!

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2 responses to “Mini-Reviews–fairy tales, questionable parenting, and a very upsetting lecture”

  1. I’m hoping to read Liesl & Po this month, and I’m getting more and more excited! We’ll see what I think…if I can get my hands on it properly, which is not a foregone conclusion.

    Oh, Spindle. I might need to reread it, it was so delightful! And alllll the HMC vibes were my favorite. (Although I will admit to some Confusion, too.)

    Ahhh you read Eight Cousins! I LOVE the way they’re a literal pack of children, too! And UNCLE ALEC he is my favorite. Aunt Jessie’s lecture on books rubbed me a taaaad the wrong way when I read it, too, but I mostly shrugged and thought “different times, different customs”. Even as a kid, I understood that the books were old, and some of the ‘preaching’ (if you’d even call it that) was somewhat outmoded. That said, I could see a mom not wanting her kids to read adventure novels of that sort if it was adversely affecting their behavior. Kind of like how my dad banned comics in our house for a while, not because they were bad, but because my brother was trying to act just like all the irritating younger brother characters in comic-dom (think Calvin + Jason from Foxtrot + Jeremy from Zits, all in a 10-year-old (or maybe he was 8)), which, y’know, was not idea. Idk, just my thoughts. 🙂

    MORIARTY OH MY WORD THAT BOOK! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It’s CRAZY, isn’t it?

    (WordPress will not connect my Blogger account for whatever reason, but in case it wasn’t clear…this is Sam from Bookshire. :))

    Liked by 2 people

    • I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Liesl and Po! It’s such a lovely book ❤
      Yessss, the HMC vibes made me QUITE happy. Sometimes when a book has such strong vibes of another book, I feel like they're copying, but here it just WORKED.
      Oh, I DO love a good literal-pack-of-children. And Uncle Alec is a DEAR. From the moment he showed up, I was like, "Ah, he's a good one. I can tell." Sometimes the "preaching" in older books is easy to shrug off…and sometimes it's gets me all up in arms?? I suppose it depends on my mood?? (Or…you know, the fact that I have VERY strong feelings about books and people saying that literature should be "useful" XD). But you do have a good point there. There are certainly things that, while not objectively bad, are not something some parents want their kids exposed to at a certain time for various reasons, and I can respect that. Things have different effects on different children, and it's great when parents are able to identify that something is having a negative impact on their child. (Oh my, I do adore Calvin and Hobbes, but I can see how it would be problematic if a child–consciously or unconsciously–started to emulate Calvin XD)
      OH MY WORD INDEED. As promised, I went into it utterly blind, not even reading the cover flap, and….it knocked my socks off, Sam. The number of times I stopped reading and just said "….What." out loud XD Thank you much for the rec! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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