Saturday, March 29, 2008


Well, I disappeared suddenly, didn't I? I apologize for that--I thought I had posted a goodbye before I left for spring break and then realized I hadn't, that had been on my Livejournal. Ooops.

Anyway, I'll have a few more book reviews when I return to school tomorrow and on...Tuesday? Is that the first of April? On the first of April anyway I'll start posting the first of the 30 poems. In case you weren't around last year, I posted 30 poems during the month of April in honor of National Poetry Month, and enjoyed it so much that I am doing it again. So that will be going on. I'll make a more complete announcement on the first day.

Incidentally, I read a rather ridiculous number of books over break and I've more waiting for me at school. Hurrah!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman?--A review

by Eleanor Updike

Another slightly fluffy though overall quite enjoyable book. Montmorency didn't touch me anywhere near as deeply as my favorite thief, but his journey was interesting and pulled me along nicely.

Montmorency is a fairly low-level thief who, when the book begins, has been caught and put in prison (boy, when I type that I realize that I could put Gen in for Montmorency and I've got The odd). He suffered extensive injuries in the event that led to his capture and after his eventual recovery and release enters the world as two people: Montmorency, the gentleman (fashioned after the doctor who treated him) and Scarper, his servant. Scarper uses an ingenious system to rob houses and shops while Montmorency learns to love the opera and good food.

I believe there's a sequel, and possibly another book after that, which I will read sooner or later.

A Great and Terrible Beauty: A review

A Great and Terrible Beauty
by Libba Bray

I have heard this book highly praised and moderately praised. I regret to say that I cannot praise it at all.

In the first place, the book is supposedly set in Victorian England. The scene is skilfully set, but the characters' voices, motivations, and concerns felt overwhelmingly modern. Gemma, with her unconventional background, could get away with it a bit, but four or five characters (all the ones we really get to know) having the same issue? It doesn't work. This is not a problem only with this book, however. It is sadly present throughout most historical fiction/historical fantasy.

In the second place, I quite honestly detested Felicity and Pippa. I think we're supposed to like them or feel sympathy for them by the end of the book, but I didn't. I don't see why I should. They were cruel, petty, and selfish.

And finally, the romance did not work for me at all. There was no substance behind it. It was all scandalous dreams and misunderstandings. I know that this is the first book of a trilogy, so perhaps Bray wanted to save that part for later on, but, like Felicity and Pippa, the romance failed to convince me to care.

Also, a strong content advisory here.* I finished reading, but I won't re-read it and I don't plan to read the rest of the trilogy. I just don't care what happens to Gemma or the others.

*I have read other books with somewhat scandalous content which didn't bother me nearly as much. I'm not sure why this did so much. I think it might be that, again, the romance had no substance.

The Year of Secret Assignments: A review

I told you there were going to be a lot of reviews. Have patience, only three more after this one.

The Year of Secret Assignments
by Jaclyn Moriarty

This book was fun. It didn't touch me very deeply, although I cared about all of the characters, and it was a very quick read. Any book with a smiley face on the front cover is probably going to fall into that category.

The English teacher at (private) Ashbury High School has made an assignment for his students: they must become penpals with a student at nearby (public) school Brookfield High. Naturally, there are repercussions. We only follow three sets of correspondence: Lydia and Seb, Cassie and Matthew, Emily and Charlie. There are also other important documents thrown in, all of them relating to the story.

Several of the characters swear at different times and one character mentions s*x and cigarettes, albeit in a joking way.

Overall, an enjoyable read. I'm even planning to read the sequel!


"As usual [Emily's little brother] will be staying with Auntie June for the weekend, so please do not panic if he is not in his room. If, however, he is in his room you should panic and phone Auntie June."

"I will now conclude by saying that your mother has just tripped halfway down the stairs because she was wearing a single high-heeled shoe. It is a lesson in the danger of doing things by halves."

"It's really morally resplendent." (Emily means morally repugnant here. She has a habit of malapropisms.)

"Mr. Thompson: Objection!
Judge Koutchevalis: On what basis?
Mr. Thompson: She's shooting herself in the foot." (This is, naturally, figurative not literal.)

River Secrets: A review

River Secrets
by Shannon Hale

I finally finished it! I had let it sit for a long time and finally sat down and read the second half. Either I was in a bad mood that day, or the second half was better written because I got through it quite creditably. I still don't think it's as good as The Goose Girl and quite possibly Enna Burning, but it was nice to hear Razo's side of things.

I'd recommend it for someone who liked the other two books and wants to round out the series. (I think there's going to be one more, although I can't imagine who it's going to be about...Finn? Seems unlikely, but you never know.) I do still think the writing in the first part was oddly clunky, given Hale's usual graceful turn of phrase, but I'm willing to go with it.

The Silver Branch: A review

The Silver Branch
by Rosemary Sutcliff

Up until very recently I was unaware that Eagle of the Ninth, one of my all-time favorite Sutcliff books had a sequel. This is not the first time something like this has happened to me, and it's very demoralizing. Anyway, I made haste and got out The Silver Branch to read immediately. And then it sat in my To Be Read pile for ages until I made myself read it because I had to return it. Well, made myself read it isn't quite the right phrase, because I enjoyed every minute of it (except when a certain character died, which was very traumatic--two certain characters, I suppose).

I've read enough Sutcliffs by now that I can pick up the thread. Rutupiae light, for example, is only briefly mentioned in this book, but anyone who's read The Lantern Bearers (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE) will know how important it is there. Similarly, there's the familiar old flawed stone with the dolphin carved in it. This book is a bit different from most of Sutcliff's though, in that it arguably has two main characters.

Justin (Tiberius Lucius Justinianus) has just been posted to Roman Britain as a surgeon to the Eagles who are supporting Carausius, the self-styled Emperor of Britain. He's excited because his family was originally from Britain. On his first day there he falls in with a young centurion about his age who turns out to be a cousin of his (Flauvius). And, as it further turns out, they are both descendants of Marcus Flavius Aquila, of Eagle of the Ninth fame (YAY!).

This being a Sutcliff novel, naturally they run into quite a bit of trouble. While I like Flauvius, Justin became the real hero of the novel for me. I think that's what Sutcliff intended (most of it is told primarily from his point of view), and it worked.

This is highly recommended for almost all ages (her prose is occasionally difficult). No bad content, except for a bit of violence.


"And above him towered the ramparts of Rutupiae: a grey prow of ramparts raw with newness, from the midst of which sprang the beacon-crested tower of the Light." (Okay, so I wrote that down solely for the Lantern Bearers reference. I love that book. I can't help it.)

"[Justin] was a friendly soul himself, but he was always gratefully surprised at any sign of friendliness from other people, and with his gratitude, his liking went out, hesitant but warm, to the red-headed centurion [Flauvius]."

"Here we are on the run, with the hunt up behind us and the world falling into shards around our ears and you bring your instrument-case away with you."

"The young Centurion, who had been completely still throughout, said very softly, as though to himself, 'Greater love hath no man--' and Justin thought it sounded as though he were quoting someone else."

East: A review

NOTE: I've been reading quite a few books the last couple days, so I'm trying to catch up on reviewing them all. There will be a number of reviews in the next few days.


by Edith Pattou

Okay, it helped that "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" has always been one of my favorite fairy tales, but this re-telling is just great! I loved the way Pattou expanded on the directional thing, making the family originally a family of map-makers, and giving each of the eight children in the family a different birth-direction, a fact which is very important later on. Rose was just the right amount of spunky and sweet.

I'm not a big fan of books told from a number of different points of view. Two I can handle, but more than that starts to feel disjointed. I feel this way about The Moonstone, for example. (Which is why I'll watch the movie rather than read the book. Greg Wise and Keeley Hawes aren't bad motivators either, I'll admit.) East was no exception, but I liked the book overall enough that I ignored my inward mutterings.

No content advisory that I can think of, although I did read this several days ago and things like that tend to fade very quickly for me. I am pretty sure that there's nothing objectionable though.

One of the things I liked about this was the way it pulled in bits of historical information without ever feeling too bound by the real world or too anachronistic in feel. It's a fine line to walk and Pattou did it very well.

Highly recommended to slightly more mature readers.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sorcery and Cecelia: A Review

Sorcery and Cecelia
By Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

If you like fantasy and Jane Austen, read this book. I just finished it and it is absolutely delightful. I have to request the sequel. If no one has the sequel I will cry.

This is the story of two cousins, told in letters written between the two when one is in Essex (where they both live) and one is in London. It was written by the authors, Patricia Wrede writing as Kate, and Caroline Stevermer writing as Cecelia, which creates a very believable difference in voice between the two. And here's the kicker: until they finished the whole thing they didn't discuss the plot. And yet it makes sense.

The story itself is very sweet, amusing, and, as long as you don't object to magic, very very clean. I give it a hearty thumbs up to slightly more mature readers.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Forgiveness Sunday

Today is the last Sunday before Lent begins for us. (We celebrate Pascha [Easter] at a different time than Protestants and Catholics, so Lent begins at a different time.) It's commonly called Cheesefare Sunday, because it's when we say Farewell to all dairy products. We've already said Farewell to all meat last Sunday. More officially it's known as Forgiveness Sunday because we have a service where everyone in the parish asks everyone else in the parish to forgive them. Being at college, I'm a parish of one at the moment, so I just did the rest of the service. (If you're interested, you can read the text of the service HERE.)

I really like the Forgiveness Vespers because so often we think of forgiveness as a very in your head sort of thing. But in this service we actually literally fall down before each other and ask the other person's forgiveness and then embrace. It's a very real thing, and I think that it's significant that on Pascha we also embrace each other, bringing it around full circle.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Rowan Farm: A Review

Rowan Farm
By Margot Benary-Isbert

Years ago I read The Ark by Margot Benary-Isbert and fell in love with it. I found out pretty quickly that it had a sequel which, naturally, I wanted to read. But my library didn't have it and I really don't like buying books without reading them. So I waited. Then we moved, and that library didn't have it. I came to college, and my college library didn't have it. It was only very recently that I realized that my college is part of a group of colleges who send books to each other and that one of those other colleges might conceivably have it! I checked, and yes, they did.

So, all that to say, that after years of waiting, I finally read the sequel to The Ark. And I loved it too, which was a great relief. It turned out just the way I wanted to, which, believe me, I had been worrying about since I finished The Ark for the first time!

Anyone who has read The Ark will enjoy this one. There are old friends and several new ones. The story is still a mixture of realistic and sweet. If you haven't read The Ark, you should! And then you should read Rowan Farm.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


It was warm and sunny today which always raises my spirits considerably. They weren't low before, but the sun made me especially happy.

I Got Things Done, which is always a nice feeling. Being able to cross things off my to-do list, especially when they've been lingering there for far too long is one of the more satisfying feelings I know.

I read a book I've been wanting to read for years. And it was just as satisfying as I had hoped it would be.

I did laundry and washed my sheets so they will smell all fresh and clean when I go to bed.

Some of my poems are getting workshopped in poetry class tomorrow which makes me simultaneously excited and very nervous. I'm always tense when people read something I wrote. If we're in the same room I can't look at them.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

February reading list

A few days late. Sorry about that, I've been busy and sick.

Counsels for Life--Elder Ephraim: I'm not sure why, but this book did not touch me as much as some of the other spiritual books I've been reading recently. The best I can come up with is that it felt somewhat disconnected from my struggles.

The Singing Sands--Josephine Tey: I love Josephine Tey, and this is one of her best books! An interesting mystery and the characters, as always, stand out so sharply.

So Many Books, So Little Time--Sara Nelson: An account of one woman's attempt to chart her reading year. Interesting and fun read. I'd recommend skipping a chapter or two.

This Connection of Everything With Lungs--Juliana Spahr: Poetry book for my poetry class. I didn't enjoy it as much as the Saskia Hamilton book I read in January, but still a recommended.

The Queen of Attolia--Megan Whalen Turner: I love these books. Have I said that already? I think I have.

Book of a Thousand Days--Shannon Hale: Reviewed here. (Quick sum-up: read it!)

Operating Instructions--Anne Lamott: Entertaining, but I didn't like it nearly as much as I had hoped.

Sleeping with the Dictionary--Harryette Mullen: Poetry book for poetry class. My least favorite out of all of them. I felt there was no substance to the poems. There were a few here and there I liked, but overall I could do without it.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!--Laura Amy Schlitz: Series of dramatic poems from the point of view of young adults in a medieval village. I enjoyed them quite a bit, although I felt in several poems that Schlitz was projecting a very modern point of view onto her characters.

The King of Attolia--Megan Whalen Turner: Again, I love this series. I can't wait for the fourth book!

Water--Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson: Robin McKinley and her husband write short stories on the same theme. I liked most of them, but I think I like her novels better than her short stories.

Friendly Gables--Hilda Van Stockum: A very sweet story of a family in Canada, sometime in the first half of the twentieth century (I think between the two World Wars). A nice, old-fashioned read.

Bad Kitty--Michelle Jaffe: I am decidedly meh about this book. It was entertaining, but it was all fluff and no substance. Not my type at all.