Little Town on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Things are finally looking up for the Ingalls – the long, hard winter is over; the claim is growing into a real little farm; Mary goes away to college and Laura enters into the social life of the town. And – though she’s rather oblivious – that handsome Mr. Wilder is starting to take notice. I love the descriptions here of simple home life, pretty dresses and springtime on the prairie.
India Becoming, Akash Kapur
India is a country of deep contradictions. And when Kapur moves back to his home country from the States, he has a strong, ambivalent reaction to what’s happening in his homeland. India’s urbanization, its technology boom and its burgeoning culture of entrepreneurship stand alongside urban decay, extreme poverty and the breakdown of village life. As Kapur talks to villagers and city workers, he shows the contrasts of the new India and the old. To review for Shelf Awareness.
These Happy Golden Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder
I’d forgotten the hardships that begin this book – the frigid sleigh rides in the dead of winter, and that crazy Mrs. Brewster. But after the nightmarish first few weeks, things begin to look up. Laura grows into a young lady, gets engaged and then married – and on her last evening at home, Pa plays all the old tunes on the fiddle, one after the other. Gorgeous (if a little bittersweet).
Constance: A Story of Early Plymouth, Patricia Clapp
Several readers recommended this story after I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I enjoyed Constance’s adventures as she struggles to make a life in Plymouth with her family. She’s spunky, bright, opinionated and hardworking – just the way I like my heroines – and of course she finds love in the end. Well written and fun.
Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, Dorothy Wickenden
Two Smith graduates, on a lark, head to the frontiers of Colorado to teach in a country schoolhouse for a year. Decades later, one of their granddaughters found her grandmother’s letters from that year, and decided to write a book. This is a fascinating look at the American West during the World War I era – railroads, coal mining, homesteading and some wonderfully plucky folks who stuck it out. The teachers, Dorothy and Ros, are delightful characters, and the book is well-researched and engaging. Wonderful.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’d never read Gatsby before. (Bethany, and others, had been urging me to read it for years.) I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the sentences (as everyone predicted). The last few paragraphs are particularly lovely. But – I confess – I was underwhelmed by the plot and the characters. Perhaps my expectations were too high – but I didn’t like any of these people, and found it difficult to truly care what happened to them.
Death at Victoria Dock, Kerry Greenwood
Phryne Fisher returns for adventure #4, involving anarchists, spiritists, kidnapping and a convent. Entertaining, as usual – and a compelling glimpse into Australia’s politics and city life during the 1920s.
My Life in Pink & Green, Lisa Greenwald
I picked this up at the Booksmith on the strength of a staff rec, and enjoyed it. While working at her grandmother’s pharmacy, Lucy Desberg helps a homecoming queen with her hair crisis, and suddenly becomes the town’s makeup artist – while trying to save the pharmacy from going under and deal with her best friend’s first crush (and later, her own). Sweet, spunky and funny – though it ended rather abruptly, before I had time to savor the heroine’s triumph.
A Duty to the Dead, Charles Todd
The first in another World War I mystery series – with a nurse-turned-detective, similar to (but not the same as) Maisie Dobbs. Bess Crawford delivers a message for a dead soldier, but finds herself drawn into a web of scandal that has plagued his family for years. Fascinating, horrifying (not graphic, but dark in parts) and utterly compelling. Book Club Girl is hosting a Bess Crawford read-along soon, and I’ll be joining in.
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
Another classic I’d never read, but I loved this one. Catherine Morland is so sweet (albeit naive), and I enjoyed her adventures in Bath and at the titular abbey. Austen is so witty – she satirizes Gothic tales brilliantly with this story. And, of course, all’s well that ends well, despite false friends, tyrannical fathers and things that go bump in the night. Such fun.
Midnight in Austenland, Shannon Hale
I love everything Hale writes, and this sequel-of-sorts to Austenland was so much fun. (Even better since it’s inspired by Northanger Abbey, which I’d just read.) The characters are such fun and the situations hilarious – and the heroine’s dialogue with her Inner Thoughts was amusing. And, like any good Austen-esque tale, it ended so, so well.
Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood Street, Peter Abrahams
A middle-grade spin on the Robin Hood story set in modern-day New York (with a bunch of teenagers as the “merry men”). The plot requires a serious suspension of disbelief – and I was left wondering about a few things – but since this is the first in a new series, the author will probably explain those points later. Fun premise and entertaining characters.
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