Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

Review of Lovely War, by Julie Berry

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

Lovely War

by Julie Berry

read by Jayne Entwistle, Allan Corduner, Dion Graham, Fiona Hardingham, John Lee, Nathaniel Parker, and Steve West, with a historical note read by the author
original music by Benjamin Salisbury

Reviewed August 1, 2019, from a library audiobook
Listening Library, 2019. 12 hours, 57 minutes, on 11 compact discs.
Starred Review

This audiobook is an epic novel and an astonishingly wonderful production. As you can tell by all the distinguished readers (including a couple of my favorite narrators), they use different readers for different people telling the story.

This book is told by the gods. You see, in 1942 Paris, the god Hephaestus has caught his wife Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, cheating with his brother Aries, the god of war. As her defense, Aphrodite tells the gods that mortals know more about love than gods do – and she gives an example, telling the story of two mortal couples who fell in love during the Great War, Hazel and James (both British), and Colette (Belgian) and Aubrey (African American).

The couples came together because of War and because of Music – so Aries and Apollo help tell the story. But Death also comes into the story, so Hades has parts to tell as well.

The story is epic. Hazel meets James a week before he ships out to fight. She volunteers with the YMCA and goes to France, where she meets Colette. Colette has already suffered the loss of her entire family and the boy she loved at the hands of the Germans. But Hazel plays piano and Colette sings, and while playing in the YMCA relief hut, they meet Aubrey, the king of ragtime.

There’s an extended author’s note at the end, because she did a lot of research. When she spoke about how moved she was viewing the World War I memorials in Europe, I was instantly reminded of my own visit to the museum at Verdun and how it utterly shook me. But she went even more places than I did.

The officers in the story were people who actually lived and battles are portrayed that they actually fought. Aubrey encounters horrible racism overseas from Americans but not much at all from the French – matching the actual experiences of American soldiers in World War I.

The story itself is lovely and will wind itself into your heart. I also enjoyed the playful and unusual frame of a story being told by gods. I’m already going to say that I hope this audiobook wins this year’s Odyssey Award for the best children’s or young adult audiobook production. It gives an amazing listening experience.

julieberrybooks.com
booksontape.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/lovely_war.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Chronicles of Avonlea, by L. M. Montgomery

Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Chronicles of Avonlea

by L. M. Montgomery

Grosset & Dunlap, 1970. Originally published in 1912. 306 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 6, 2019, from my own copy

In preparation for a trip to Prince Edward Island in September, I’m rereading all my L. M. Montgomery books in the order they were published. Chronicles of Avonlea is number five in this endeavor.

Maud Montgomery honed her craft by writing stories and getting them published in magazines. She did this for years before her first novel was published. This collection of stories gives wonderful examples of her brilliance. The only I quibble I have with them is that she was being pressured to write more about Anne of Green Gables – and mention of Anne Shirley is shoehorned into almost every single one of these stories. The only one where it’s organic and Anne is an important part of the plot is the first one, “The Hurrying of Ludovic.”

The most brilliant story of all in this collection is probably my favorite short story ever. I’ve done readings of this story when I was in college to entertain my friends and, yes, when I came to this story this time through, I was compelled to read the whole thing out loud.

That Most Delightful Story Ever is “The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s,” the story of a woman who hates men and her cat trapped in the home of a man who hates women and his dog. The woman, who is the narrator, does come off best – and both change their attitudes by the end. The process is all the fun and reading it in the narrator’s voice saying, “I am noted for that” makes it utterly delightful.

Honestly, in this read-through, I’m constantly being shocked when I realize these older characters are now younger than me! Angelina Peter MacPherson is forty-eight years old in this story. In fact, many of the main characters in these stories are deep into adulthood. I’m going to file this book in with Teen Fiction, but really these are family stories. It’s all innocent and G-rated, about life and love, but there’s a lot of focus on older folks coming to understand whom they truly love, whether in romance or the love of a child.

This is a delightful collection, written by a master storyteller at the height of her powers.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/chronicles_of_avonlea.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Marilla of Green Gables, by Sarah McCoy

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

Marilla of Green Gables

by Sarah McCoy

William Morrow (HarperCollins), 2018. 300 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 4, 2019, from my own copy, a birthday present from my sister Becky

This book came out toward the end of 2018, when I was in the thick of reading for the Newbery, and couldn’t possibly get to it. After the winner was chosen, I’d forgotten about it, so I was completely delighted when my sister sent it to me for my birthday. The gift was all the more perfect because I’m planning to go with two girlfriends to visit Prince Edward Island in the Fall, and I’ve been rereading all my L. M. Montgomery books in preparation. One of those girlfriends was at my house on my birthday when I opened the gift. So the timing was perfect to read this prequel to Anne of Green Gables.

Sarah McCoy takes us into the heart of Marilla. We see her as a young teen living with her parents and her older brother Matthew. The author gave Marilla’s parents the same names as L. M. Montgomery’s parents, Clara and Hugh, in a nice act of tribute.

Clara is expecting a baby, and her twin, Marilla’s Aunt Izzy comes to stay and to help. When both mother and baby are lost, Marilla must carry on, taking care of Matthew and Hugh.

But it’s delightful getting a glimpse into Avonlea in the years before Anne. Marilla’s friendship with Rachel started when they were young, and we hear many more names that will be in the village in later years. Yes, we knew that John Blythe had been Marilla’s beau, and we get the story of their quarrel.

A part of the story that surprised me was when Green Gables becomes a safe haven for runaway slaves, under the protection of Izzy. I hadn’t realized that slave catchers could even come into Canada looking for them. There is also some political unrest in Canada at that time, which I’d known nothing about.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It’s a gentle story, a story of a reserved young woman growing up in a small village in Canada in the 1800s. She’s living a quiet life, and love seems to pass her by. At the end of the book, they think that Matthew could use some help on the farm….

This was perfect preparation for a visit to Prince Edward Island, and I heartily recommend it for all other Anne fans out there. The style isn’t the same as L. M. Montgomery’s, but it made me feel I understood Marilla better than when I had only seen her through the eyes of a precocious orphan.

sarahmccoy.com
harpercollins.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/marilla_of_green_gables.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Story Girl, by L. M. Montgomery

Friday, July 12th, 2019

The Story Girl

by L. M. Montgomery

Bantam Books, 1987. First published in 1910. 258 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 5, 2019, from my own copy

It’s really happening! My two childhood friends and I are going to Prince Edward Island this coming September, during the week when all three of us are 55 years old. We first conceived this trip when we were 50, but decided to put it off – and now our rooms are booked!

And this time I’m getting serious about rereading my L. M. Montgomery books. This time, I decided to reread them in the order they were published. I have already reread Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Kilmeny of the Orchard. Now it was time for The Story Girl.

The Story Girl is about the children of the village of Carlisle on Prince Edward Island. It’s told from the perspective of Beverley King, looking back as an old man on the joys they had as children.

[Incidentally, I have learned from L. M. Montgomery’s books that if a man’s name ends in Y, women will eventually steal it. All of these names appear in her books as names for boys: Beverley, Shirley, Lindsay, and Hillary.]

When I was a young adult reading L. M. Montgomery’s books, I preferred the ones that had romance. But now as I myself am “old” (by her standards – I’ve been shocked that “old” characters in her books are only in their forties!) – I’m reading these books with my own nostalgia.

The Story Girl was one of L. M. Montgomery’s own favorites. I think she liked to think of herself as a sort of Sara Stanley, who was called by everyone “the Story Girl.”

Maud Montgomery did her apprenticeship writing short stories and selling them to magazines. I think as a consequence, short stories are her natural form. And she does a nice job of weaving them through this book, with the Story Girl telling them family stories about objects in their home or stories about people from their village or fairy tales about something that happened.

There’s a lot that’s old-fashioned in this book. Sara and her cousin Felicity are fourteen and twelve years old, but they seem younger by today’s standards. And they have different abilities from children today, with Felicity completely able to run the house while the grown-ups are away for a week, including having baked all afternoon so their pantry is “well stocked with biscuits, cookies, cakes, and pies,” so that she is able to entertain an influx of visitors, as is proper.

Cecily set the table, and the Story Girl waited on it and washed all the dishes afterwards. But all the blushing honours fell to Felicity, who received so many compliments that her airs were quite unbearable for the rest of the week. She presided at the head of the table with as much grace and dignity as if she had been five times twelve years old and seemed to know by instinct just who took sugar and who did not. She was flushed with excitement and pleasure, and was so pretty that I could hardly eat for looking at her – which is the highest compliment in a boy’s power to pay.

I was amused how often the episodes between the children had to do with church and the Bible. When the paper reports that someone in the States has said the day and time for Judgment Day, they all get into a tizzy. Another time, they have a preaching contest (boys only, of course) with very amusing results. And there’s an incident with a picture of God and the question of praying for their cat to get well. Did prayer end up healing him – or was it their request to the local woman they all think is a witch?

All in all, it was delightful to be transported back into L. M. Montgomery’s world. This one doesn’t have romance, but it does have two other things L. M. Montgomery did exceptionally well: short stories plus the escapades of children.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/story_girl.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Voices, by David Elliott

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Voices

The Final Hours of Joan of Arc

by David Elliott

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 195 pages.
Review written April 17, 2019, from a library book
Starred Review

Voices is a novel in poetry – and I mean real poetry here, not simply prose broken up into artful lines. For the most part, it’s even rhymed poetry. David Elliott gives us Joan of Arc thinking about her life as she waits to be burned at the stake.

Between poems in Joan’s voice, we’ve got poems expressing the voices of objects and people in her life – things like a tunic, armor, cattle, a red dress, swords, and the saints who spoke to her. For those poems, the author used poetic forms that were used even back in Joan’s day – things like a ballade, sestina, villanelle, and triolet.

The note at the front casts light on short quotations presented throughout the book:

Much of what we know about Joan of Arc comes from the transcripts of her two trials. The first, the Trial of Condemnation, convened in 1431, found Joan guilty of “relapsed heresy” and famously burned her at the stake. The second, the Trial of Nullification, held some twenty-four years after her death, effectively revoked the findings of the first. In both cases, the politics of the Middle Ages guaranteed their outcomes before they started. It is in the Trial of Condemnation that we hear Joan in her own voice answering the many questions her accusers put to her. In the Trial of Nullification, her relatives, childhood friends, and comrades-in-arms bear witness to the girl they knew. Throughout Voices, you will find direct quotes from these trials.

The craft in this book is stunning – the various poetic forms are used skillfully. Many are typed in the shape of the object whose voice is heard. I’m not used to a novel in verse using so much rhymed poetry, and using it well. I was a little disappointed, though, that the words didn’t move me as much as I felt like they should have – and that may just be me. I do find myself wanting to read it again – there’s a lot of depth here concentrated in the few words of poetry. (Or better yet, I would like to listen to this in audiobook form.)

A couple of things stood out to me. One was the poems in the voice of the Fire, waiting to burn Joan. Those poems were eerie and disturbing. Another was that in her trial the way they knew she was of the devil was that she dressed like a man. Things have not changed so much in 500 years.

Whatever else this book is, it’s a stunning accomplishment.

davidelliottbooks.com
hmhbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/voices.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter, by Diane Magras

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter

by Diane Magras

Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin Young Readers Group), March 2019. 271 pages.
Review written February 25, 2019, from an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.
Starred Review

This book bills itself as a “Companion” to The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, suggesting you can read them in any order, but I think you’ll be better off reading the first book first – to find out how the young daughter of the war lord known as the Mad Wolf became the best friend of the lord of a castle who’s on the run and wounded.

The book is set in medieval Scotland. Drest rescued her father and brothers from the castle dungeon in the last book, but it turned out that Emerick’s uncle wants him dead, so he escaped the castle with them, still without having his wounds tended.

Drest’s father thinks it’s time for them to take care of Drest, but she learned in the last book that she can take care of herself. And Emerick doesn’t trust anyone to guard him as he trusts Drest.

But Emerick’s uncle has put a price on Drest’s head, so anyone who finds her will kill her. On top of that, he’s coming to look for her, as well as Emerick. If Emerick dies, he will be lord of the castle. Can Drest protect Emerick and help him find healing while staying alive herself?

This is another rollicking adventure with a girl who is deservedly a legend.

dianemagras.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/hunt_for_the_mad_wolfs_daughter.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of What the Night Sings, by Vesper Stamper

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

What the Night Sings

by Vesper Stamper

Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. 266 pages.
Starred Review
Review written May 27, 2018.
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#2 General Teen Fiction

Wow. This is a Holocaust novel. They tend to be powerful. But not all of them have me closing the book saying, “Wow” – stunned by hope.

To be fair, the book begins as World War II is finishing. Gerta Rausch is in Bergen-Belsen as the British are liberating the camp, holding her bunkmate, sick with typhus, in her arms:

The soldiers begin removing the dead. There are so many. How could I not have noticed them lying right next to me?

And suddenly – Rivkah, too, is gone.

I feel her final breath wisp across my lips. They pull her from me, but I can’t let her go. She is my last connection to the living world. I clutch her arm, her hand, her fingers. I sing the lullaby after her, my foster mother. I know no one else in all of Bergen-Belsen, either from Auschwitz or Theresienstadt. Everyone has come and gone, piles of shells pulled in and out of waves, and I’m still here, a skeleton of a sea creature, dropped in this tide pool, living, watching, still living.

This book is about living – and trying to figure out how to make a life – after the war. Gerta is sixteen years old and in a displaced persons camp on the site of the old concentration camp. Her only family – her Papa – died during the war in the furnaces.

Gerta had trained to be an opera singer like her stepmother, her stepmother who watched while she and her papa were taken to the cattle cars. Gerta did manage to bring her papa’s viola with her – and got assignments to play in the camp orchestras. They played while people were sorted, for life or for death.

Part of the power of this book is that it includes illustrations. The book size is larger format than most novels, and many of the illustrations take up entire double-page spreads, though some are next to the text. The picture that hit me the hardest was a picture of a smokestack on the side with smoke going all the way across the top of the two pages. Those pages conclude with these words:

“Come with me,” the woman says softly, pragmatically. “You’ve been sent to the orchestra, yes? Well. Join your very lucky sisters. Music has saved your life today.”

“Where’s my papa?” I plead with her. “I want my papa!”

She signs and points ahead. “See that chimney?” she says, still softly, but so that I will clearly understand. “See that smoke? There’s your papa.”

But I said that it’s a book that left me with hope. Though the book does explain the dark setting, Gerta must make the hard choice to keep living. And to love. And it’s not easy.

I especially appreciated the Author’s Note at the back, because it put a bow on why the book felt so applicable to my life – I, who had never experienced anything remotely like the Holocaust. She explained that in high school she developed a deep identity as a musician.

There’s a problem with that, however. When you decide early on who you “truly are,” it can trick you into thinking that you were destined to live by a certain script. And when you’re out on your own and you realize that there is no script, you might panic.

Several years ago, I was rear-ended by a texting driver, which resulted in my arm being partially paralyzed. I completely lost the ability to play guitar – I had been a touring musician – and it took me a full year of rehab before I could reliably draw again. I had to relearn everything, even how to lift a fork to my mouth. This wasn’t in the script. A huge element of my deeply ingrained identity had been smashed. Like Gerta, I had hinged my future on a set of expectations, which depended on life’s machine running with no glitches. Being disabled cast a pall over every area of my life: my ability to drive, hold a baby, cook, hug or shake hands, let alone create art and music. How could I live my life? Without my script, who was I?

Perhaps that puts all the more power into Gerta’s story – and the art Vesper Stamper created to go with that story.

A stunning book about starting over when everything and everyone is gone. About finding joy again, about choosing life and choosing love.

vesperillustration.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/what_the_night_sings.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a book sent from the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

by Patti Callahan

Thomas Nelson (HarperCollins), 2018. 406 pages.
Review written March 16, 2019, from a library book.
Starred Review

It was good to again have a novel keeping me up late at night reading (we’re talking 3 am), and since it was a novel for grown-ups instead of all the children’s books I read last year for the Newbery – it kept me up late more than one night. This wasn’t necessarily a good thing – except that it was nice to be pulled into the world of the novel that thoroughly.

This book tells the same story as one of my favorite movies, Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins, but of course the book went into much more detail. It’s the story of Joy Davidman and how she fell in love with C. S. Lewis and married him. But they didn’t have long together, because she got cancer.

I don’t feel like I’m giving away too much, even though the marriage happens at the end of the book – because anyone who knows that C. S. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed about his much loved wife will know this is coming. And, oh yes, the book is called Becoming Mrs. Lewis. So it’s not a surprise that they fall in love. The story is in the exquisite way they fall in love.

The book opens with Joy Gresham’s salvation experience. Although she’d been an atheist, in a moment when she was feeling desperate, stranded at home after a call from her drunken husband, thinking he was either committing suicide or with another woman – she suddenly felt the presence of God.

God didn’t fix anything in that moment, but that wasn’t the point of it all. Still I didn’t know where Bill was, and still I was scared for his life, but Someone, my Creator it seemed, was there with me in all of it. This Someone was as real as my sons in their beds, as the storm battering the window frames, as my knees on the hardwood floors.

After she became a Christian, she had many questions about her faith, and then read an article about C. S. Lewis which led her to read and reread all of his books (the ones written by 1950). She talked to the professor who’d written the article, and he urged her to write a letter to C. S. Lewis, thinking he could answer some of her questions about her relatively new faith.

And so began their long and avid correspondence.

The book includes excerpts from their letters, though I was disappointed to learn at the back that we don’t have existing copies of the actual letters. Patti Callahan used his other writings and talks to simulate their correspondence. But she did have a set of poems of longing that Joy had written during that time and dedicated to Jack. Some lines from the poems are at the head of each chapter.

In so many ways, this is a novel of longing. Because Joy fell in love with Jack long before he fell in love with her – but their friendship blossomed from the start. First, it was in their letters. They each found a correspondent who understood and to whom they could really open up.

Joy and her husband were both writers and were having trouble getting work finished. Joy had some health troubles and decided to go to England. She could stay with a friend who was living in London, research a book she had begun on King Charles II, and even get her teeth fixed and get medical care she’d been putting off because medical care in England was almost free even to tourists, and she couldn’t afford it in America. Her cousin Renee and her two daughters had been staying with them since her divorce, so Renee could hold down the fort while Joy tried to get back on track in England. And she could finally meet Jack, to whom she’d been writing for three years.

And in England her friendship with Jack deepened. And her husband ended up having an affair with Renee.

But it’s all told in much more exquisite detail than that. Joy already had a firm and deep friendship with Jack on that first trip to England. She went back to her home in America to get her sons and straighten things out – and file for divorce.

But divorce wasn’t easy to get in the 1950s. She was still technically married when she moved back to England with her boys. After the divorce did go through, the authorities had extended her visa too often, and she was going to have to move back to America. A civil marriage in name only to Jack allowed her to stay. In the Shadowlands movie, this was her idea. In this book, it’s Jack’s idea, because he doesn’t want her to leave. She was typing his manuscripts for him and essentially collaborating with him on the book Till We Have Faces.

But even after her divorce had gone through, the Anglican church still wouldn’t permit their marriage – and Jack scrupulously wouldn’t allow himself to fall in love with her. He’d written The Four Loves by then, and was keeping things as philea brotherly love. Even though she was obviously precious to him.

There’s a wonderful chapter where Joy comes to peace with this. She has long loved him, and he’s not loving her back. They’ve written Till We Have Faces together.

It was as clear as if someone had walked into the room and ripped the veil off my soul, forcing me to stare into its darker depths. Much of what I’d done – mistakes, poems, manipulations, success and books and sex – had been done merely to get love. To get it. To answer my question: do you love me? Even as I gave love, was I trying just to gain it? Had it really taken the fictional Orual to show me the truth?

In my bedroom, I fell to my knees on the hard floor and rested my head on the edge of the mattress, pressing my face into the softness.

The face I already possessed before I was born was who I was in God all along, before anything went right or went wrong, before I did anything right or wrong, that was the face of my true self. My “bareface.”

From that moment on, the love affair I would develop would be with my soul. He was already part of me; that much was clear. And now this would be where I would go for love – to the God in me. No more begging or pursuing or needing. It was my false self that was connected to the painful and demanding heart grasping at the world, leading me to despair. Same as Orual. Same as Psyche. Same as all of humanity.

Possibly it was only a myth, Jack’s myth, that could have obliterated the false belief that I must pursue love in the outside world – in success, in acclaim, in performance, in a man.

The Truth: I was beloved of God.

Finally I could stop trying to force someone or something else to fill that role.

The pain of shattered illusion swept through me like glass blown through a room after a bomb.

All had been turned around. No longer was the question Why doesn’t Jack love me the way I want him to? But now Why must I demand that he love me the way I want him to?

I was already loved. That was the answer to any question I held out to the world.

This was a beautiful time in my life to read this. I’m divorced and have an empty nest. After finishing the Newbery reading, I decided I no longer have an excuse not to go back online – but for various reasons I’m not setting my heart on quickly finding a good match there.

So to read about the peace she got, loving this good man who didn’t think it was right to love her back – that peace passed on to me. Yes. I, too, am loved. I, too, am doing my work, living my life, caring about my friends – all under God’s hand.

And when did C. S. Lewis finally come around? When did he finally marry her before God? After she was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live.

But this book is not a tragedy. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve read in a long time.

And though I’ve told a lot of what happens, because it’s really not a secret (And watch the movie Shadowlands if you haven’t already!) – the beauty of this book is in how it all happens, the beautiful details along the way. You’ve got wise gems from C. S. Lewis as they discuss their faith – and lots of wisdom from Joy Davidman as well.

It’s an exquisite and slowly unfolding love story between two remarkable people, but it’s also full of wisdom about life and about God’s working in the world and observations about what it was like for a strong woman to make her way in the world in the 1950s. I’m afraid the worst effect of the book was that it made me want to pack up and just move to England. (Finding an Englishman to marry me might be a problem, though.)

ThomasNelson.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/becoming_mrs_lewis.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, by Diane Magras

Friday, March 8th, 2019

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter

by Diane Magras

Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin), 2018. 280 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 7, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#2 Historical Children’s Fiction

As this book begins, Drest tries to warn her brother and her father that she sees boats coming to their lair, but they’re convinced she’s dreaming. They know different when attackers burst upon them.

Her father, the war band leader, gets her to flee and hide. But she sees him and all her brothers taken away. She is determined to save them – even if it means reviving the knight who got thrown down a cliff by one of the other knights.

This is a wonderful historical fiction novel – set in medieval Scotland about a young girl who’s small but fierce and resourceful. Her brothers have trained her well. But she only has six days to get to the castle to save her family, and her journey is not uneventful.

You come to love Drest’s fierce, fighting spirit, which is tempered by compassion for those who need help.

Here’s where Drest approaches the knight at the base of the cliff:

Tears sprang to Drest’s eyes. “Your toad-witted people took my da and my brothers. And I didn’t throw you down here; one of your own men did.”

The young knight’s voice quivered. “What a filthy lie. Those are my most faithful men.”

His despair gave Drest courage. She crept closer. “Maybe some of them, but not the one who was up on the cliff with you. I watched him fight and push you down here.” The mist was thickening around them. Drest looked back to find the trail. “Do you know where they’ve taken my da?”

The young knight’s eyes widened. “To Faintree Castle. Do you even know who we are?”

“Nay,” said Drest, “why should I?”

“Everything in this part of the lowlands – including this headland – belongs to Faintree Castle.”

“Is that the truth? Strange. I’ve always known that my da owned this headland and all the lowlands.”

That’s only the beginning of Drest’s surprising adventures.

Fair warning is that while this book finishes at a good stopping-place, not everything is resolved, so I trust there will be more adventures to come. But this book has enough to make this lass become a legend.

dianemagras.com
penguin.com/middle-grade

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/mad_wolfs_daughter.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Courting Darkness, by Robin LaFevers

Monday, March 4th, 2019

Courting Darkness

by Robin LaFevers

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 503 pages.
Starred Review
Review written February 25, 2019, from my own copy.

When I heard that Robin LaFevers was writing another book in the world of His Fair Assassin, I put the book on pre-order from Amazon right away. Although I loved re-entering that world, and the author’s writing is still magnificent, and once again I learned things about medieval Brittany – I was a little disappointed with this book compared to the others.

First, although there was lots of sex, I didn’t think this one was as romantic as the others. One couple may have fallen in love, but they’re certainly not admitting it yet. But it also didn’t come to as good a stopping-place as each of the first three books did. There’s a lot that’s still unresolved, and the book ends on something of a cliff-hanger. Which is all the more annoying when the next book hasn’t been written yet.

But please don’t think I didn’t love reading this book. I have a feeling that I will appreciate it all the more once more books are written in this series. I still intend to preorder the next book — may that day come soon.

And back to the assassin nuns. In this book, we meet Genevieve, another girl sent out from the convent of St. Mortain, the god of death. Years ago, Genevieve was sent with Margot to the court of France and told they’d be called on when needed by the convent. They have heard nothing since. Now they’re in the household of Count Angouleme, and Margot is about to have his bastard. Then Genevieve finds someone forgotten in a dungeon….

That story is alternated with what’s going on with Sybella, who was featured in Dark Triumph. Now she has custody of her younger sisters, but her vicious brother still wants them all in his power. The Duchess of Brittany can protect them – but will she still be able to do so after she becomes Queen of France? Sybella needs to protect the duchess on her journey to reach the king, but it is probably best if the king and the power behind the throne – the king’s sister – don’t realize that Sybella is a trained assassin and a daughter of Mortain, the god of death.

And is the duchess even doing the right thing becoming Queen of France? Or has she given up her power to rule her own people?

The story is once again absorbing and fascinating. It once again is firmly based in historical fact – so that we begin to think there really may have been assassin nuns serving the Duchess of Brittany. If I was a little disappointed, it was only because I wanted another like the first three. But hadn’t I been delighted in how different each of the first three books was from the others? Also, I suspect once I get over the cliff-hanger ending – by reading the next book – I will be all the more happy with this new series.

[Ah! Amazon says it will be a Duology. So if I think of this as half of one complete story — it’s a lot more satisfying.]

And now that I’m not reading for the Newbery – I may just go back and enjoy the His Fair Assassin trilogy all over again.

robinlafevers.com
hmhco.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/courting_darkness.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?