Review of A School for Brides, by Patrice Kindl

school_for_brides_largeA School for Brides

A Story of Maidens, Mystery, and Matrimony

by Patrice Kindl

Viking, 2015. 251 pages.

A School for Brides is a sequel to the delightful Keeping the Castle, but is primarily dealing with totally new characters, so you can feel free to read this book without having read the first.

Like Keeping the Castle, this is a humorous and light-hearted tribute to regency romances. There’s a quotation taken from Jane Austen’s The Watsons at the front. The Watsons was unfinished, but is also the only Jane Austen book I haven’t read, so I don’t know if A School for Brides mirrors the plot of The Watsons the way Keeping the Castle mirrors the plot of Pride and Prejudice.

I read this at an unfortunate time, having recently finished two other girls’ boarding school books: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place, by Julie Berry, and As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, by Alan Bradley. And try as I might, I didn’t get too enthusiastic about yet another book with a large cast of characters and young ladies in a boarding school, so it took me a long time to read it.

But there is fun to be had here. We’re back in the delightfully-named village of Lesser Hoo, this time at a finishing school, the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy. Girls have been sent there to find husbands. There’s one problem: No eligible men live anywhere near Lesser Hoo.

However, the problem is solved rather quickly when a gentleman suffers an accident near the academy, and must be taken there to recuperate. Of course his friends come to visit him in his convalescence, and couples happily pair off.

There are some surprises and obstacles. A wicked governess tries to interfere with one of the students, and some of the suitors are not so acceptable as one might wish. There is also a mystery, as promised in the subtitle, when a valuable necklace disappears. Is the thief the handsome footman, Robert, who is under suspicion simply because he’s a servant? Well, the reader will suspect not, but how then was the theft carried out?

Here is the beginning of the book:

“Mark my words. If something drastic is not done, none of us shall ever marry. We are doomed to die old maids, banished to the seat farthest from the fire, served with the toughest cuts of meat and the weakest cups of tea, objects of pity and scorn to all we meet. That shall be our fate, so long as we remain in Lesser Hoo,” said Miss Asquith.

Extravagant as Miss Asquith’s mode of expression was, her fellow scholars at the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy could not help but feel that she had a point. They nodded in solemn agreement, and Miss Victor, who was only twelve, began to cry.

The other young ladies frowned and attempted to turn and regard Miss Victor with disapproval at her outburst. This was rendered difficult by the fact that all eight were bound to backboards, wooden devices that forced their necks and spines into an erect posture. The backboards required them to rotate their entire upper bodies when they wished merely to turn their heads.

This book gives you light-hearted romance, lots of couples, a ball, and missing jewels. Lots of fun.

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Sonderling Sunday – We Need to Talk!

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books. Sort of a Traveler’s Phrasebook for Very Silly People.


This week we’re back to the book that started it all, The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy, otherwise known as Der Orden der seltsamen Sonderlinge.

We left off last time in the middle of chapter 18 on page 239, Seite 303, with Nora about to whisper the immortal words, “We need to talk.”

Confess! Don’t you think it would be useful to know how to say this in German? And yet, I’m guessing you won’t find it in your normal run-of-the-mill traveler’s phrasebook. (What a travesty!)

And the translation is:
Wir müssen uns unterhalten.

Here’s a not-surprising response to that:
“Jo was in no mood for it.”
= Jo war eigentlich nicht in der richtigen Stimmung dafür.

“Nora insisted” = Nora blieb hartnäckig (“Nora stayed obstinate.”)
(This looks to me as if it’s related to hard-naked, but I don’t think it actually is.)

“floorboards” = Bodenbretter

“crawl spaces” = Kriechräume

“chimney” = Schornstein

“She was exhausted, her nerves frayed.”
= Sie war erschöpft und angespannt.
(“She was exhausted and tense.”)

And who knows when you might need to say this?
“underground cathedral” = unterirdische Kathedrale

This one’s handy:
“just in case” = Sicherheitshalber
(“Safety’s sake”)

The translator sacrificed some flair here:
“Fear dripped slowly into Jo’s heart.”
= Furcht durchströmte Jo.
(“Fear flowed through Jo.”)

“All-Devouring” = All-Verschlingenden

“favorite topic” = Lieblingsthema

“stitch her back together” = sie wieder zusammenflicken

“disturbing” = erschütternd

“fuse” = verschmelzen

This seems like a long way to say it:
“And here’s how”
= Und zwar folgendermaßen
(“And indeed follows-reasonably”)

I hope you never need to say this:
“They sucked out all his blood”
= Sie saugten ihm all sein Blut aus

“unpredictable powers” = unvorstellbare Macht

“boiling over” = übergekocht ist

“It drove him crazy.”
= Sie hat ihn in den Wahnsinn getrieben.

“stinger” = Stachel

This could be useful:
“I know it doesn’t make sense”
= Ich weiß, dass es nicht logisch klingt

“beak” = Schnaubel

“Her fear hardened into anger.”
= Dann schlug ihre Furcht in Wut um.

“thighs” = Schenkel

“revenge” = Rache

“coffin” = Sarg

“revulsion” = Ekel

“shrank” = schrumpfen

“helpless feeling” = ohnmächtigen Gefühl (“without-power feeling”)

This sounds grand:
“Jo suspected her choices counted for nothing”
= Jo vermutete, dass ihre Entscheidungen keinerlei Konsequenzen hatten
(“Jo suspected that her decisions no consequences had”)

“quietly panicked” = kämpfte stumm gegen ihre Panik
(“fought silently against her panic”)

I hope you won’t need to say this:
“a moist sucking sound” = ein feuchtes, saugendes Geräusch

“snoring” = schnarchten (Isn’t that a much better word for “snoring”?)

“The snuffling got louder.” = Das Schniefen wurde lauter.

“engorged” = vergrößert

“a shapeless mass of skin and fat and veins”
= eine formlose Masse aus Haut und Fett und Adern

“something long, pale, and scabby”
= etwas Langes, Blasses und Schuppiges

You can see how this had to be changed:
“inched out”
= Zentimeter um Zentimeter herauskam
(“centimeter by centimeter came out”)

And I’ve finished up Chapter 18. Here’s hoping that knowing how to say these things will invoke Murphy’s Law, and you’ll never have occasion to say them! Aber Sicherheitshalber…

2015 National Book Festival


Today I went to the National Book Festival in Washington, DC!

I took the Metro in and didn’t even really step outside, now that the Festival happens at the Convention Center instead of the National Mall. The positive side of that is that it was not muddy and rainy and it wasn’t drippingly hot. The negative side of that was that it was uncomfortably, horribly crowded, and didn’t have the same ambiance as the National Mall does.

I arrived a bit later than planned, and the session I had hoped to attend was already full. So I went early to another very interesting session: Rachel Swaby speaking about her book, Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science — And the World.


This may have been my favorite session of the day, in fact. Rachel Swaby was enthusiastic and full of fascinating anecdotes about the amazing women she researched.

She started by saying that when she told people she was writing a book about women in science, everyone mentioned Marie Curie. There are so many other fascinating and brilliant women who have done amazing things in science, and we don’t know about them! What difference would it make to our daughters to know about them?

A Danish woman seismologist discovered the metal inner core of the earth.
Sofi Kovalevsky had to be creative not only in her work, but to get to study at all. I liked the story about how her father ran out of wallpaper for her nursery, so he used lectures on differential and integral calculus, which his little daughter was fascinated by.
Another woman made a lab in her bedroom and did research on fertilized chicken eggs.
The women made their own spaces when they hit roadblocks.

Alice Hamilton was a journalist as well as a pathologist. She was a professor at Harvard before women were admitted as medical students — but she wasn’t allowed to participate in commencement.

The common thread among these scientists was grit, creativity, restlessness, ability to look at something with new eyes, seeing truths that were overlooked.

There was NO lack of possible subjects. But why don’t we know more about the achievements of women in science?


After Rachel Swaby’s wonderful talk, I went to the Fiction room and heard Ron Charles interview Marilynne Robinson.


She talked about many interesting things. One that wasn’t a surprise is that she enjoys language and playing with language, which was how she started writing her first book.

When asked if she’s surprised such a quiet, theologically-infused novel has found such a large audience, she gave a good rule: There’s a tendency to talk down to your readers. Assume your readers are smarter than you are.

It’s interesting that it’s hard to find ministers in literature who are positive characters. Yet, as she pointed out, Americans in real life are deeply attached to our ministers. Churches throughout America are sustained because people love them. We tend to ridicule what we value, which makes us inarticulate about them.

We tend to think people who seem to be good are hypocrites. Why do we put a little thorn in there?

If we’re going to be realists, we should talk about reality — which does include prayer and actual admiration for people who teach us to live well.

After Marilynne’s talk, I went downstairs to the food court — and the Mathical Station. There I got a chance to talk with the author David Lubar, whose book, Numbed!, I read while waiting for the Metro today.

I also got a chance to leave my name with someone from the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute to tell them that I am tremendously interested in being on the selection committee for the next round of Mathical Awards.

I mean, how many children’s librarians are there who also have a Master’s in Mathematics? I also have experience on Cybils Award panels, have attended the William Morris Invitational Seminar on Book Evaluation, am a member of Capitol Choices, and have my own website of book reviews. And I’m a Math Nut. No one was more excited to hear about this award than me. I want to be part of it!

So we’ll see if this bears any fruit….

Next I went to hear Casey Schwartz talk about her book, In the Mind Fields: Exploring the New Science of Neuropsychoanalysis.


This sounds very interesting. It’s about combining the traditional field of Psychoanalysis with the current field of Neuroscience. She spent a lot of time with a pioneer in the field, who has shown that brain damaged patients who can no longer experience REM sleep still experience dreams. They’ve also found that emotional centers in the brain light up during dreams. Both fields are made richer by coming together.

Now I had gone to that session partly to get a jump on the following session scheduled in that room. I learned from my previous experience at the National Book Festival that it is most enjoyable for me to deal with the crowds by choosing a tent, getting a seat, and staying there for many speakers.

But alas! In the Convention Center they don’t let you do that. They cleared the room and let the people waiting outside into the room. By the time I got out of the room, I was too far back in the line and did not get to enter the room at all. So that was a disappointment.


Instead, I caught the end of a session on Melting Pot America, led by Tom Gjelten, who wrote A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story, Erika Lee, who wrote The Making of Asian America: A History, and Ray Suarez, who wrote, Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy that Shaped a Nation.

They had many interesting things to say. One was that we forget that it’s always been hard to come to America. We forget that our own ancestors didn’t learn English instantly. We love our family histories — and our sepia-toned stories aren’t necessarily true.

They also said that though it’s always hard for the first generation, you do see dramatic changes in the second generation. There is an integrative power to American society.

For the final session (for me) of the day (Crowds were wearing me out.), I finally made it into the Children’s Pavilion to hear Gennifer Choldenko talk about her new book, Chasing Secrets.

She gave an extremely interesting talk about what San Francisco was like in 1900 and their ideas about disease. There was an outbreak of plague, but it was hushed up and denied by people in power.

She got kids involved by talking about what we would do if everyone started coming down with a mythical disease. The audience named it the Pink Paintbrush disease. You can see these kids had fun posing as doctors peddling vaccines.


She had lab coats for them to wear.


Actually, I was reminded why I usually hang out in the Children’s Pavilion — a little more playful and less serious!


However, that was enough for me. The Children’s, Teen, and Picture Book Rooms were too small and seemed to be always full. As many kids were at the festival, this seemed short-sighted. Sure enough, they kicked me out of the room after Gennifer’s talk, and the line was too long for me to get into the next one. I decided it was time to call it a day. But it was a good day!

Review of The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, read by Miranda Raison

screaming_staircase_audio_largeLockwood & Co.

The Screaming Staircase

by Jonathan Stroud

read by Miranda Raison

Listening Library, 2013. 10 hours on 8 compact discs.
2013 Cybils Winner: Speculative Fiction, Elementary and Middle Grades
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 Children’s Fiction
Starred Review

Normally, I won’t listen to a book I’ve already read. In the case of The Screaming Staircase, I’d already read it twice: Once when it came out, and once for the Cybils Award. (It won.) I also named it my favorite children’s book read in 2013. (I don’t allow rereads to count as Sonderbooks Stand-outs any more, so that way I won’t be tempted to give it to this book again in 2015.) So you won’t be surprised that I loved this audiobook (which our library finally purchased). Apparently, I don’t get tired of this story at all!

I’ll refer you to my original review, but point out a few things I noticed.

As a straight mystery (Who killed Annabelle Ward?), this book is wonderfully well-crafted. There are clues and red herrings as well as a life-endangering denouement accompanying some clever deductions from our heroes.

This book is scarier than I remembered it. The Red Room – with blood dripping down from the ceiling threatening to flood them (and they’ll die if it touches them) is incredibly sinister, not to mention the Screaming Staircase, where long-ago monks were led to their deaths and today you can hear their screams in your head. So that’s the only caveat when giving this book to children or suggesting it for family listening (It would be great!) – they have to be able to handle Scary.

As I suspected, though, the only thing better than reading this book is having it read to you with a British accent. The narrator is utterly wonderful! When I got to the part I used to read aloud at schools when booktalking last summer – I could recite the words along with the narrator, but they sounded so much better with a British accent! This narrator also captured the different voices with excellence.

As I mentioned in my first review, there’s so much going on with this book. We’ve got ghosts, swordplay, a deadline which must be met to keep their business, banter between colleagues, an interesting alternate world with great detail as to the different types of ghosts, kids in charge (because only they can see ghosts), and our heroes setting out to show the world that they are excellent at what they do – without the supervision of adults.

If your kids are old enough to handle Scary, this would make phenomenal family listening, because I guarantee the adults will be as mesmerized as the kids. I certainly was. And this was a book I successfully recommended to several adult coworkers. I am having fun listening to the audio version of the first two books in the series in preparation for Book Three coming out soon. I can hardly wait!

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Review of At the End of the Ages……The Abolition of Hell, by Bob Evely

at_the_end_of_the_ages_largeAt the End of the Ages…

The Abolition of Hell

by Bob Evely

1stBooks, 2003. 171 pages.
Starred Review

This is another book about Universalism. And Bob Evely summarizes the case beautifully that, at the end of the ages, God will save everyone.

This book is for those who believe the Bible is the Word of God, for people who don’t believe all will be saved because they don’t believe the Bible teaches this. Never mind what’s logical — they think universalism is contrary to Scriptures.

Bob Evely looks closely at the original Greek text of the Bible. He introduced me, in fact, to the Concordant Literal Version of the Bible. (I just interrupted writing this review to order my own copy.) Here’s how the Concordant Translation was developed:

Every single Greek word was closely examined. Each word was studied in every occurrence within the New Testament to determine the best English equivalent to be used. As much as was possible the meaning for each word was determined from the way the word was used within the New Testament, and not how other human authors may have used the word.

To preserve distinctions made by God, each individual Greek word was matched with a unique English equivalent. The same English word was not used for different Greek words, and differing English words were not used when a single Greek word was used.

I’d read in other books that the Greek word aion, which is often translated “eternal,” is more accurately translated as “eon” or “age” — often very long, but not, in fact, “eternal” or endless. The author’s reference to the Concordant Literal Version makes this very clear. We can see when aion and aionian is used in many places where “eternal” wouldn’t even make sense. (Most translators pick and choose where to use “eternal” when translating it.)

Here are a few examples from the Concordant Literal New Testament, which the author quotes:

Ephesians 2:7: “that, in the oncoming eons, He should be displaying the transcendent riches…”
Colossians 1:26: “the secret which has been concealed from the eons and from the generations, yet now was made manifest to His saints…”
Matthew 13:22: “…the worry of this eon and the seduction of riches are stifling the word…”
I Timothy 6:17: “Those who are rich in the current eon…”
John 14:16: “…and He will be giving you another consoler, that it, indeed, may be with you for the eon…”
Revelation 11:15: “The kingdom of this world became our Lord’s and his Christ’s, and He shall be reigning for the eons of the eons!”
Matthew 13:39: “the conclusion of the eon”
I Corinthians 10:11: “the consummations of the eons”

Now, the author adds plenty of commentary to these quotations. To me, he clearly points out that it’s inconsistent to translate aion as “eternal.”

He sums up:

While I have not attempted to show how many specific eons are mentioned in Scripture, I have desired to show that there are distinct, separate eons (or ages) that are mentioned in God’s Word. These “eons” are periods of time with a beginning and an end.

There was a time before these eons began. There will be a time when all of the eons will come to an end. We have seen at least three distinct eons referred to in God’s Word.

And he goes on to look at words translated “hell.” This section is also eye-opening. The author looks closely and in great detail to the words used in Scripture. At the end of this chapter, he concludes:

If an earthly ruler condemned even the vilest criminal to be kept alive just to be tortured forever, we would shudder at his cruelty. But we have inherited the current orthodox teachings about God that calmly attribute such activities to Him, while also teaching that He is a God of love.

I have come to see that the Bible does not teach this at all. Man has intervened and has placed his philosophies and pagan ideas within the Word of God. The modern English translations now perpetuate these man-made ideas, primarily because of a few words mistranslated and misinterpreted. We see a God of love, but a God who is also very harsh. Some say this is necessary because of God’s holiness and justice, but is God not able to use His love and power to bring about justice without losing a single sheep from the fold?

On a more positive note, he then looks at the “all” passages in the New Testament, as well as looking at I Corinthians 15:21-28, which talks about the “consummation.”

This is the grand conclusion of the ages. God has taken what mankind (and Satan) have intended for evil, and He has used it to achieve good. He has operated all in accord with the counsel of His will to achieve His will… that ALL mankind be saved. Some have recognized the greatness of God, and the work of the Saviour, in this lifetime, by faith. Others have taken longer, but now find salvation also. Every knee is now bowing in subjection before Him. Every person has found salvation. Every lost sheep has been found. The purpose of the eons has been achieved, and God is now All in all.

Another section of the book looks at the testimony of church history — the ultimate reconciliation of all things is by no means a new view — in fact, history shows us that this was the dominant view of the early church until Augustine.

I like this book, because as Bob Evely describes how he came to believe God will save everyone, his process pretty much mirrors mine. I, too, thought I couldn’t believe it because the Bible didn’t teach it. I was amazed and delighted to take another look and learn that maybe I’d been misled as to what the Bible actually says. And I was also surprised to learn of the deep historical tradition behind this view.

Here is the author’s conclusion, which mirrors how I feel about it:

Having been exposed to the things I have presented in this work, at the very least you should be hoping and praying that these things are true.

Not wanting to be led astray, this is where I began. I had been taught my entire life that there was a place of eternal torment. When I first heard of the possibility that this was wrong, I was highly skeptical. I did not want to be led into falsehood.

But as I journeyed down the path, studying and thinking of these things I had never been taught by a teacher or a pastor, I came first to a place where I did not know if these things were true, but I certainly hoped and prayed that they were!

How can we not feel this way? To think that there really is hope for those of our loved ones who died outside of Christ! Can God’s grace really be that big? Can His love really go that far? Is He really that wise that He could figure out a way to save all of mankind, despite rebellion and sin and wickedness and rejection?

This is a good place to start. The things you have read in this book have been largely suppressed, at least since the 5th century. When Universalism was declared by “The Church” to be heresy, many of the writings in support of this doctrine were destroyed. “The Church” was wrong, and today we live with the results of that error.

At least begin by hoping and praying that these things are true. Read and study the Word of God with this new possibility; this new perspective. Test this theory, this theology. Don’t believe me, but study and think for yourself.

I think as you go forward you will see the wonderful grace of God at every turn. It is a grace that is greater than anything mankind could ever have hoped for!

And this book is a wonderful resource for that search.

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Review of The Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed, by Helen Cooper

boy_who_wouldnt_go_to_bed_largeThe Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed

by Helen Cooper

Dial Books for Young Readers, New York, 1997. First published in Great Britain in 1996.
Starred Review

I’m posting a review of this Old Favorite in response to Travis Jonker’s critique on his 100 Scope Notes blog of the current best-selling children’s book, The Rabbit who wants to fall asleep.

You see, I believe that if you want mesmerizing and hypnotic in a children’s bedtime book, you actually don’t have to sacrifice lovely pictures and beautiful, lilting language.

When my son was a toddler, my then-husband brought this book home after one of his trips to England. It was the British version, so the title was The Baby Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed, but all else was the same.

My son couldn’t keep his eyes open when we read this book to him. Before long, he wouldn’t let us read it at bedtime, because he knew full well it would make him fall asleep.

The book starts with the boys mother telling him it’s bedtime. But it’s still light, because it’s summer, and the boy doesn’t want to go to bed.

But the boy revved up his car…
then drove away
as fast as he could,
and the mother couldn’t catch him.

The boy drives into a lavish dreamscape in his little red car, with a determined look on his face.

The boy meets many creatures and things on his journey and asks them to play, but everyone is much, much too tired.

The language is rhythmic and mesmerizing — but definitely not in a boring or didactic way.

He hadn’t driven very far at all
before he met a tiger.
“Let’s play at roaring,”
said the boy.

But the tiger was too tired.
Nighttime is for snoring,
not roaring,”
yawned the tiger.
“Come back in the morning.
I’ll play with you then.”

The pictures have the soft golden light of a long summer sunset.

He sees soldiers too tired to parade any longer. I like the train (with the dreamscape quickly getting darker), and all the toys in the train cars have their eyes closed:

He stopped for a moment
as a train rolled by.
“Race you to the station,” called the boy.

But the train was too tired.
“Nighttime is for resting, not racing,” said the train.
“I’m going home to my depot, and so should you.”

Of course, parents do not need instructions to read all this in a sleepy, tired, drowsy, weary voice.

When he meets musicians, they’re too drowsy to play music for dancing. They suggest that the boy give them a ride home, and they’ll play a lullaby instead.

The musicians played
such a sweet tune
that the sun was lulled
to sleep and the
moon came out.

The boy’s car went slower …
and slower …
and slower …

and soon the musicians were sound asleep.

Then the boy’s car stopped….
It had fallen asleep too.

The boy tries to get help from the moon hanging in the sky, but even the moon is too tired!

“It’s bedtime,”
sighed the moon drowsily.
And even the moon closed her eyes and dozed off.

Soon, the boy is the only one awake, and all the world around him is sleeping.

But there was someone else who was not asleep.
Someone who was looking for the boy …

Someone who was ever so sleepy,
but couldn’t go to bed until the boy did.

It was the mother.
And the boy hugged her.

The picture of the mother holding the boy here is suitable for framing.

The mother trundles and bundles the boy back to bed. With a big yawn, he gives in to sleep. And the last words of the book are:

“Good night.”

One fun thing about the book is that the dreamscape of the boy’s adventures matches the toys and furniture you’ll find in his room.

The language is so lovely, the paintings are magnificently soft and warm and beautiful, and the tired, tired creatures and things will get any little one yawning.

So my suggestion? If you want to hypnotize your child at bedtime, do it with delight. Try The Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed. Put some sleepiness in your voice, and I challenge you to stay awake, let alone your little one.

Because, after all, nighttime is for snoring, not roaring; dreaming, not parading; and resting, not racing. Good night!

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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?