I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy today for Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet book reviews.
Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior ★★★½☆
A fusion of memoir and literary musings, Booked explores Karen Swallow Prior’s formative years through the lens of a variety of classic works ranging from Charlotte’s Web (her childhood days on her grandparents’ farm) to Jane Eyre (her awkward adolescence) and Milton’s Areopagitica (an encouragement to ‘read promiscuously’). The memoir is underwhelming, but the segments on literature make you want to scribble notes in the margins and haul out the highlighter. I found Prior’s thoughts on Charles Dickens, for example, really helpful, and her chapter on Madame Bovary is both brilliant and hilarious (the raspberry fight!).
Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier ★★☆☆☆
A magical healer, Blackthorn, and her former prison mate, Grim, set up shop on the edge of an enchanted forest where she has agreed to help any who ask for assistance and to forego vengeance for seven years. This oh-so-predictable fantasy novel is twice as long as it needs to be, with characters each defined by a single attribute: Blackthorn is so angry, Grim is so taciturn, the Prince is so good-hearted, etc. I enjoyed Marillier’s earlier works, like the Sevenwaters series, much more than this book.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis (re-read) ★★★★★
Lucy enters Narnia through a wardrobe – and this is the story of what happened there. I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe aloud to my 3-year old and we both relished every moment. He was caught up in the magic of the story and the struggle of good vs. evil; there were a lot of conversations afterwards along the line of, “Mom, can we please go to Narnia now? It’s okay to go, the White Witch is dead!” I was struck by the story’s gravity and profundity.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (re-read) ★★★★☆
Margaret Hale moves from a rustic village in the south of England to the smoky, industrial city of Milton-North, and her assumptions about both areas are challenged by the people she meets and the situations she encounters (mill strikes, young people dying of diseases caused by their work environments, etc.). Many think of the novel as Pride and Prejudice with a social conscience; I found the change in Margaret compelling, even if the spark between her and the commanding Mr. Thornton was less fiery than that of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
Rilla of Ingleside by LM Montgomery ★★☆☆☆
The story of Anne Blythe’s youngest child, Rilla, as she grows up and falls in love during the First World War. I enjoyed parts of the book, like Rilla’s brother Walter’s struggle for courage, but found it fell flat overall. The pacing of the novel felt tedious because it depended so much on the advances and setbacks of the war, and I found the romance between Rilla and Kenneth lacklustre. I’d recommend trying pretty much any other novel by LM Montgomery before reading this one.
The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt ★★★★☆
Affectionate is your dog, Bulky is a big bag of boxes, and Calamitous is saying no to the king; these definitions are uncontested, but there are squabbles in the palace over which food should stand for the word ‘delicious’ in the new dictionary. Thus a young messenger is sent to poll the kingdom. A fresh and delightful fairytale adventure that’s both funny and poetic without being sentimental. Highly recommended! (And for the record, I’d vote for “Delicious is hot apple pie with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.”)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee ★★★★★
The story of a white southern lawyer, Atticus Finch, defending a wrongfully accused black man, as told through the eyes of his precocious daughter, Scout. TKAM is a skillfully written book with a strong sense of place (“Somehow, it was hotter then. . . . Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum”), but the characters who ring true are the best part of the book, especially hot-headed, independent Scout, innocent in the ways of racial prejudice; and Atticus, her thoughtful and compassionate father.
Before I Burn by Gaute Heivoll (did not finish) – I picked up a cutely packaged book from my library for their Blind Date With a Book feature for Valentine’s Day, and ended up with this Norwegian mystery/crime novel. I’m afraid I quickly ditched the bookish blind date as there were other books in which I was much more interested.
What were your favourite reads this past month?