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Trixie Belden and the Mystery Off Glen Road by Julie Campbell

I am excited to share this walk down memory lane that I took thanks to the newmysterychallenge Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge that will be going on for the first half of this year at 5 Minutes for Books.  I randomly chose a Trixie Belden title off my shelf for this first challenge; I read many of the Trixie Belden titles as a teen, so I figured I was acquainted enough with the cast of characters to simply slip back into their world in upstate New York, and I was right.  Although twenty years or so have elapsed since I last cracked open one of these books, I picked right up as if I just left off yesterday.

The Mystery Off Glen Road is number five in the series, so it was apparently written by a real author, Julie Campbell, instead of the pseudonymous Kathryn Kenney, who was actually a team of writers from Western Publishing.  (All this according to the Trixie Belden Homepage.)  It would be interesting to read some of the later books to see if there are any differences in the writing style, etc.  I can’t imagine that the writing could be any less sophisticated, but I don’t know. 

As I mentioned in my introductory Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge post, although I read Nancy Drew, I always liked Trixie better.  This referesher course in all things Bob Whites has confirmed that sentiment–Trixie is a rough-and-tumble tomboy, but everyone loves her for it–even Jim Frayne, whom I realize now (‘though I can’t really remember thinking it way back then) that Trixie has a crush on.  I think the feelings are mutual, actually.  Isn’t it funny that I never really picked up on that as a teen?  I was naive.  😉

I think the funniest thing for me has been the dated words and expressions that the characters use.  “Gleeps!” is one of Trixie’s favorite exclamations.  I couldn’t help but think of Scooby-Doo each time I read one of these vintage slang terms–I could hear Velma or Daphne saying them in my head.  A large part of the plot of this particular mystery hinges on Brian Belden’s plan to buy an old jalopy for $50 from the owner of the general store.  Does anyone seriously refer to an old car as a jalopy any more?  The word is used so often in the story that I began to wish I were being paid $1 for each time I read it.  😉

The other thing I found amusing (and annoying) is the mode of exposition.  Carrie discusses this same issue in her Nancy Drew 1930 vs. Nancy Drew 1959 post, so it was obviously the style of such formula fiction.  Here’s a quick example of what I mean from The Mystery Off Glen Road.  Trixie reminds Honey that she and her brother Mart are “practically twins,” to which Honey replies, “That I do know.  In fact, you are twins for one whole month of the year, because your birthdays are exactly eleven months apart.”  Would two best friends actually ever have that conversation?  I think not.  It’s obvious to me that the author include that little exchange beause she knew she had readers “listening in” on the conversation.

Still, with all its shortcomings, I enjoyed the book.  I probably won’t revisit them again any time soon, but I like having the copies I have for posterity and for old time’s sake.  My copies actually belonged to my older cousin, and I enjoy seeing that fifty year old cousin’s signature on the flyleaves of these old hardbacks.  (Mine look nothing like the one pictured above, by the way.)

If you’re a fan, be sure to visit the Trixie Belden Homepage.  It contains all kinds of interesting facts and neat trivia!  Check out 5 Minutes for Books for more Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge posts, too.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I think I could just make one statement about this book and leave it at that, and my feelings about it would have been vented.    That one statement is WOW.  That wouldn’t make a very interesting post, though, would it?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is another book that certainly doesn’t need my praise.  (For some reason, I’ve been reading- -gulp!–best-sellers recently.)  This book is a fast-paced YA dystopian novel that, at least to me, seems a cut above what I expected.  Rather than bore you with yet another synopsis, I’ll simply refer you to Sherry’s review.  I read her review long before I had any real intention of reading the book.  I actually picked up the book for my Reading My Library self-challenge; I stalled out on C at the end of last year.  However, after going back to review Sherry’s thoughts, I must say that I had the same reaction to it as she did:  this story is “TV’s Survivor meets Shirley Jackson’s short story ‘The Lottery.'”  Throw in a lots of allusions to ancient Rome, and you’ve got a very engaging and suspenseful mixture.

The only complaint I really have about this book (possible spoiler alert!) is that I got a little weary of the romance therein, but I’m not exactly a member of the intended YA audience.  However, because of the romance, I can see how this book would have tremendous appeal to teen girls even though the genre it belongs to might not typically be as appealing to them as it is to boys.  (?)

Oh, I do have one more complaint:  the fact that this book has a cliffhanger ending AND the series isn’t finished yet.  Jennifer warned me about this (and so did Sherry, but I have a terrible memory), but I had already begun reading the book when this fact registered.  Let me just say that if you manage to get to the end of the first chapter, there’s no going back with this one.  I do so much better if I can read sequels and series books in quick succession.  Now this question remains: should I go ahead and read the sequel, Catching Fire, or wait until the fall when the third novel comes out?  I’m thinking these would be good ones to have on hand for the easy, mindless sort of reading I’ll likely need after the wee one arrives. . .

If you like YA fiction or exciting reads in the least, give this one a try.  I give it a Highly Recommended!

Mistress Pat by L.M. Montgomery

 

mis⋅tress

6. a women who is skilled in something, as an occupation or art.

According to the Random House Dictionary via Dictionary.com, this is one of many definitions of the word mistress.  Unfortunately, nowadays the word usually has a more nefarious connotation, but back in 1935 when this book was copyrighted, the idea that a woman could or should be mistress of her home was completely acceptable, even admirable.  It has been a great long while since I first read the Pat books, and certainly it was before I was mistress of my own home, but if I could sum this book up on just a phrase, this would be it:  a glorification of all things domestic.

Mistress Pat is the completely charming sequel to Pat of Silver Bush (linked to my review), and indeed, it literally picks up where the first book leaves off.  However, Mistress Pat just offers a little glimpse, a vignette, of the Silver Bush doings in the succeeding eleven years.  In these years, Pat traverses her joyful and at times painful twenties and watches literally everything about her life change.  She has and rejects scores of suitors, to the point that most of her neighbors consider her “on the shelf.”  Her one consolation in life, though, is that she still has her home, Silver Bush.  I don’t want to reveal the ending of the novel, but I will say that it ends satisfactorily.  I will also say that I shed more than one tear in this novel, and it really reminded me of one of the reasons I love Montgomery so much.  (I’m a sap–I’ll admit it.  Nevermind the fact that I am 19 weeks pregnant AND I had a raging headache when I read the sad bits.  As an old acquaintance of mine, an English teacher turned pastor, once said to me, “You just love a good catharsis.”) 

Now that all the sobbing is over, let me get back to my original premise–that this book is all about the delights and joys of homemaking.  You see, Pat is completely content to simply live in her childhood home and care for it, despite the fact that she has no husband and at times, no real prospects in sight.  I enjoyed reading this, and it made me (if only briefly 😉 ) think about mundane tasks a little differently.  Of course, based on Montgomery’s descriptive powers, who wouldn’t want to care for Silver Bush, but I digress. . .

It does seem just a trifle odd at times that Pat would give up the prospect of a life of love in her own home to simply keep looking after her childhood home, but of course, it all comes to rights at the end. 

L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeI’m so glad Carrie is hosting her L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge again.  It gives me a nudge to do something I probably otherwise wouldn’t find time to do:  pull out these delightful old “friends” and visit with them again.  Thanks, Carrie!

These are the books (linked to my reviews) I’ve read for this challenge, which I’ve now participated in for two years:

I think my walk with L.M. Montgomery is probably over, at least for the first part of this year.  However, I do have another Anne-ish post or two up my sleeve, if I can manage them.  Steady Eddie and I spent our honeymoon on P.E.I., after all, and I do have the pictures to prove it. . . 🙂

Stay tuned!

Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge

I don’t know what it is, but I just cannot get the new 5 Minutes for Books schedule to sink into my brain.  Granted, I should’ve known the second Tuesday of the month has always been the Children’s Classics challenge, and with the new year we just have a new genre stipulation added to the old challenge (for six months, anyway), but this one slipped by me.  Next month, Lord willing, I will be prepared!

Instead this month I’m going to make some plans.  I loved mysteries as a young teenager and beyond, and I’ve sort of fallen out of the habit of reading them.  I think part of the problem is that now that I’m an adult, I don’t want to read anything that might even have the remote potential to give me a nightmare or make me stay awake thinking, so I generally avoid them.  (That’s not to say I never read them; I just try to be very choosy.)  However, there are several authors from my youth that I’d like to revisit, and this challenge provides the perfect chance!

While other pre-teen girls were devouring Nancy Drew, I was devouring Trixie Belden.  That’s not to say I didn’t read Nancy; I did.  I just felt more kinship with Trixie, I think, because she didn’t seem nearly as perfect and put-together.  I also liked the gaggle of kids she was always with.  Their adventures in upstate New York always sounded like so much fun to me. I led a fairly boy-less existence until I was in college (and then, really, until I met my true love, Steady Eddie!), so the fact that Trixie and Honey were great chums with a bunch of boys was intriguing to me.  I have several Trixie Belden titles on my shelf, so I’m sure I’ll pull one of those and re-read it for old time’s sake.

Another series I hope to delve into through this challenge is The Boxcar Children mysteries by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Somehow I missed these books all together, although I do have a distinct memory of having a fifth grade teacher for the half of a year I was at one particular school who loved these books.  I’m curious about them, so I hope to satisfy that curiosity in the next few months.

The author I’m most excited about re-reading, though, is Phyllis A. Whitney.  With seventy-six books to her credit, Whitney is no stranger to most avid readers of suspense novels.  However, it might come as a surprise that she wrote some twenty juvenile mysteries.  If my memory serves me correctly, I don’t think I discovered her until I was out of high school and working as a public library aide, and while I definitely consider myself a late bloomer, these books didn’t seem too juvenile to me at the time.  I’m not even sure if any of these books are available at my local libraries, so I might have to do a little ILL-sleuthing myself (or PaperbackSwapping!) to find them.  I’m looking forward to it!

Next month, I plan to be prepared!  To read other, more prepared bloggers’ reviews, though, click over to the Children’s Classics Mystery Challenge at 5 Minutes for Books!

Comment Challenge 2010

Mother Reader is helping to host Comment Challenge 2010 again this year for the Kidlitosphere.  If you blog about or enjoy reading about children’s and young adult literature, you might want to join in.  Read more about it here.

Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery

You know, when it’s all said and done, I have a really hard picking which book of L.M. Montgomery’s I truly love best.  Every time I re-read one, I realize that the elements that I love most about, say, the Anne series itself are also present in the book I just read.  Pat of Silver Bush is no different.  In this book, we have an imaginative, loving, unique-if-plain (but she does grow better looking as she gets older, of course) little girl heroine who lives in a charming home with a loving family on Prince Edward Island.  As in the case of all Montgomery heroines (and please, if I’m forgetting one who doesn’t fit this pattern, remind me of who she is!), Pat has a surrogate mother.  Hers is her family’s housekeeper, Judy Plum.  Oh, Pat has a mother all right, and a perfectly acceptable one at that.  (This isn’t always the case in Montgomery’s books, you know.)  Pat’s mother is sickly, though, with some a malady which only becomes known at the end of the story, and despite the fact that she has work-worn hands (as described by Pat at one point in the story), we don’t see much of her around Silver Bush.  The situation reminds me of “Mrs. Doctor Dear” and her deference in most things domestic to Susan beginning (I believe) in Anne of the Island.  

 Judy Plum is my favorite character in the whole story.  In fact, she just might be one of my favorite characters of all of Montgomery’s.  I don’t know if it’s her Irish brogue, her superstitious nature, her ability to wring a story out of mere suggestion, or just her general spunk, but I like her a lot.  In fact, she has most of the memorable lines in the story.  Rather than regale you all with a plot summary, I’m simply going to share a few of my favorite Judy Plum quotes here:

On Aunt Hazel’s wedding day:

“Quane’s weather,” said Judy in a tone of satisfaction.  “I was a bit afraid last night we’d have rain, bekase there was a ring around the moon and it’s ilil-luck for the bride the rain falls on, niver to mintion all the mud and dirt tracked in.  Now I’ll just slip out and tell the sun to come up and thin I’ll polish off the heft av the milking afore yer dad gets down. . . ”

“Wouldn’t the sun come up if you didn’t tell it, Judy?”

“I’m taking no chances on a widding day, me jewel.”

 

“I’ll soon fatten up on your cooking, Judy.  Life tastes good today.”

“Sure and life do have a taste, don’t it, Patsy?  I’m only a poor ould maid as has worked out all her days for a living and yet I’m declaring life has a taste.  Sure and I smack my lips over it.”

The other thing I like about the Pat stories is that Pat isn’t beautiful and she isn’t extremely clever and she isn’t ambitious in the least.  She does have something that sets her apart, though.  Judy Plum sums the situation up best in this exchange with Pat:

“And I’m not even clever, Judy.  I can only love people. . . and things.”

“Oh, oh, ’tis a great gift that. . .and it’s not ivery one that has it, me jewel.”

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge
 I’m glad I chose Pat of Silver Bush as my first re-read for this year’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge.  I enjoyed this story so much that I’ve already begun its sequel, Mistress Pat.  

Go here to read my review of Jane of Lantern Hill from last year’s challenge.

Go here to read my review of The Blue Castle from last year’s challenge.

Top Ten Picks of 2009

Despite the fact that my reading slowed to a trickle at the end of 2009, I managed to read a total of 51 books.  (Why, oh why, didn’t I hurry up and finish just one more book?!?!?  One  a week would be a real record for me, but I guess this is close enough to count, right?)  Add to this number the seventeen or so chapter books I read aloud to my girls (not to mention the countless picture books we shared), and that boosts my total to nearly 70 books. I’m giving myself a hearty pat on the back over this, believe me.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 2009 reading , and that’s really what it’s about for me right now. 

I’m really not very good at picking favorites, but I’m going to try. Looking back at my Best of 2008 list, I’d say I was pretty much on target in terms of picking the books that were most memorable to me, so here goes:

thumb_change-heart-bookThe last half of this year has been fiction-heavy, so I was surprised to look back and realize that I read about sixteen nonfiction titles.  By far the one that stands out the most to me is Change Your Heart, Change Your Life by Dr. Gary Smalley.  I was charmed by Smalley’s informal, funny, touching presentation at a marriage conference Steady Eddie and I attended, and we promptly bought his book after hearing his testimony.  I’m sorry to say that I’ve fallen off the Bible memorization and meditation wagon through my months of holiday preparations and morning sickness, but I’m ready to turn over that proverbial new leaf for 2010 and make it a part of my life again.  I might just re-read this book to get me started.  It’s that good.

9781576831441Another nonfiction book that I found to be inspiring, encouraging, and convicting is Feeding Your Soul:  A Quiet Time Handbook by Jean Fleming.  (Can you tell by these first two choices that I’m in dire need of some discipline in my own spiritual life?  I am.)  I found this book immensely readable and pratical.  My review of this book is short, but really, this book is more about doing than thinking, so maybe that’s appropriate.
sacredparentingSacred Parenting is one of those books that bears re-reading, and it’s definitely one of the best I read in 2009.  However, I feel sort of like the person James describes in this passage concerning this book (and lots of other things):

23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once  forgets what he was like.  (James 1:23-24)

I saw so much of myself in Thomas’ book, but I’ve forgotten so much of what he said.  Sigh.  It’s good–anything by Thomas is.  I think I need to re-read this one. 

I suppose it’s appropriate that so many of my most memorable reads last year were “God Reads”–that’s exactly how I feel about A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.  I just can’t believe I’d had to book around for so long and hadn’t read it. 

Fiction-wise, I had a juvenile/young adult heavy year, which is perfectly okay by me.  Of all the adult books I read, though, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Some Wildflower in My Heart get top billing. This year I’d like to break out of my adult fiction rut of reading fiction by primarily one author.


It’s no secret that I love juvenile fiction, and young adult fiction comes in right behind it.  I feel like I’m always playing catch-up when I read about new books on other bloggers’ blogs because I rarely read any book when it’s brand new.  However, I did manage to read a few relatively new titles from these genres which this year which I loved.  The Mysterious  Benedict Society and Volume One of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing are two books I won’t soon forget and two books the sequels of which I really hope to read this year.  I also really enjoyed The Pirate’s Son by Geraldine McCaughrean.  This is the second book by McCaughrean I’ve read, and I look forward to spending more time with this talented and thought-provoking author.

I’m rounding out 2009’s top ten with a classic that I was surprised to enjoy so much, ‘though I don’t know why.  A Girl of the Limberlost is one of those books I’ve always known about, and I’m really glad that 2009 is the year I finally read it.  Old fashioned books really are the best sometimes, aren’t they?

That’s a lot of fine reading. 2009 was a great bookish year, and I’m looking forward to 2010 being the same! I hope to post a few bookish thoughts and plans for this new year in the next day or two, so stay tuned. 🙂

Friday’s Vintage Find:: The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin

I’ve been wanting to share for the past week about this little gem of a Christmas story I re-read last week, and I’m finally getting around to it.  🙂  First published in 1916, The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin is the sweet story of a how a hand-drawn Christmas card brings home two prodigal sons to their families.  Dick Larrabee is a local pastor’s son who could never live up to what his father’s parisioners thought he should be, so he left home to make his own way in the world.  Dick’s friend David Gilman followed Dick’s lead and ended up with the same reputation.  However, David “married in haste” but only had to “repent at leisure” long enough for his wife to give birth to twins and then die.  He promptly left town, leaving his babies under the care of his dutiful and loving half-sister, Letty.  This is a very short novel (more of a short story or novella, really), so I don’t want to give anything away.  If you like old fashioned stories with a little bit of romance, this is a cozy little story to curl up with and enjoy by the light of your fireplace (or your Christmas tree).  I think I first read this story as a an older teenager; I think it would be perfect for girls, especially, from about age twelve or thirteen and up.

I have to mention, too, that Kate Douglas Wiggin is the author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, a book I greatly enjoyed as a youngster.  I haven’t read it in a while, but I’d like to revisit it.  Wiggin also wrote The Bird’s Christmas Carol, a title I’ve heard before but never read.  Has anyone read it?  The short author biography at the back of my paperback copy of The Romance of a Christmas Card (which looks nothing like the book above, I’m sad to say) states that Wiggin “argued for wholesomeness, not hypocrisy, in fiction.”  For all its sweetness, I would say that this Christmas story passes the test, and I can only assume her others stories do, too.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reading My LibraryBack last month, Carrie of Reading to Know had the crazy brilliant idea to read every picture book in her public library and her new blog, Reading My Library, was born. This actually sounds like a lot of fun to me, but since I’m pretty sure that when it’s all said and done, I will have done that  eventually, though not in any organized way, I decided to give myself a similar challenge.  And so, I begin.

For my first pick, I chose Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793 from the YA shelf, section A.  I chose this book because I have never read anything by Anderson, although I am well aware of her fame in the angst-ridden, problematic world of YA fiction, particularly for her novel Speak (you can read a host of publishing-world reviews here and Semicolon’s review here).  I even brought Speak home from the library not too long ago and gave it a spot on my nightstand, but I just wasn’t in the mood for a trip into the alternate universe of YA novel high school then.  Maybe one day.

Fever 1793?  Ah, now that’s an entirely different story.  Historical fiction is my first love; it’s the genre I really fell in love with as a young adult myself.  I found this novel refreshing and optimistic, despite its YA designation.   (A side note:  I’m really not down on YA novels–I usually like them, in fact.  By their very nature, though, they do tend to be darker and more “realistic” than children’s literature.  I’m really surprised that my library has this one marked YA, though.)  It’s the story of Mattie Cook, the fourteen year old daughter of a coffee house owner in 1793 Philadelphia.  Mattie lives with her mother and her grandfather who moved in with them upon his father’s tragic and untimely death.  Mattie helps her mother run the coffee house, all the while dreaming of how she can escape her mundane life and travel to exciting places like Paris.  Mattie’s mother is sharp-tongued and rather bitter about her lot in life, but she loves Mattie.  Grandfather, on the other hand, dotes on Mattie, regaling her with stories of his time in Washington’s army.  He softens the verbal and emotional blows dealt her by her mother. All of their lives, of course, change unimaginably with the outbreak of Yellow Fever in the summer of 1793.  Mattie learns through a long, heart-wrenching series of events that she is more of a woman than a girl.  Fever 1793 is both a snapshot of life in Philadelphia in 1793 at the height of the Yellow Fever epidemic that killed approximately 10% of the population and a beautiful coming of age story. 

Fever 1793 reminds me of Karen Cushman’s novels in its ability to transport its reader into the historical place about which it is written.  (You can consider that statement a rousing recommendation of both this novel and Ms. Cushman’s.)  Readers interested in aspects of post-colonial (what would be the correct term here?) life as well as the role of Free Africans in this time period would find this novel interesting.

While I was formatting my Amazon Associates link for Fever 1793, I saw this book: An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793, a Newbery Honor book from 2004.  Has anyone read it?  It looks like it might make a great companion to Fever 1793.

Now, on to the Bs!  🙂

Sarah’s Wish by Jim Baumgardner

PhotobucketAs a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I had the opportunity to read the first book in the Sarah Books series, Sarah’s Wish by Jim BaumgardnerSarah’s Wish is the story of twelve year old Sarah Smith, who is orphaned in the first chapter of the book.  Set in Ohio in the years before the Civil War, Sarah’s Wish contains two plot strands:  one involving Sarah’s continuing of her parents’ involvement in the Underground Railroad and her wish, which is her ongoing prayer to God that she will become a part of a family once again.  This is a short novel of just over 120 pages, but it is very exciting.  Sarah learns that  she and her mother were not the only people in their small town of Wapakoneta involved in transporting runaway slaves to the next Underground Railroad station, and they become the target of some slave catchers who suspect their activity.  Meanwhile, Sarah goes to live with an elderly neighbor, Granny Evans, a feisty and self-sufficient woman who loves her.  Still, Sarah longs for a “real” family. I’ll stop there to avoid spoilers, but the story does end satisfactorily in a way that ties the two plot strands together.

I enjoyed Sarah’s Wish and would recommend it to anyone, child or adult, interested in this historical time period.  I found the story to be a little bit disjointed at times, but not so much so that I couldn’t follow it.  Granny Evans speaks in dialect almost exclusively, and I think this might be a little difficult for some children to read.  However, this could be remedied by using this book as a read-aloud.  In general, I just think this book could’ve used a little more editing.  However, its strength is in the characterization; Baumgardner very carefully and fully developed most of the characters so that it doesn’t take much reading to feel as if one has gotten to know them.

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Sarah’s Wish is the first book in the Sarah Books series.  One thing I really like about Sarah’s Wish (and I assume the other books in the series) is that the publisher, Tate Publishing, offers a free audio version of the novel(s) with a coupon code printed on a back flyleaf of the book(s).  The audiobook can be downloaded to an i-Pod, to a CD, or simply to a computer’s hard drive.  Jim Baumgardener also provided some homeschool discussion questions with this book, as well as a monthly newsletter called “Sarah’s Web.”  Although this book is a little “rough around the edges” (in terms of its needing a little polishing/editing), I am interested in reading the next two installments.  You can purchase Sarah’s Wish and the other Sarah Books through Jim Baumgardener’s website, as well as through Amazon and other outlets.  (The plus side of purchasing through the website is that you can request an autographed copy!)

Please visit TOS Homeschool Crew blog for more reviews of Sarah’s Wish

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This book was sent to me free of charge for review purposes.