Saturday, November 18, 2017

Not Now, Not Ever (Book Review and Giveaway)

Title: Not Now, Not Ever
Author: Lily Anderson
Publication: Wednesday Books/Macmillan, Hardcover, 2017
Genre: Young Adult

Interview: I am so pleased to interview Lily for Staircase Wit!
Q: I loved The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, and am eager to read your new book which I know is inspired by The Importance of Being Earnest, my all time favorite play. What inspired you to do retellings of classics?
A: I have always loved retellings—pretty much since the first time I read Jon Scieszka’s Stinky Cheese Man picture book when I was little. Even now, I read pretty much every fairy tale and classic literature retelling I come across. But I wasn’t finding retellings of the things that I loved—plays. I’m a lifelong theater geek. Certain plays—like Much Ado About Nothing and The Importance Of Being Earnest—have stuck around just as long, if not longer, than other stories being retold. Their themes still resonate with audiences all over the world, every day. It seemed silly to me that they weren’t being transformed into YA novels. And I waited and looked around before I decided to do it myself! 
Q: You seem to understand the ups and downs of teen friendship. Do you have any friends who have lasted since teendom?
LA: I actually have a lot of friends that I met when I was a teen! My group of closest friends all met doing youth theater together and we’ve stayed close ever since, which means that we have been through the highest highs and lowest lows between middle school and adulthood. Teen friendships can be hard because everything is SO INTENSE when you’re a teen, but finding the right group of people who won’t bail when things get hard is key. 

Q: What were your favorite books when you were a teen?
LA: Whew. Well, get ready for me to date myself because I was into some early aughts club bangers. I loved The Princess Diaries, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat books. I was super obsessed with The Outsiders (although I somehow never saw the movie?). And I was reading a lot of comics and manga—mostly Ranma ½, Kodocha, and anything from the X-Men universe.

Q: From your website, I can make some guesses about books you like to recommend as a librarian – are there any hidden gems you can share?
A: I’m an elementary school librarian, so I get kind of shouty about great middle grade novels. Everyone should be reading Anne Ursu, Grace Lin, Varian Johnson, Natalie Lloyd, Sheila Turnage, Kat Yeh, Megan Morrison, and Mac Barnett. 
Q:  Great, some new authors for me!  I also see you are a fan of Little Women (if you have never visited Orchard House, I volunteer to take you on a tour when you next visit Boston), have you read one of my favorites, The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton – also set in Concord?
LA: OMG, visiting Orchard House is literally my greatest dream. I’ve never been to Massachusetts—I actually only visited the East Coast for the first time this year when I went to New York Comic Con!—but I will get there and will totally take you up on that tour guide. I haven’t read The Diamond in the Window, but I will put it at the top of my TBR! I love old-school kids’ books.
Q: What do readers tell you is their favorite thing about your books?
LA: I usually get people repeating back their favorite jokes from the book, which I love because those are also my parts I like best, too. 

Thank you, Lily!   Keep me posted on your travel plans to Boston!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Plot: Elliot Gabaroche does not want to spend the summer at home in Sacramento or attend mock trail camp at UCLA. And she certainly isn't going to the Air Force summer program on her mother's base in Colorado Springs. What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she's going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?

My Impressions: This book is so new I don’t yet have a copy – can’t wait! You can buy it from Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Amazon, or at your favorite bookstore.

About the Author: Lily Anderson is an elementary school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California, far from her mortal enemy: the snow.

Please visit other stops on the Fantastic Flying Book Club tour:

November 14th

November 15th

the bookdragon - Review

November 16th

YAWednesdays - Guest Post
Amanda Gernentz Hanson - Review + Favourite Quotes

November 17th

BookCrushin - Guest Post
Book Munchies - Review + Favourite Quotes

November 18th

November 19th

We Live and Breathe Books - Review + Favourite Quotes

November 20th

The Mind of a Book Dragon - Review + Playlist

November 21st

Boricuan Bookworms - Review + Playlist

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Whispering Mountain (Book Review) #1968Club

The 1968 Club is a meme created by Simon from Stuck in a Book, who chose a literary year and has encouraged other bloggers to read up and post on books published that year.  Check out all the reviews here!  When I realized the other book I had chosen, Cousin Kate, had been reviewed by several people, I wanted to pick something not previously included, hence:
Title: The Whispering Mountain
Author: Joan Aiken
Publication:  Jonathan Cape, hardcover, 1968
Genre: Children’s fantasy/historical fiction/speculative fiction – part of the twelve book Wolves Chronicles that begins with the beloved The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

Plot: When Owen’s irascible grandfather, old Mr. Hughes, discovers the legendary golden Harp of Tiertu, he brings unwanted attention to the small Welsh village of Pennygaff. Everyone has a claim to the Harp, including the mysterious Seljuk of Rum, an obscure order of monks which has mostly moved to China, and the local lord of the manor. In fact, the Marquess of Malyn hires two rascals to seize it when old Mr. Hughes, who manages the Pennygaff museum, insists on researching the rightful owners. The thugs snatch both Harp and Owen, who is falsely accused of the theft. With the help of his friend Arabis, a young girl who is a talented herbalist, and his frenemies from the Jones Academy for the Sons of Gentlemen and Respectable Tradesmen, Owen seeks to clear his name and solve the prophecy of the Whispering Mountain, which concludes: “And the men of the glen avoid disaster / And the Harp of Tierto find her master.”

Audience: Children, fans of alternative history fiction or fantasy

My Impressions: This was a fun read, and would appeal to most fantasy readers. Owen is a quiet, bespectacled boy who is treated like an interloper, lives with an unappreciative relative, and is much braver than he seems at first (sound familiar?). Miserable in Pennygaff, he is too proud to burden his only friends, Arabis and her absent minded father Tom Dando, a poet, with his troubles, so he plans to set forth to seek his fortune, armed with nothing but his greatest treasure, a little book given to him by his father, “Arithmetic, Grammar, Botany & these Pleasing Sciences made Familiar to the Capacities of Youth."  Instead, he gets kidnapped, and that is when his adventures begin. The combination of the Welsh used by the characters (much of which can be guessed but I didn’t notice the glossary until I finished the book – I guess that proves I am not one of those read the last page first people) and the cant used by the two thieves might be off-putting to some but just takes a little getting used to. It is very reminiscent of the slang used in Black Hearts in Battersea, which is good training for Georgette Heyer!
Although I read and reread The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Black Hearts in Battersea, and Nightbirds on Nantucket repeatedly as a child, I have no recollection of The Whispering Mountain (maybe I didn't like that odd blue cover above - I remember that clearly), which is now considered a prequel to Wolves published in 1962 (her daughter Lizza has created a wonderful website with information Joan was probably too modest or too busy to share (plus, harder to do in a pre-web world), and is also working to keep all the books in print). I also read several collections of short stories and I remember the first book I ever put on reserve at the Newton library was the extremely scary Night Fall (back then you paid for a postcard which was sent when the book arrived).  
Joan Aiken with some of the NYC Betsy-Tacy Group
One of the big literary thrills of my life was meeting Joan Aiken in person when she did an event at Books of Wonder in 1998! I think I respectfully asked about her ruthless habit of killing off characters (I don’t recall to whom I was alluding although she does it somewhat gratuitously in The Whispering Mountain), and she told the audience at that event that she had planned for Dido Twite to drown (at the end of Black Hearts in Battersea) but an impassioned letter from a fan changed her mind and she is thus rescued at the beginning of Night Birds on Nantucket.

For those who don’t know – and I must admit it went over my head when I first begin reading these books at 8 or so – the Wolves books take place in an alternative 19th century in which the Stuarts had not been deposed by William and Mary. Instead, the Hanoverians are plotting to regain what they consider their rightful thrown. The Prince of Wales who appears in The Whispering Mountain is meant to be the son of James III. I have always intended to read the full series in order, so this is a good start, although I am surprised to find I am missing a few.

I am also a big fan of Joan Aiken's sister, Jane Aiken Hodge, who also wrote some wonderful historical fiction mostly set in the 19th century.  My favorite is Savannah Purchase.  She also wrote a fascinating book about Georgette Heyer.

Source: I own a paperback copy that shows Arabis riding a camel with her falcon, Hawc, perched on her head. Recommended.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cousin Kate (Book Review) #1968Club

What is the 1968 Club, you ask?  It is a year mostly remembered for tragedy.  Simon from Stuck in a Book chose a year, 1968, and has encouraged other bloggers to read up and post on books published that year for the #1968 Club.  This is a fun way to be exposed to a lot of interesting books, some of which I have heard of and some not.   The last time I participated it was 1951 and I reread All-of-A-Kind Family.
Title: Cousin Kate
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publication: Dutton Hardcover, 1968; my edition is a Bantam paperback
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency/Gothic

The first copy I read
Plot: Kate Malvern is the intrepid but impoverished daughter of a deceased military officer who left nothing but debts. Trying to make her living as a governess, Kate has been dismissed from her position after her employer’s brother made improper advances (as my Latin teacher used to say, there is nothing new under the sun, nihil novi sub sole). Kate is lucky that she has somewhere to go in a crisis – her old nurse Sarah, now married into a family that runs a London inn. Sarah is worried about Kate’s future so writes to the aunt Kate has never met, and soon Aunt Miranda, Lady Broome, has arrived, full of affection, and brings Kate home to Staplewood, where she lives with her husband, Sir Timothy, and son, Torquil. Kate tries to adjust to a life of luxury but begins to suspect something is not quite right about her new home. In the meantime, Sir Timothy’s attractive nephew Philip is suspicious of her motives in accepting Lady Broome’s hospitality and Kate’s banter with Philip distracts her from her worries about Staplewood. Yet soon Kate finds herself at the heart of a diabolical scheme, cut off from Sarah with only her own good sense to protect her.

Audience: Fans of the divine Georgette, regency lovers, gothic fans (however, she mostly disdained her fans - lucky for her she lived in an era where her publisher didn't urge her to go to romance conferences and bond with her readers)
Georgette Heyer
My Impressions: How I love a good orphan story! Kate is the perfect heroine: plucky, self reliant, loyal, full of humor, and attractive. As an unmarried young lady of good family, Kate has limited options which include the genteel occupations of governess or lady’s companion, or to be taken in as a drudge by distant family. While Sarah Nidd, her old nurse, is extremely fond of her, Sarah knows it is not suitable for Kate to live in a common inn. On paper, Kate is thus very fortunate to be rescued by her unknown Aunt Minerva. The mystery of the book is the secret of Staplewood, why Kate’s aunt is so eager to offer her a home, and whether Kate can withstand the forces working against her.
My Heyer shelves

“You were going to say that you wonder why she did invite me,” [Kate] supplied. “Torquil said the same, yesterday, and I wonder what you both mean. She invited me out of compassion, knowing me to be a destitute orphan – and I can never be sufficiently grateful to her!”

He stammered: “No, indeed! Just so! Shouldn’t think you could! Well, what I mean is – Did you say, destitute, ma’am?”

“Forced to earn my bread!” she declared dramatically. She saw that he was quite horrified, and gave a gurgle of laughter.

“You’re shamming it!” he accused her.

“I’m not, but you’ve no need to look aghast, I promise you! To be sure, I didn’t precisely enjoy being a governess, but there are many worse fates. Or so I’ve been told!”

Cousin Kate is Heyer’s one gothic novel but is not as well executed or as convincing as her more traditional regencies. I can understand why some dislike it because of its unrealistic portrayal of mental illness. Moreover, I think her books got weaker towards the end of her life and this was one of her last four books.

What makes the book appealing to me is the minor characters, beginning with the Nidds, a vivid cockney family devoted to Kate, from the irreverent grandfather to the inarticulate grandsons. Lady Broome is not a sympathetic or convincing character as she plots to use Kate for her fell purposes but if you can suspend disbelief a little, it is not impossible to understand her quandary – having devoted herself to her husband’s family it is heartbreaking to her that the line might not continue. Her elderly husband, Sir Timothy, is also interesting: he welcomes Kate to his home and becomes genuinely fond of her, and loves his nephew Philip. But he turns a blind eye to his own son’s unhappy situation and does not interfere in Lady Broome’s or the doctor’s treatment of Torquil. Kate and Philip (well suited in an understated romance) are very fond of Sir Timothy despite his flaws.

Source: I own nearly every book Georgette Heyer wrote, and happen to have several copies of Cousin Kate – the edition I am rereading (above right) has a particularly lurid cover; I like the Fawcett one better.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Jonica's Island (Book Review)

Title: Jonica’s Island
Illustrator: Corinne Malvern
Publication: Julian Messner, Hardcover, 1945
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction
Plot: Back in 1660 when New York was Nieuw Amsterdam, a struggling settlement on the edge of the wilderness, Evanthus and Hielke Van de Voort were raising a family of six boys. When 13 year old Jonica Kleiger’s ne’er do well father is banished from the village for repeated drunkenness, Jonica is threatened with the almshouse.  Gerrit, her only friend, tells his parents of her situation and they decide to take her as an indentured servant to help Hielke in the kitchen.  Grateful to be spared disgrace, Jonica vows to work her fingers to the bone for a family she has always admired. Slowly her sweet personality and work ethic win over everyone but the grumpy eldest brother but Jonica’s newfound happiness is threatened when her father returns and tries to blackmail her into robbing her benefactors.   
Jonica celebrates the feast day of St. Nicholas
Falsely accused, she is banished from Nieuw Amsterdam, forced to serve Willem and his unpleasant wife on their rural homestead, nearly 100 miles north of the Dutch settlement.  Months of hard work pass with no warmth and little conversation, and Jonica has only memories of handsome Gerrit’s kindness to keep her going.   However, when she learns the Van de Voort family is in jeopardy, this brave young woman jeopardizes her indenture by making her way back home on foot, determined to repay the debt although it means dodging Indian massacres, arson, thunderstorms, and other threats. Can she regain her place with the family she loves?

Audience: Originally intended for young adults, this is most suitable for ages 10-12, although Malvern has dedicated adult fans as well.
Gerrit finally declares his feelings for Jonica

My Impressions: I used to say that much of what I know about Judaism came from All of a Kind Family and Gladys Malvern, as she was well known for several historical novels based on biblical characters.  My favorite was Behold Your Queen, about Esther, which I am happy to say is currently in print, as is The Foreigner, which is about Ruth and Naomi – both with beautiful new covers.  Her other historical fiction is also charming, with several set in New Amsterdam, and others about Lafayette’s daughter, historic New England, and one called Rogues and Vagabonds about the first acting troupe to perform in the American colonies.   

Part of charm here is the vivid depiction of daily life among the Dutch and glimpses of famous, including Peter Stuyvesant.   Malvern manages to include many Dutch customs without being heavy handed, with the result that this is more of a historical than a romance.  Gerrit and his brothers come to love Jonica as a sister but the reader knows she will wind up with the thoughtful young man, and it happens hurriedly at the end.

About the Author: Gladys Malvern (1897-1962) was a beloved author of historical fiction, as well as a 20th century contemporary series I loved about Gloria Whitcomb, an aspiring ballerina, and several biographies.  Her mother worked in the theater, and Gladys and her younger sister Corinne performed together in Vaudeville for many years, traveling throughout the country.  The descriptions of Gloria’s travels with the ballet troupe in Prima Ballerina, by train from one chilly theater to another, are especially vivid and doubtless reflect Malvern’s own experience.  While it seems like a hard life, she does convey a sense of camaraderie among the dancers and staff.

In her 20s, Malvern settled in Los Angeles with her mother and Corinne, where Gladys worked in advertising and Corinne studied art.   Eventually (perhaps their mother died?) the sisters moved to New York and shared an apartment.   Gladys worked hard at her writing until her first book was published.   Her love of the theater shines through many of her books, and she and her sister remained enthusiasts their whole lives.  Some of her papers are part of the New York Public Library collection.
Jonica gets unexpected help

About the Illustrator: Younger sister Corinne grew up in the theater with her mother and sister but a railroad accident forced her into “retirement” at the tender age of ten.  She turned to her second love, art, and studied at boarding school and then the Art Students’ League in New York.  She worked in fashion advertising and pursued art at night until she was able to support herself.  Some of her most enduring art is seen in the illustrations of her sister’s books.

Source: This is one of the few Gladys Malverns I never read/found as a child, and it has been out of print for many years.  I was lucky to get this copy from the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore via Interlibrary Loan.   Some Gladys Malverns are back in print thanks to Susan Houston and Beebliome and I urge you to try one, but Jonica's Island is very elusive and exorbitantly priced when it turns up.

Images copyright to Julian Messner; unclear if Pearson now holds the rights

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Lois Lenski, Storycatcher (Book Review)

Title: Lois Lenski, Storycatcher
Author: Bobbie Malone
Publication: University of Oklahoma Press, hardcover, 2016
Genre: Biography/Children's Literature
Plot: Many 20th century children – including, surprisingly, Oprah – grew up with Lois Lenski (1893-1974) as author and illustrator, and as a writer she expanded the experience of American children by writing regional fiction which depicted the ordinary lives of children from diverse backgrounds throughout the country. In this goal, she was supported by her editors and also by children who read her books and wrote to her, inviting her to come visit their communities so they could share their stories. Lenski won the renowned Newbery Medal in 1946 for Strawberry Girl and probably should have won it for Indian Captive in 1942 (both Indian Captive and Little Town on the Prairie were runners up to The Matchlock Gun (seriously)).

Lenski was a minister’s daughter from Ohio, who pleased her parents by studying education at Ohio State but took as many art classes as possible, then moved to New York after graduation in 1915 for additional art training, against her father’s wishes. She juggled classes with freelance work for several years, meeting her eventual husband when he taught an evening class she enrolled in with several friends. However, her first really successful literary project took place during a year in London when she was invited to illustrate a book called The Green-Faced Toad. Her career took off after that and never stopped, always characterized by hard work and dedication until poor health slowed her down. Malone implies that the marriage was not successful but it continued until the death of Lenski's husband 14 years before her own.
As Lisa von Drasek (wife of my former Penguin colleague Paul) observes in a review for the Children's Literature Association Quarterly: Malone captures the times and places of Lenski's life, describing the fashions of the Roaring Twenties, the effects of the Great Depression on her marriage, and how the social movements of the 1950s and 1960s informed her series of regional books. Lenski's story is also one of American feminism, a strong current running through the decades of her life that includes her struggles as the financial support of her family. Malone judiciously quotes from Lenski's letters, journals, and memoirs as well as the words of her contemporary admirers and reviewers….

Audience: Fans of children’s literature, including Betsy-Tacy; those interested in illustrators and, of course, fans of Lois Lenski herself.

My Impressions: I enjoyed this carefully researched and somewhat intense biography about Lenski, and learned a lot about her dedication to her craft and commitment to children and diversity. She was way ahead of her time as this lack of diversity is still a problem in publishing although, I believe, is a situation perpetuated not only by publishers but by teachers, librarians, and parents. However, as a child I was oblivious to diversity (or lack thereof) in fiction, and I found Lois Lenski when I brought home Betsy-Tacy and Tib from the Boys and Girls Branch of the Newton Free Library. Later, my mother gave me Judy’s Journey one Christmas, which I think was the memorable book in which the heroine’s dresses are made out of used flour sacks. I read several of Lenski’s other books but never became more than a casual fan of her writing although love her illustrations.
Lois at work

Although Bobbie Malone is very passionate about her subject, she is a historian and does not seem very knowledgeable about children’s literature outside of Lenski (for example, referring to Pulitzer prizewinning Laura E. Richards as ‘Linda” – both Lenski and Maud Hart Lovelace almost certainly read Richards’ novels, Captain January and others, as well as her verse). I enjoyed reading about Malone and her country music historian husband’s explorations to various libraries throughout the US with Lenski papers and/or collected materials. Although she met with numerous of Lenski’s friends and families, Malone’s failure to devote significant space to Lenski’s illustrations of the first four Betsy-Tacy books is a big disappointment. Not only could it have enriched the book by adding a lively element to a fairly earnest work but it would have increased her potential sales as we Betsy-Tacy fans are good book buyers.
When Maud Hart Lovelace’s editor, Elizabeth Riley, attended the Betsy-Tacy Convention in 1997, we peppered her with questions. Meeting Miss Riley was a highlight of the convention, and I wish I had come with a long list of questions or tried to meet her later in New York before she died. Riley had created Thomas Y. Crowell’s children’s department which came to include not just Betsy-Tacy, but also the Beany Malone books, historical fiction by Elizabeth Hubbard Lansing, Ann Petry (author of Tituba of Salem Village, which I read in grade school), The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig (who worked in publicity at Crowell and later volunteered at the NYPL on West 53rd – I think I spoke to her there once without realizing), and many others.

I seem to recall that we asked more questions about Vera Neville, the other Betsy-Tacy illustrator, about whom less was known, but I remember Miss Riley telling us how Lois insisted on traveling to Mankato to see the places Maud so lovingly described and, for example, how she determined she was to reproduce the exact stove Maud remembered. Elizabeth said the two women were very close in age and had a lot in common, that Lois had a very strong work ethic, and was very busy, so not always available as an illustrator.

Source: After reading a review of this book, I requested that the Newton Public Library purchase it, which the Reference Supervisor did, also putting it on reserve for me. Recommended.

Illustrations copyright to various publishers.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The 13th is Magic! (Book Review)

Author: Joan Howard
Illustrator: Adrienne Adams
Publication: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., Hardcover, 1950
Genre: Juvenile Fantasy
Description: New York is a magic city where almost everything can happen - especially if you live on the 13th floor of an apartment building on Central Park West.  Now of course, as most people are superstitious there is no real 13th floor in hotels or apartment houses, and the one where Ronnie and Gillian live, although it is right about the 12th, is called the 14th.  It is not until the day they find the black cat Merlin that they discover the magical 13th floor where the hall wallpaper is a pattern of bats, owns and broomsticks, with borders made of old charms and incantations. In the various apartments on this floor live a remarkable group of characters that the children meet and then see more of in the adventures that follow on the 13th day of every month.

Like all New York children, Ronnie and Gillian play in Central Park, ride on the Staten Island ferry, and visit the fascinating shops near Broadway.  But not all children are lucky enough to have a little box of daylight savings time to open in a fog, and not all New York children can whistle up a snowstorm that falls only on Central Park while the rest of the city is bathed in dazzling sunlight, or ride with the Comet cleaners through the sky.

Their mother could not understand why such extraordinary things happened only to the Saunders children, and not to other families.

“Perhaps they do, my dear,” their father told her.  “Perhaps they do and the other people just aren’t telling.”

Audience: The dust jacket (from which the above description comes) says ages 6-10 but I love this book nearly as much as an adult as I did when I checked it out frequently from my elementary school library!

My Impressions:  As a little girl growing up in Boston, my knowledge of New York came from this book and The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, and From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and I never dreamed I would one day live there myself. From my home in the suburbs, I was intrigued by apartment living, a talking cat adopting two children, and the mysterious missing 13th floors.  Surprisingly, this reread revealed that Ronnie and Gillian’s apartment was on Central Park West which was actually one of my addresses (although my building was physically on West 97th, this is what is called a vanity address) although in my mind I had pictured their building on the Upper East Side.   I loved the adventures that took place on the 13th of each month and the quirky characters, especially Mr. Weatherbee, formerly of the Weather Bureau, and Mrs. Wallaby-Jones, whose tail reveals she is a kangaroo!  Of course, I especially liked the fact that a cat could bring magic to an ordinary family.  I might not live in a magic apartment building but I certainly had a cat!
As an adult, I have several times recommended this book for reprint to editors seeking hidden gems of the past.  It is very hard for the book's diehard fans to find an affordable copy - AbeBooks currently has one at $665!.   Adrienne Adams, the talented illustrator, also has admirers. Unfortunately, I am afraid a chapter involving the children’s Indian head pennies all turning into half-naked Indians who say, “Howgh!” would disqualify this book from reprint, which is a shame as it is otherwise very charming.  It was quite popular in its day, with at least 9 printings.  I wish that Joan Howard aka Patricia Gordon aka Patricia Prud'Hommeaux were still alive so she could tweak that chapter to make it acceptable to a 21st century audience. I did find some grandchildren. Maybe I will make another attempt.

By the way, "fascinating shops near Broadway"? Hardly. That is not the only dated reference in this book but the charm of the characters and setting outweigh these flaws.
Mrs. Wallaby-Jones joined the children in Central Park
Source: The John Ward School copy is long gone (I hope it is being cherished somewhere and was not tossed) but I was lucky enough to get the book from Eastern Connecticut State College via InterLibrary Loan.  I once read the sequel, The Summer is Magic, which is less known but nearly as hard to obtain.

Images copyright to Adrienne Adams/Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, Co.

Monday, October 2, 2017

13 Minutes (Book Review and Casting)

Title: 13 Minutes
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Publication: Flatiron Books, Hardcover, October 2017
Genre: YA suspense
Plot: Natasha doesn't remember how she ended up in the icy water that night, but she does know this - it wasn't an accident, and she wasn't suicidal. Her two closest friends are acting strangely, and Natasha turns to Becca, the best friend she dumped years before when she got popular, to help her figure out what happened.  Natasha's sure that her friends love her. But does that mean they didn't try to kill her?

13 Minutes is a young adult thriller from internationally bestselling author Sarah Pinborough.

Audience: Fans of Lauren Oliver and Gayle Forman

My Impressions: This is a deliberately paced psychological novel of suspense set among a group of spiteful teens that was a great introduction to a new (to me) author. Much of the story is told from Becca’s point of view: the friend who was dropped by Natasha, and although still bitter by the years-ago betrayal, is flattered when Natasha asks her to help find out how she came so close to dying. The two girls used to be good at chess – now they are playing a complicated game with a killer. The author introduces numerous red herrings, and the pace of the book picks up as Becca begins to guess what really happened. The police detective assigned to the case is fairly useless and (hello, conflict of interest!) starts dating someone who is involved in the case himself.

Unlike most of the books I have read in this genre, 13 Minutes is set in England. Unsurprisingly, mean girls are the same in every country but I was struck in this book how unpleasant every character is and it seemed as if they used much cruder language than American girls of that age.  Unlike American teens, they spend a lot of time on Facebook (which advanced the plot but may not be realistic), and they certainly don’t study much – math and art come into play more than any other subject, and after school drama. Although we have probably all been in the same situation – being dumped by someone we thought was a close friend, it is hard to like Becca. She is rude to her parents, cruel to her only friend, smokes and uses drugs, and not only dates the creepiest guy but also is desperate to keep him (cringe, cringe when they break up and she acts pathetic). I wished the author had made her more likeable. No one in this book knows the old saying that to have a friend you have to be a friend. Natasha, the Queen Bee, is the most interesting and developed character, but so mean the reader is tempted to wish one of the attempts on her life would be successful. An entertaining read with a dramatic ending.

Dream Casting: How would you cast the movie? I came up with some possibilities but you need to work with me a little to imagine them all the right age…

Natasha (as a brunette) - Nina Dobrev from Vampire Diaries
Becca – Aubrey Plaza from Parks & Recreation
Hayley - Dianna Agron from Glee
Jenny – Julianne Hough from Dancing with the Stars
Hannah – Liza Weil from Gilmore Girls and How to Get Away with Murder
Aiden – Cole Sprouse from Riverdale
Jamie McMahon – Scott Cohen from Gilmore Girls
Inspector Caitlin Bennett - Jennifer Anniston
Dr. Annabel Harvey – Laura Innes from ER

Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by the publisher and the Fantastic Flying Book Club for review purposes. Please visit the other stops on the tour at one of the links below to enter a contest to win an ARC (I could not make the rafflecopter work - my apologies):
September 27th
The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club & Pink Polka Dot Books - Welcome Post

September 28th
Confessions of a YA Reader - Review
Rurouni Jenni Reads - Review
Ginger Mom & the Kindle Quest - Review

September 29th
Smada's Book Smack - Review
everywhere and nowhere - Review
Tara's Book Addiction - Review
My Thoughts Literally- Review

September 30th
A Dream Within A Dream - Review
Here's to Happy Endings - Review
The Petite Book Blogger - Review

October 1st
Reading Wonderland - Review + Favourite Quotes
Never Too Many To Read - Review
Donnie Darko Girl - Review

October 2nd
The Bibliophile Confessions - Review + Favourite Quotes
Stephanie's Book Reviews - Review
Hauntedbybooks13 - Review

October 3rd
The Candid Cover - Review + Playlist + Dream Cast
Supercalireader - Review