Wednesday, August 31, 2016

10 Books by L.M. Montgomery You Should Read After Anne of Green Gables

If you're like most people I encounter (even most book people), you probably don't recognize the name L.M. Montgomery. At least until you hear that she wrote Anne of Green Gables and then a little light bulb goes off.

I have been a fan of Montgomery's works for basically my whole life. So much so that I wrote my Master's thesis on her Emily trilogy. And presented a paper at the academic conference held every other year on Prince Edward Island. And went to Green Gables TWO DAYS IN A ROW because I didn't get to see enough the first time.

And it always makes me sad that few people know this wonderful woman wrote so much more than just Anne. And, while I love Anne of Green Gables, it isn't even my favorite of her books.

So here you go. My list of the 10 Montgomery novels you might want to check out if you liked Anne... or even if you didn't! Montgomery has something for everyone!

1-3. The Emily trilogy.

After I just told you I wrote my thesis on this are you even a little surprised? And, yes. I know that it's three books, but Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily's Quest really form one narrative and, while you could read the first book alone, you can't get the full picture of Emily without reading the whole trilogy.
Emily has lived alone with her father after the death of her mother. He's encouraged her imagination and her desire to record her experiences in writing. When he dies, Emily goes to live with her two old maid aunts, where she finds a rich family history and inspiration in everything she does.  As she pursues her dream of becoming a writer she faces opposition from a family that doesn't understand her and finds encouragement in the unlikeliest of places. Emily is a writer, a dreamer, and a fierce and independent woman. While Montgomery fans are divided on their approval of the ending of the book, I have always been a fan of it. Emily is a heroine I can cheer for and I've always felt a kinship with her passion for houses and her love of reading and writing.

4. The Blue Castle

Talk to any Montgomery fan and it probably won't be long before this book comes up. And, if my recent experience at the conference is accurate, many would choose Barney as their favorite Montgomery man.
Valancy has spent her life under her mother's thumb. She's worn, eaten, said, worked, and practically even thought only what her mother approves of. But when she gets the news that she has a rare heart condition and will most likely die within a year, Valancy decides she's only going to do things that make her happy. She moves out of her mother's house and experiences joy for the first time. The most fairy-tale-esque of Montgomery's works, this romance makes me smile every time I read it.

5. Jane of Lantern Hill

This book will always hold a special place in my heart as I read it aloud to both of my sisters.
Jane lives with her sweet but sad mother and her domineering grandmother in an austere house in the middle of town. Everything Jane likes seems to be forbidden, from laughing to pets to her friendship with the housemaid next door. Then the letter arrives and Jane learns that her father isn't dead after all. He's alive and well and insisting that she come spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Jane is feisty, intelligent, and determined. She has a passion for life, but lacks much of the impulsive recklessness of Anne (for me, in a good way). She is loyal and loving and her story makes me laugh and cry.

6. Rilla of Ingleside

Technically this is the 8th book in the Anne series, but the narrative focuses on Anne's youngest daughter, Marilla "Rilla" Blythe. It stands alone quite well, so you don't have to read the rest of the Anne books to enjoy it.
Beginning just as the war does, the book follows Rilla and her brothers, sisters, and friends as they face the realities of war on the Canadian home front during World War I. The adults are by no means absent, (particularly Susan, the sarcastic housekeeper who keeps things running at Ingleside and is one of my favorite characters) but the focus is on the impact the war had on an entire generation of young people who went to war or watched their brothers and lovers go off to war and had to deal with the deprivations and uncertainty as they stayed behind. This book makes me tear up just by thinking of it. There are some truly beautiful story lines and some truly tragic ones. A lovely coming of age story juxtaposed against a horrific conflict.

7. A Tangled Web

I read this for the first time recently and absolutely fell in love with it.
When the matriarch of the Dark/Penhallow clan realizes she is dying she holds a grand clan meeting and announces that she has chosen someone to inherit the famous old Dark Jug. The only thing is that they all have to wait a full year after her death before they get to learn who that person is. Old and new rivalries, romances, and quarrels spin through the clan as they each try to be worthy of the jug. This novel, one of the only other ones Montgomery wrote for adults, weaves together so many threads of narrative that it would be easy for it to be overwhelming, but she handles them all with a deftness and a keen insight into human nature. A complex family saga with clever humor and not a little bit of biting realism, this book is one I will be returning to again and again.

8. The Story Girl

If you remember the tv show The Road to Avonlea, then you'll be familiar with some of the characters in this novel, as the series was based on this book. Unique in its execution - the only novel told not only in first person but also from a boy's perspective - the novel also has layers of narratives.
Beverley and Felix have come to stay with their uncle while their father travels on business. Part of the story is Beverley's memories of daily life with his cousins and friends as they work, play, and get into quite a bit of mischief. The rest of the story is made up of Sara Stanley's stories. The title character has a story for every occasion and a gift for telling those stories to their greatest potential. Beverley repeatedly notes that he can't capture the tone and expressions the Story Girl employs, but he is driven to try to capture them in print. Less a narrative than a collection of stories woven together in the lives of the group of children, there is a sweetness in the novel that always makes me smile.

9. Pat of Silver Bush

Pat feels different from many of Montgomery's novels for me. I have been trying to figure out why this is. I think it's partly because Pat has a whole, cohesive family unit - both parents still living and siblings. I think it's also partly because Pat lacks that imaginative streak and "book smart" intelligence that so defines many of Montgomery's heroines. Pat loves beauty and she loves Silver Bush and all it contains with a passion that rivals most romance novel plots.
The book has less of a plot than many Montgomery novels, but it captures the intense love and trials of a child who is so happy they can't bear change, even if the change might bring something good. There's a little bit of Pat inside me and I can't help but love her and her story. Also, Jingle may be my favorite boy out of the lot.

10. The Alpine Path

This was originally written as a series of autobiographical essays printed in a magazine. Montgomery reconstructed her life and career based on her journals and letters. Since Montgomery is known to have rewritten her journals and reconstructed her perspective on situations or events, this is an interesting look into Montgomery's perception of herself and the picture she wanted to present to the public. A short but interesting look into the author for anyone who likes autobiographies or is curious to learn a little bit more about Montgomery.

Did I miss one of your favorites? Decide to read one of these based on my review? I'd love to hear about it! Leave a comment!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Olympic Book Tag

I stumbled across a post by the blogger Miss Print today that featured an Olympic themed book tag and it just looked so much fun I had to join in. You can see Miss Print's list here and hop over to the post by Shannon over at It Starts at Midnight who graciously offered up her graphics for anyone joining her book tag.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
From its famous first line this is one of those books that just hooked me from the very beginning and completely swept me away into the world and story L'Engle had created. I feel like I know Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin and I just want to go on adventures with them.
Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
When Ginny's aunt dies, she leaves her 13 envelopes with instructions that set Ginny off on an adventure around the world. Not only is this a fun read, but I also read it for the first time as I was riding a bus through the Italian countryside, so it has special memories tied up in it as well.
Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
At first I didn't think I liked this love triangle, but as more things are revealed about the characters the more I was torn. Serle definitely does a good job of keeping your interest and ratcheting up the drama.
NaomiRuth loved this book. I ... I just didn't quite get it.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Technically this book starts in the winter, beginning in January of 1946, but the most significant part of the story takes place over the summer, so I'm counting it. Also, I'm in the middle of yet another re-read of this book and I will take every opportunity I can to share my adoration of this book. I have recommended this to so many people and have never had a single person dislike it. Read it. Right now.
Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
I mean, a book about a family of assassins? Of course there is a lot of fighting and death. Lea is one of my favorite heroines in books I've read this year. I loved the worldbuilding and the character development throughout the novel. So good.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Maybe this is an obvious choice, but I mainly picked this book up because of all the hype. It's not in my normal wheelhouse. I got it on audio so it wouldn't take up reading time. I'm still sort of eh about the book as a whole, but the twist half way through was so shocking to me that I still remember exactly where I was driving when it happened, so it wins this category for me.
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
This category had a LOT of contenders as I tend to get very emotionally invested in books. But this one kept coming to mind, so it wins this category. I adore this entire series and you have to read them in order! This is the most perfect ending to the series. I want the Penderwicks to live next door to me.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Don't get me wrong, I love these books. But it moves. so. slowly. Especially in the beginning.
The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Princess Amy is given the gift of Ordinariness at her christening and her life quickly deviates from the proper path of a seventh princess. But as she makes her own decisions and grows as an individual she just might find her happily ever after anyway. This fairy tale is both expected and unexpected at the same time. It's so wonderful.
This series of wordless graphic novels is the sweetest. I love every single thing about it. It's kid friendly, but is sophisticated enough to enthrall adults.
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
This was long and intricate and just lost me. I had such a hard time finishing it. In fact, I'm pretty sure the only reason I did was because I was listening to it on audio. If I had been reading it in print I would most likely have either put off finishing it indefinitely or just given up on it.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This series not only has lovely romantic relationships, but it is chock full of amazing friendships as well. My favorite is probably between Cinder and Iko.
I have to pass on this bonus category because, apparently, I don't read any books that contain any kind of Olympic sports. Or at least I haven't in recent memory.

This was a lot of fun! I'd love to hear some of your choices for any of these categories. Leave them in the comments or link us over to your blog if you decide to join in!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What I'm Reading Now: August Edition

I hope you've been getting some summer reading in, whether by the pool or curled up in an air-conditioned room. I've been back in the reading groove and here's what I've got going on right now.

On my Nook: I have been working through Andrew Lang's collected Fairy Books and I'm on the twelfth and final one - The Lilac Fairy Book. These have provided a lot of fun and some ideas for novels, as well. The further I got into the series, the less familiar the stories became and the wider the cultural spread, though I do have to wonder how much was changed when they were translated and "adapted" for children. An excellent place to start, though, if you want to spread your fairy tale wings.

On my Phone: Still chugging along in Don Quixote - got past the familiar parts and realized I haven't, in fact, read this before. Enjoying it when I have a few minutes to read here and there.

In Print - Fiction: I just started Fairest by Marissa Meyer. Now getting into the part of the series I hadn't read before and loving every minute of it. I'm particularly curious to see Levana's back story, because I have a feeling there are going to be some big surprises there. The Lunar Chronicles is an excellently told and crafted YA fairy tale retelling and I highly recommend them.

In Print - Non-Fiction: Also just started All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg. I'm already intrigued and I'm only a chapter in. I really enjoy memoirs and biographies.

On Audio in my car: The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan is the final book in the Kane Chronicles trilogy and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. It's a fun series and a fun take on Egyptian mythology. And, as I mentioned before, the narrators totally sell the story through their narration.

On TV: I just binge watched the entire first season (all 8 episodes of it) of the new Stranger Things on Netflix. Loved it. I was trying to describe it to NaomiRuth, who I knew would also enjoy it, and it's basically X-Files meets Pretender meets Super 8 with some Lost sensibilities. It's dark and fun and creepy and mysterious and most of the main cast are middle schoolers.

So what are you reading or watching? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Little Lit: Albert of Adelaide by Howard Anderson

Albert is a platypus who has escaped from the Adelaide zoo and set out on a quest to try to find others of his kind. He has a vague memory of a beautiful place where he once lived with his mother. Armed only with that knowledge and a stolen soft drink bottle filled with water, he sets out into the Australian outback to find home. Along the way he runs into a wild cast of characters including a wombat who likes to burn down buildings, a pair of bandicoots who can't seem to survive without a drink, kangaroos, dingoes, and the mysterious Muldoon. As he stumbles from one mishap into the next, Albert learns more about himself and the world around him and has to figure out who he can trust to help him on his journey.

What I Liked:

  • This is one of the most unique books I've read. It's a western and a hero's quest and a coming of age and a fantasy all rolled up into one book.
  • Albert's character development was well done. He's naive and confused and fairly timid at the beginning and he grows, but doesn't change so much that he's unrecognizable at the end - a feat that was actually fairly difficult to pull off considering the things that happen to and around him through the course of the narrative.
  • The secondary characters are enjoyable and very distinctive.
What I Would Have Liked:
  • I would have liked just a bit more character development with the secondary characters. They're unique, but sometimes I felt like they were just a bit flat - like their quirks were their main substance. Not all the time, but at times.
  • I understood the purpose of leaving the ending open the way it was, but I felt vaguely dissatisfied by it. I didn't get the closure I was hoping for, I guess.
  • An enjoyable and very different read for fans of westerns or slightly dark fiction.
  • The animal protagonists do not in any way make this a comic or light read, but allow Anderson to explore the ideas of friendship, home, and growth in a very unique way.
  • I know I keep using the word unique, but it's the best descriptor I have!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What I'm Reading Now: July Edition

This summer has been an absolutely crazy one for me, so I haven't had much time for reading, but here's a look at the books I'm crawling through right now.

On my Nook: I just started rereading Cinder by Marissa Meyer. I've read the first 3 books in the series before, but I want to finish it and it's been long enough that I really felt like I needed a refresher before I read Fairest and Winter. I love this series so much, so I'm really excited to read the first 3 again and then attack the rest of the series.

On my phone: I've made it a few more pages into Don Quixote. I'm so familiar with many of the story events that I can't remember if I've just read excerpts/heard plot points or if I've actually read the whole thing before. I'm leaning toward the former, but we'll see how familiar it stays as I continue through the story.

In print - fiction: I made it through almost all of L.M. Montgomery's novels before the conference, and I'm determined to finish them off. I'm about a third of the way through Pat of Silver Bush. It's been so long since I read it that I don't remember anything at all about it, so it's like reading it for the first time all over again! It's definitely a very different novel from most of Montgomery's others.
In print - non-fiction: Still reading All Cracked Up by Patsy Clairmont. I love her and her style, but I have not been in the mood for non-fiction lately. I read a bit here and there and have made it about half way through, but I've been saving my reading time for other things.

On audio in my car: Having worked through A Series of Unfortunate Events and Harry Potter I was looking for another "kids" series to listen to. I really enjoyed the audio version of Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles so I started those on my drive to Prince Edward Island. Now I'm almost done with The Throne of Fire, the second book in the trilogy. The narrators do a really good job of bringing the story to life.

On TV: I'm going back and forth between Leverage and Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix. But the show I'm absolutely loving right now is So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation currently airing on Fox.
I've been a fan of SYTYCD for years now and this new twist has been so interesting. The kids are incredibly talented and I cry at least 3 times during each episode. I do wish there had been a way for them to do both a regular and a kids' version of the show rather than switching from one to the other. But if you're looking for a great dancing competition with talent that will blow you away every week, I highly recommend it. The first live show was Monday and it looks like Fox has a few episodes available for streaming on their website if you want to catch up a little. If you've watched the show before, the kids are paired with all-stars from earlier seasons so you get to see some of your favorites dance and mentor the next generation, which is all kinds of cool and warm and fuzzy.

What are you reading or watching?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

TLC Blog Tour: The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro

A witty and winning new voice comes alive in this infectious road-trip adventure with a rock-and-roll twist. Shapiro’s debut blends the emotional nuance of Elena Ferrante with the potent nostalgia of High Fidelity, in a story of two women—one rich and alluring, the other just another planet in her dazzling orbit—and their fervid and troubled friendship.From the distance of a few yards, there might be nothing distinctive about Lee Parrish, nothing you could put your finger on, and yet, if she were to walk into a room, you would notice her. And if you were with her, I’d always thought, you could walk into any room.For quiet, cautious, and restless college freshman Vivian Feld, real life begins the day she moves in with the enigmatic Lee Parrish—daughter of died-too-young troubadour Jesse Parrish and model-turned-fashion designer Linda West—and her audiophile roommate Andy Elliott.When a one-night stand fractures Lee and Andy’s intimate rapport, Lee turns to Viv, inviting her into her glamorous fly-by-night world: an intoxicating mix of Hollywood directors, ambitious artists, and first-class everything. It is the beginning of a friendship that will inexorably shape both women as they embark on the rocky road to adulthood.More than a decade later, Viv is married to Andy and hasn’t heard from Lee in three years. Suddenly Lee reappears, begging for a favor: she wants Viv to help her find the lost album Jesse was recording before his death. Holding on to a life-altering secret and ambivalent about her path, Viv allows herself to be pulled into Lee’s world once again. But the chance to rekindle the magic and mystery of their youth might come with a painful lesson: while the sun dazzles us with its warmth and brilliance, it may also blind us from seeing what we really need.What begins as a familiar story of two girls falling under each other’s spell evolves into an evocative, and at times irrepressibly funny, study of female friendship in all its glorious intensity and heartbreaking complexity.
The Sun in Your Eyes is a brilliant mash-up of road-trip story, mystery and social commentary.

This book reminded me a lot of one of my all-time favorite novels, Summer Sisters by Judy Blume which also spanned decades of a female friendship in all its greatness and the sorrow when it falls apart.  I loved that this book also had this extra layer that gave you a lot to think about fame.  Lee's dad was a famous musician but since he died when she was so young, she barely got to know him yet millions fans believed they knew him and felt they even loved him.  Of course they didn't really know him but who hasn't felt a sense of love and kinship toward a celebrity?  I had my suspicions as to the mystery surrounding Jesse's car crash but it was a great ride exploring it with Lee and Viv.

Pick up The Sun in Your Eyes, at your favorite local bookstore or online book retailer.

Visit the rest of the stops on the blog tour for additional reviews and information about The Sun in Your Eyes.