Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Review: Let It Snow

Let it Snow: three holiday romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
4 stars

Reasons for reading: it's Christmas!; three of my favourite YA authors; Winter-themed book for the Four Month Challenge

Synopsis/review from Kirkus Reviews: "Three top authors of teen fiction join forces for a collection of linked novellas set in the same small town in North Carolina on Christmas Eve. During the worst blizzard in 50 years, a packed train gets stuck in the snow, and teens from the train interact with teens from the town in ways both hilarious and romantic. In Johnson's "The Jubilee Express," a 16-year-old passenger named Jubilee meets Stuart, who takes her home to his family and convinces her that she needs a better boyfriend than the one she left at home. Green's offering is "A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle," narrated by Tobin, who struggles with his buddies through the snow so they can meet 14 stranded cheerleaders. Myracle contributes "The Patron Saint of Pigs," about a local girl named Addie who has just broken up with her boyfriend. The conclusion ties up the plot strands from all three stories, with all the main characters enjoying coffee at Starbucks on Christmas night."

My thoughts: This was a great holiday read!! I loved that the stories were interconnected. Each one was definitely in the author's usual style, and I like all of their styles. I'd just finished Paper Towns by John Green, so it was neat to read a light romance by him so soon afterwards. He still has his great group dynamics and one-liners. I think Maureen Johnson is incredibly funny and cool and her story about Jubliee and her parents' obsession with the Flobie Christmas Village was a hoot. Lauren Myracle had her usual girl who learns not to be so self-centered while trying to remember to pick up a teacup piglet for her best friend. And then it all comes together in a crazy wind-up at Starbucks.

The verdict: Lots of romance and laughs, perfect reading for the holidays.

Another verdict: Raidergirl liked it, too!

FAIL - Fall Into Reading Challenge

Alas, I'm one book short on this challenge, I couldn't get Hunger Games from the library in time. Oh well, I'll try again next year!

1. Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
2. The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells
3. Hunger Games
4. Addled by JoeAnn Hart

Review: Paper Towns

Paper Towns of John Green
4.25 stars

Reasons for reading: Really enjoyed his Looking for Alaska; last book for the YA Challenge

Synopsis: "Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life - dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues - and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew."

First line: "The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle."

My thoughts: The way John Green writes is just so cool. I love his dialogue, his characters, and his humour. Q's interactions with his buddies Radar (who edits the "Omnictionary" website compulsively) and Ben (who tends to speak in capital letters and whose conviction that he is God's gifts to the "honeybunnies" of the world has yet to be proven) are hilarious. The discussions of Radar's parents' "world's largest collection of black Santas" alone is worth the price of admission.

The all-nighter at the beginning of the book is a great look at Margo's bold outlook on life and Q's timid (but trying to be braver) one. It's quite light-hearted, but there are some really dark times after she goes missing (and, I have to say, Q's search took a bit longer than I'd have liked). At one point I thought it was going to be like Looking for Alaska - boy in unrequited love with a charismatic but suicidal girl. But I should've trusted Green, he doesn't write the same book twice.

After the dark middle, the book ends with another light-hearted all-nighter, this time a road trip with Q, his buddies, and their girlfriends to find Margo. The peeing in bottles, the road-trip food, the camaraderie - it's excellent.

There's even a cool educational, well-researched element - did you know there's actually such a thing as a paper town? You'll find out all about them in this book.

At the heart of the book are questions of how well we really know people and ourselves. Are we all connected? Do we only see parts of people? How well do we know, and even really like, our best friends? Do we need to leave what we're familiar with to grow or can we stay where our roots are?

The verdict: Another winner from Green. It's no wonder he's a Printz Award winner.

Also reviewed at Care's Online Book Club.

YA Challenge Wrap-up

And another one! Woo, I'm getting these all done just in the nick of time before I head off on vacation. This is such a great challenge because I love YA lit - I'm already looking forward to next year's, yay!

1. Jars of Glass by Heather Hepler and Brad Barkley
2. Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber
3. Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
4. Suck It Up by Brian Meehl
5. Masquerade: a Blue Bloods novel by Melissa de la Cruz
6. Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison
7. Envy: a Luxe novel by Anna Godbersen
8. Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby
9. Paper Towns by John Green
10. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
11. Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gerhman
12. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Seconds Challenge Wrap-Up

Hooray, I did it! This was a great challenge because I'd read so many great first books last year and this gave the even more incentive to continue with their authors! Thanks to the amazing J. Kaye for hosting it!

Here's my final list:
1. Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson
2. Murder with Puffins by Donna Andrews

3. Three Can Keep a Secret by Judy Clemens
4. Grounds for Murder by Sandra Balzo
5. Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
6. Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
7. The Dead and the Gone by Mary Beth Pfeffer
8. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
9. Betrayed by PC Cast
10. Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins
11. The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
12. Plantation by Dorothea Benton Frank

Review: Throne of Jade

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik (Temeraire, book 2)
4.5 stars

Reasons for reading: Loved the first book; Seconds Challenge (though slightly cheaty as I'd planned to read a different book, but this is still a second!)

Synopsis: "When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo–an unhatched dragon’s egg–Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.

Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands–and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East–a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await."

First line: "The day was unseasonably warm for November, but in some misguided deference to the Chinese embassy, the fire in the Admiralty had been heaped excessively high and Laurence was standing directly before it."

My thoughts: Another late review, oops! But this was a great sequel to His Majesty's Dragon. It was really interesting to see the interactions between the Chinese and British groups. I felt sad for Temeraire when he discovered how well dragons are treated in Asia as opposed to their near-servant status in Britain. Laurence is his usual stand-up self, his main concern being Temeraire, even when it means standing up to his own government. There's international intrigue aplenty as the Chinese seem to be trying to get Temeraire back, perhaps even at the cost of Laurence's life. I couldn't imagine how things were going to work out, but I knew they had to because there are (thankfully) more books! The way around the difficulties was rather a cunning solution, which was satisfying.

The verdict: I can't wait to read the rest of this series!

Review: His Majesty's Dragon

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (Temeraire, book 1)
5 stars

Reasons for reading: Husband highly recommended the series; Owlmoose chose it for Herding Cats

Synopsis: "Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire."

My thoughts: Gosh, this review is late! I read this one back in the summer. But I loved it - both Husband and Owlmoose were right. It's such a cool concept - that dragons were used basically as airplanes. Temeraire is an amazing character - wise, innocent, petulant, brave, loving.... And Laurence is the perfect stoic British sailor. Their bond is a wonderful thing to witness. It's really interesting to see how the dragons and their captains are treated rather like second-class citizens in the armed forces - people are still pretty afraid of dragons and the people (some dragons will only take female captains, incredibly shocking in 19th century England) who ride them are thought of as odd ducks.

The verdict: High-flying adventures abound in this tale of a man and his dragon!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Review: Beautiful People

Beautiful People by Wendy Holden
4 stars

Reasons for reading: Wendy Holden is fab; I'm using her for my last Celebrate the Author of the year, although Wikipedia now can't decide if her birthday is is in December or June, 1965. So, if I'm wrong, sorry, but she's still worth celebrating!

Description: "Struggling actress Darcy’s doing avant-garde Shakespeare (all-naked King Lear, anyone?) when The Call comes from LA. An Oscar-tastic director. A movie to make her famous. The hunkiest co-star in Hollywood. So why hesitate?

Belle’s a size-zero film star, but she’s in big fat trouble. Hotter than the earth’s core a year ago, she now Tinseltown toast after her last film flopped. She'll do anything, anywhere, to get back to the big time.

Sam’s a model agent hunting for the Next Big Thing. When she finds it on a London street she almost faints with greed. Is this face perfect? Yes. Does it want to be a model? No. But Sam’s not giving up that easily. She’s not giving up at all.

Nanny Emma needs a new job. Unfairly sacked by the posh boss from hell, she’s desperate. When she's offered the charge of a celebrity baby, it seems all her dreams have come true. But are her nightmares just about to begin?"

My thoughts: Another fun one from Wendy Holden. You always get what you expect with her - funny, fluffy, sexy, with spot-on, scathing bits (2 characters have names based on words for "cockroach" and the worst of the twitty, bitchy nannies is called Totty Ponsonby-Pratt).

The highlights included the naked King Lear, an Italian chef who adores food and women who adore food, a macaroon-loving grandmother (interestingly to me, anyway, I'd never actually seen a pretty, delicate, pastel French macaroon until yesterday!), and some adorable children.

The verdict: A fun read. Everyone, both good and bad, gets either who or what they deserve - hurrah!

What's in a Name? Challenge Wrap-Up

Hooray, another challenge done! I like this one, it's fun to find books to fit the categories. Thanks to Annie for hosting it for the last 2 years!

Here are my books:

1. Medical condition: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
2. Body part: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
3. Building: The Beach House by Jane Green
4. Profession: The Chili Queen by Sandra Dallas
5. Time of Day: Last Night at the Lobster by Stuart O'Nan
6. Relative: The Almost Archer Sisters by Lisa Gabriele

I enjoyed all of the books - I think Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac edges out City of Bones by a tad for spot #1 because I liked the amnesia angle and it was a bit of a "tighter" book. My least favourite was Last Night at the Lobster, mainly because it was more of a novella than a novel. But there weren't any books I didn't at least enjoy an average amount, so hooray!

Now I have to get working on my sign-up post for What's in a Name #3, starting next year!

Review: The Dead and the Gone

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
4 stars

Reasons for reading: I was riveted by Pfeffer's first book; Seconds Challenge

From the publisher: "Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life as We Knew It enthralled and devastated readers with its brutal but hopeful look at an apocalyptic event—an asteroid hitting the moon, setting off a tailspin of horrific climate changes. Now this harrowing companion novel examines the same events as they unfold in New York City, revealed through the eyes of seventeen-year-old Puerto Rican Alex Morales. When Alex's parents disappear in the aftermath of tidal waves, he must care for his two younger sisters, even as Manhattan becomes a deadly wasteland, and food and aid dwindle. With haunting themes of family, faith, personal change, and courage, this powerful new novel explores how a young man takes on unimaginable responsibilities."

First line: "At the moment when life as he had known it changed forever, Alex Morales was behind the counter at Joey's Pizza, slicing a spinach pesto pie into eight roughly equal pieces."

My thoughts: This book was an interesting companion to Life As We Knew It (note the echo in the first line) because it was about a girl in a fairly rural area who still had her mother with her. Alex lives in New York City and suddenly becomes the only parental figure to his younger sisters. LAWNI was also told from Miranda's first-person perspective in her diary, while this book is in third person.

I didn't find that this book had quite the atmosphere of the first book - I remember really feeling the presence of the looming moon in the first book. Perhaps in the city it wouldn't make as much of an impression, or perhaps Pfeffer felt she'd already done that. The realities of city life during a disaster were pretty well-drawn - death and rats and danger, though I think Alex managed to look after the girls well enough that they didn't experience the full horror.

Faith plays a central role in the book, which isn't something that comes up in most of the YA novels I've read. Alex's sister Briana is so devout she's almost a nun already, while Alex struggles with his faith when confronted with the horrors of the disaster. Even under horrible conditions, the daily acts of prayer and attending church play a large part in the Morales siblings' lives.

The book ends with a tiny spark of hope, but overall I'd say it's even bleaker than the first one.

The verdict: Another good survival/disaster story from Pfeffer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
3.75 stars

Reasons for reading: I've been meaning to since it came out; Medical Condition book for the What's in a Name Challenge

From the jacket flap:

"If Naomi had picked tails, she would have won the coin toss.
She wouldn’t have had to go back for the yearbook camera, and she wouldn’t have hit her head on the steps.
She wouldn’t have woken up in an ambulance with amnesia.
She certainly would have remembered her boyfriend, Ace. She might even have remembered why she fell in love with him in the first place.
She would understand why her best friend, Will, keeps calling her “Chief.” She’d get all his inside jokes, and maybe he wouldn’t be so frustrated with her for forgetting things she can’t possibly remember.
She’d know about her mom’s new family.
She’d know about her dad’s fiancĂ©e.
She wouldn’t have to spend her junior year relearning all the French she supposedly knew already.
She never would have met James, the boy with the questionable past and the even fuzzier future, who tells her he once wanted to kiss her.
She wouldn’t have wanted to kiss him back.
But Naomi picked heads."

First lines: "Above all, mine is a love story. And like most love stories, this one involves chance, gravity, a dash of head trauma."

My thoughts: This was a really interesting, enjoyable book. Amnesia can be such a soap-opera cliche, but I thought Zevin handled it well. After falling down a flight of stairs, Naomi can't remember a thing from the past 4 years. I found it to be a fascinating concept - if you didn't know anything about your current life, would you still think it was worthwhile? Would you still like your friends and hobbies? Would you like yourself? I think I'd still be okay, but maybe not. Naomi has lost 4 very important years - from 12 to 16, so she's basically an entirely different person than the one she remembers.

It's also interesting the way people react to her amnesia. Will is a wonderful friend, making her CDs and DVDs and writing to her to try and jog her memory (and, contrary to the blurb, patiently reminding her of things). Her dad tries to help by making rather useless lists of what she can't remember, but overall he does a pretty good job of trying to help her through an impossible situation. Her dumb jock boyfriend, Ace, asks if she remembers something and then rambles on about it, even when she says no. And, of course, he wants them to start having sex again, which in Naomi's mind she's never done before. Her mean girl "friends" use her weakness to get even meaner. But since she's a blank slate, Naomi's willing to get to know new people and try new things, which is very good for her.

Then there's beautiful, tortured James. Rather like a duckling bonding with the first creature it sees, he's the only person there when Naomi trips and he accompanies her to the hospital. From then on, she's in love with him and this leads where all girls being in love with tortured souls always leads. Can you tell I found that part a bit annoying? But it does fit in with the story, I'm just tired of teen girls falling for bad boys!! (He's not really bad, but he's pretty messed up.)

And, fortunately, despite a lot of misunderstandings, things turn out very well, even better than they were before Naomi's memory vanished, since she seems (apart from her friendship with Will) to have been a perfect example of teenage brattiness.

Favourite section: Naomi and her family are watching a nature documentary that has just stated that, before mating, a male porcupine will cover the female from head to toe "with his own urine."

"His own urine?" Dad asked. "Isn't that redundant? Who else's urine might he be using?"

The TV narrator advised "never getting too near porcupines mating," which seemed like sound, if obvious, advice to me.

My thoughts: Despite some angst, an interesting and overall enjoyable read.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins
4 stars

Reasons for reading: I loved the first book in this series; Seconds Challenge

Synopsis: "Gregor learns of his role in another Underland prophecy, yet he swears he will never return to that place. But his vow crumbles when his little sister, Boots, is snatched. Gregor knows it is a ploy to lure him to the subterranean world, but he gives in and heads back underground, where he is reunited with his bat, Ares, the princess Luxa, and new allies. Together, they descend into the deadly Waterway in search of an ominous rat known as Bane. But Gregor must face the possibility of his greatest loss yet, and make life and death choices that will determine the future of the Underland."

First line: "When Gregor opened his eyes he had the distinct impression that someone was watching him."

My thoughts: The second book in this series is a great read, too! I was concerned it would just ben another "adventure" that was exactly the same as the first, but Collins manages to fit it into the format she established (Gregor has to go on a quest to fulfill a confusing prophecy for the Underlanders) while still including fresh elements. Boots is as adorable as ever. The underground creatures like enormous rats and roaches continue to be fascinating, and are joined by funny but very annoying giant fireflies who eat like pigs and bicker constantly. Gregor's connection to the Underland continues to grow, especially as he learns that he has a special capacity for fighting. Princess Luxa didn't play as much of a role as she did in the first book, I hope there will be more of her in the next one. Also, I hope that Gregor's dad regains his strength and his character develops and he's able to join in the adventures.

The verdict: A great sequel!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Review: Addled

Addled by JoeAnn Hart
3 stars

Reasons for reading: It's been on my TBR list for years; Fall Into Reading Challenge

Synopsis: "Eden Rock Country Club is a grand New England institution, a lush haven of leisure and cocktails, where gossip and intrigue lurk discreetly behind a veil of old-world propriety. But one Fourth of July, a flock of geese descends on the club's manicured lawns; never fond of outsiders, the Eden Rock denizens find these new guests distinctly unwelcome. When Charles Lambert, a bond trader with a strong portfolio but a weak golf game, accidentally kills a goose with a wayward drive, he sets in motion a series of events that will leave the club and its members changed forever. His wife, Madeline, must face the mutterings of other members about the state of her marriage—and his sanity. Meanwhile, their daughter, an animal rights activist, mounts a quixotic campaign to make the club go vegan, much to the annoyance of Vita, a talented, obsessive chef who has her own plans for the geese."

First line: "Pearls clicked on knotted strands as a tidy cluster of women gathered outside the library, nodding to the one with the ebony cane."

My thoughts: I wanted to like this book more than I did. It was still an enjoyable read, but what the social commentary aspect of it came off to me as rather preachy - there was a lot about vegetarianism (some of it meant to be tongue-in-cheek, I guess) and a lot of stuff about vegetarianism, people's relationships to animals and their food, how some people can afford to be picky about where there food comes from and others truly can't, upper classes versus those that serve them, etc. It's just not what I was looking for in a light read. And while there were lighthearted moments and happy endings, a lot of it just felt so sad - people cheating on their spouses, midlife crises, pathetic poor little rich people... There were some funny moments, particularly with dead geese turning up in the wrong place at the wrong time and a vegan girl who can't resist Ben and Jerry's or leather shoes.

The verdict: While I preferred Rattled for commentary on people vs. animals and social snobbery, this wasn't a bad read, just not what I was in the mood for at the moment.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Review: City of Bones

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
3.5 stars

Reasons for reading: this series is all the rage; Body part book for What's in a Name? Challenge

Synopsis: "When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing — not even a smear of blood — to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy? This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . ."

First line: " 'You've got to be kidding me,' the bouncer said, folding his arms across his massive chest."

My thoughts: This was a book that kept me reading well into the night! I think it would be great to recommend to girlie Twilight fans and also to boys - it has vamps, werewolves, faeries, demons, slaying, flying motorcyles, and a tiny bit of romance. And Clary is a great heroine - she quickly adapts to numerous scary, life-changing, unbelievable events. She's very brave, determined to save her mother and also her friend Simon when he gets himself into a shape-changing mess.

Like most first-in-a-series books, a LOT happens in City of Bones - the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders has to be set up, as well as the Uprising that caused a rift between two factions of hunters. There was a lot to take in, but it didn't feel overwhelming. And there were enough action-packed scenes to make it worth reading through the set-up stuff.

The verdict: I can see why this series is so popular with teens and I'm glad I read the book so I can recommend it to them. I'll probably also read the rest of the series, City of Bones definitely leaves you hanging off a cliff at the end.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Review: Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

4 stars

Reasons for reading: Sarah Dessen's great!; book starting with A for the Four Month Challenge

Description: "It’s been so long since Auden slept at night. Ever since her parents’ divorce—or since the fighting started. Now she has the chance to spend a carefree summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live. A job in a clothes boutique introduces Auden to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, their crushes. She missed out on all that, too busy being the perfect daughter to her demanding mother. Then she meets Eli, an intriguing loner and a fellow insomniac who becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. Together they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she’s been denied; for Eli, to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend."

First lines: "The e-mails always began the same way. Hi, Auden!! It was the extra exclamation point that got me."

My thoughts: I've been going through some serious not-sleeping myself lately, so I could relate to Auden. Although I don't have the luxury of being able to sleep during the day, sadly! Ah, teenage summers... :-)

It was quite wonderful to see academic, no-nonsense Auden learning the basics of having a social life - friends, girliness, the importance of having fun, and even what it's like to have an actual boyfriend. Eli seems like a bit of a cold jerk at first, but once his tragedy is revealed and he comes out of his shell with Auden, he's another great Dessen guy. I enjoyed Auden's (at first very unwilling) growing relationship with her step-mother and her love for her newborn baby sister. Auden's relationship with her parents - her demanding, academic, seemingly "cold bitch" of a mother and her selfish ass, novelist father - changes appropriately as she realizes she doesn't have to be like either one of them. She learns that sometimes people change and sometimes they don't, but you can change yourself.

The verdict: Yet another winner from Sarah Dessen.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Review: Rilla of Ingleside

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
3.5 stars

Reasons for reading: it's the last book in the Anne series and I never got to it; I'm celebrating Maud's November 30, 1874 birthday for November's Celebrate the Author challenge

Synopsis: "Anne's children were almost grown up, except for pretty, high-spirited Rilla. No one could resist her bright hazel eyes and dazzling smile. Rilla, almost fifteen, can't think any further ahead than going to her very first dance at the Four Winds lighthouse and getting her first kiss from handsome Kenneth Ford. But undreamed-of challenges await the irrepressible Rilla when the world of Ingleside becomes endangered by a far-off war. Her brothers go off to fight, and Rilla brings home an orphaned newborn in a soup tureen. She is swept into a drama that tests her courage and leaves her changed forever."
First line: "It was a warm, golden-cloudy, lovable afternoon."

My thoughts: I always had a soft spot for Rilla, the "roly-poly baby" of the Blythe family. But I'd put off reading this one, largely because of its realism. It's basically the only book of the Anne series that really mentions much about the outside world and in this case, it's the terrible world of the Great War. While it reads like historical fiction now, the book was written in 1920, just 2 years after the war ended. This added an extra layer of interest for me, in addition to reading about my beloved Blythes. Montgomery obviously drew on her own experiences during the time - the horror, as well as the details of the war, really ring true. (Sadly, in the biography at the end it says that she was so depressed by World War II that she basically stopped writing, even letters, and died in 1942.)

While Anne is relegated to being "Mrs. Blythe," Rilla takes on a lot of her old spirit - romantic and feisty, although with a great deal more beauty than her mother had as a child. Along with the pain of the family's boys going to war, one by one, there are the usual scrapes, agonizing embarrassments, and hopes and dreams found in all of the series. I particularly enjoyed the chapter where Rilla eats a slice of humble pie (something her mother was very familiar with) and goes to ask a former chum for help with a money-raising concert only to find she's wearing two completely different shoes and stockings. And there's a lovely, heartbreaking but heartening story about Jem Blythe's faithful dog running throughout the book, as he waits for his master to return.

With the war theme, this was a good book to read around Remembrance Day. And it turns out I've missed the second to last book in the series, Rainbow Valley. Quite a few of the characters were new to me. So, I'll have to go back and read that one. Honestly, it's shameful for me call myself an Anne fan and not realize I'd missed a book! :-)