Books of June and July

Hullo, everybody! Are you having a wonderful summer? Isn't it going far too fast?

I said I might post occasionally during my hiatus, so here are the books I've been wrapped up in all summer so far.

June

An Old-Fashioned Girl, by Louisa May Alcott
Oh, Louisa May Alcott books are the best! I loved Polly and Tom, and all the rest, too. Finished in June; favorite character, Tom (or Polly).

What a wonderful writer Louisa May Alcott is! I tend to forget how much I love her until I pick a volume of hers up, and then I'm swept away for a day or two until I've finished it. Her old-fashioned prose is delicious, her characters endearing, and her stories just the sweetest things. This one is about the country girl Polly Milton and her city friends the Shaws. Visiting them one winter, Polly feels out of place, for the Shaws seem to have everything except for the firm family life that makes Polly's own poor home so warm and bright. Of course, Polly's cheery and selfless ways soon have a favorable effect on the entire Shaw family--from elegant Fan to mischievous Tom. (Tom, incidentally, was one of my favorite characters.)

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green
Oh, I love the King Arthur legends so much! Someday I'd like to rewrite them as a series of middle grade novels. Finished in June; favorite character...oh, I think I like Gareth best, but there were lots of ones I like. Why does the ending have to be so sad??? I mean, it's perfect, but...Lancelot and Guinevere ruin everything!

Do you enjoy the chivalrous and romantic tales of medieval heroes? Then--well, you've probably already read the King Arthur stories. But if you haven't, be advised that Roger Lancelyn Green's retelling is quite satisfying, handling the legends with simplicity and grace.

I certainly enjoyed this read! It put me in the mood to write an entire series of children's books (or possibly books for older readers) based on the King Arthur legends. But oh, why must it end so sadly??? Dash it all, Lancelot and Guinevere! Why'd you have to go and ruin everything?

The Scarecrow of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
I finally read the last few chapters which have been waiting for years! Finished in June; favorite character...well, I remember feeling sorry for Pon if that was his name, and of course I've always liked the Scarecrow.

I'll be honest: I only read the last few chapters of this after (for some inexplicable reason) putting it down years ago. But! L. Frank Baum's fairy tales are very cute and whimsical (if to such extent that there aren't high enough stakes to keep a reader invested), and I wouldn't mind reading more of the Oz series sometime.

Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury 
This time opening it, I found it lovely and finished the whole thing in a few days. Finished in June; favorite character...Tom or Doug I suppose, but what I really liked was the prose and the setting and the themes of memory and life and death.

I'd tried this one several times before and always been discouraged by the slow pace of the story. This time around I embraced the slowness of it and therefore enjoyed it much more. :) It's almost as though this book isn't meant to be a story--at first glance it doesn't seem to have a plot at all, and the cast of characters is filled in with dozens of figures who are featured heavily for a chapter or two and then disappear practically forever. What really let me enjoy this book was the lovely prose and the thought-provoking themes of life and death.

Favorite book of June: probably An Old-Fashioned Girl.


July

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin
This was such fun to read! Wonderfully drawn, quirky characters and a bunch of great twists--I don't know if you can ask for much more from a mystery story. Finished in July; favorite character...golly. Maybe Turtle? Or Angela? I liked a lot of them.

If you're looking for an engaging mystery with plenty of twists and lots of quirky characters, you want to check out The Westing Game. The plot revolves around the will of the eccentric millionaire Sam Westing, which has summoned sixteen unlikely "heirs" to solve the mystery of his death in a limited amount of time and thus vie for the reward of his inheritance. Every bit as delightful as the mystery itself (which I, at least, found full of surprises) were the characters--homely little Turtle who kicks those she doesn't like, her uppity mother Grace Windsor Wexler, the friendly old doorman Sandy, and a dozen others. 

G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense, by Dale Ahlquist 
Chesterton!!! My favorite writer, definitely.

Here's a good one for anyone interested in getting into Chesterton! It was written as an introduction to the man Dale Ahlquist claims to be the best writer of the 20th century. First it gives a brief overview of his life and character, then it goes into a short explanation or introduction to some of his most important works. Especially interesting to me were the chapters on eugenics (I hadn't realized Margaret Sanger was so closely linked to the Nazis) and economics (I hadn't known there was an alternative system to socialism and capitalism). I already knew I loved Chesterton; this book cemented him as my definite favorite writer.

Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
I'd liked the movie, but the book was even better. (And much different.) I especially appreciated the representation of war as ugly and the British as human. Finished in July; favorite character, Rab. Definitely Rab.

Oh, my heart! This was probably the "feelsiest" book of July. Only because of the ending, which I shan't spoil for you. (Funny. Until the climax I'd really enjoyed the book, but hadn't gotten too emotional about it.)

Anyway. It's a really good historical novel about a 14-year-old Boston apprentice who burns his hand so badly he can't hope to be a silversmith anymore, and then gets swept up in the events leading to the Revolutionary War.

There were several things which intrigued me about the book, but what interested me the most was the character Rab. (Isn't that an excellent name? Rab?) He definitely wasn't the main character--that was, as you might guess from the title, Johnny Tremain--and yet he struck me as the most important character for some reason. He was the one who made the most of an impact on Johnny, I guess. I don't know. I may have to do a separate Rab-inspired blog post one of these days.

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott
I enjoyed reading this, though it made me feel cheated in some ways. Finished in July; favorite character...mm, I wish Ivanhoe had been in it more. Maybe Rebecca? Oh oh oh! Wamba. Definitely Wamba.

Y'know what, I had mixed feelings on this one. Of course I loved the general setting, premise, and characters--knights in shining armor, damsels in distress, tournaments, despots, King Richard, etc.--and yet, I felt cheated by it in some ways. I think it was the title. I was expecting it to be about Ivanhoe, and it was, except--Ivanhoe doesn't show his face as Ivanhoe until a third of the way into the book, and then *mild spoilers* he's put out of action until about the last third of the book, and--well, I liked Ivanhoe. If it had been entitled "Rebecca" or "Richard's Return" or something I wouldn't have felt cheated like that. But as it was I was hankering for the hero to show up for most of the book and he never really came in as much as I'd wanted him to.

I also suspect Sir Walter Scott's portrayal of the middle ages must be taken with a grain of salt. Not that I disbelieve there was a lot of discrimination against Jews and corruption of the clergy, etc. in the middle ages, but--the picture painted in Ivanhoe just felt a little too black to be taken hook, line, and sinker. (I might be wrong, of course. Just sayin', I have my doubts.)

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
One-day read in July, very good. Favorite character, Peter...because I like heroic tragic young men characters...

Ooh, I really liked this one! It's another premise I can't resist--anti-Nazi Underground during WWII. When the Jews of Denmark are put it deadly danger, ten-year-old Annemarie and her family work together to get her friend Ellen to safety. Since this was a children's book it only took me a day to read, but it had a nice emotional impact nonetheless. (Short, powerful books are the best, aren't they?)

And I was really surprised when I realized this was written by the same author who wrote The Giver. (Which I have yet to finish.)

Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton
CHESTERTON. According to Dale Ahlquist you must read Orthodoxy more than once, so I reread it in July. Need I say it was delightful, humorous, and profound all at once, as Chesterton always is?

IT'S A CHESTERTON BOOK!!!

Need I say more? Go read it, dear ones. Go read it right now. :)

Pilgrim's Inn, by Elizabeth Goudge
Found an old copy of this in Grandma's basement, and oh! oh! oh! I want to write books like this. Finished in July (on vacation); favorite character...oh I don't know. Possibly Sally or David. It wasn't really the kind of book where one single character jumped out at me; I was equally interested in all of them, even Scarlett-O'Hara-esque Nadine.

I found the original (1948) edition of this book in my grandma's basement, with her maiden name inscribed in the front. Upon picking it up, I had to smile at the opening scene, because one of the first pieces of writing advice I ever learned is that it's cliché to begin a book with a pretty young heroine waking up in the morning.

But, of course, a cliché opening scene is no reason to give up on a book in my opinion--especially not when you find even the cliché sweet and enjoyable, and when the book is one your grandma read when she was young. And, oh, oh, oh, am I ever glad I read this one through to the end. At one point I groaned in delight to my mom, "I want to write books like this!"

It's a story set in an England recovering from WWII and about a family recovering from what was too close to being an adulterous love affair. Between the love of good-hearted friends and the welcoming shelter of a house that was once a medieval hostelry, wounds are healed and new resolutions made--but is it enough to save a marriage still tottering on the brink of disaster?

After finishing this book and loving it, I was surprised and overjoyed to discover that it's actually Book 2 in a trilogy. So it looks like I haven't seen the last of my beloved Eliot clan!

The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
Rather too gritty for me to really enjoy, but it was very interesting and the ending was really good. Finished in July; favorite character...eh, one of the minor ones like the little boy (Luis?).

This one, a book about a sinful "whiskey priest" trying to do his duty in the midst of the persecutions in Mexico, was rather too grittily realistic for me to enjoy. Not only were the details about rotting teeth and prison toilets downright gross, but the characters were depressingly flawed human beings. The ending almost made me forget that, though--it's one of those stories where the concluding sentence leaves you quietly pondering.

No doubt about it, Graham Greene's a good writer. (If you have a few minutes, check out his short story "The Hint of an Explanation." It's one of the best short stories I've ever read.)

Favorite book of July: Pilgrim's Inn.

Have you read any of these books? Any summer reads you'd recommend? Has your summer been lovely and full of wonderful words? I certainly hope so!

Comments

  1. I've read Orthodoxy, Ivanhoe, Johnny Tremain (incidently one of my favorite books from my childhood), and An Old-Fashioned Girl. I'll have to check out some of the others, they look interesting!

    Have you read the Father Brown stories by Chesterton? I really really like those. I found some books by Carolyn Miller that I really like (The Elusive Miss Ellison and The Captivating Lady Charlotte). They're definitely influenced by Jane Austen, but they aren't knock-offs.

    Summer has been kinda long with NaNo, Rebellious Writing and my job competing with my desire to write or read a lot. Oh well, such as life of a post-college graduate.

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Catherine! Nice to meet you!

      Oooh, yay! Seems like you and I enjoy similar sorts of books. :) (Johnny Tremain IS a wonderful one, isn't it?)

      Oh oh oh yes! I love the Father Brown stories! Anything by Chesterton. :) I need to read more of his fiction. I'll have to check out these Carolyn Miller books sometime! They sound fascinating.

      Juggling real life with fiction can be so hard. I feel ya there. I hopped over to your blogs for a minute, and they look really neat! I'm going to have to explore them further. :)

      Delete
  2. I need to read An Old Fashioned Girl!! I love Alcott's books so much and I have that one on my tablet but other things must be read...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you must! She's a splendid writer, isn't she? :) Ah, yes...the pressing need of other books to be read is a much too familiar feeling....

      Delete
  3. Nice to hear from you again!
    I haven't read any of these- but I think 'An Old Fashioned Girl' miiiiiiight be somewhere on my grandmother's bookshelf.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice to hear from you, too, Blue!

      "An Old Fashioned Girl" is a good one! If you get a chance to read it, I definitely recommend it. :)

      Delete
  4. Phew! Sounds like you've been busy! Unfortunately, I have not been reading much more than The Goose Girl and Pride And Prejudice because I just unpacked my books two days ago. However. Now I have internet, which means I can at least read this blog until all my books are finished being unpacked. :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Huzzah for unpacking books! It must be so nice to see their familiar old faces again! And I'm so glad you have internet once more. :)

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Historical Heroes

Daily Sacrifices

October's Fiction