Sunday, January 30, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . . . Part II

Like a Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce (Dear America) by Lois Lowry -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

In 1919 Portland, Maine, Lydia lives a comfortable life with her parents, older brother and baby sister. Sometimes her big brother Daniel teases too much but he also helps Lydia with her geography homework. Lydia looks forward to her 11th birthday when her parents will take her to the movies as a special treat, but the Spanish Influenza comes to town and ruins Lydia's plans. Her mother gives her a journal and and an heirloom antique ring to make up for the disappointment. Lydia's concerns quickly seem petty and childish once her parents and baby sister die from the Spanish Influenza. Lydia and Daniel are first taken to stay with their uncle on his farm, but their aunt is overworked and overburdened with too many children and demands they leave. Lydia and Daniel are taken to Sabbath Day Lake to the Shaker settlement there to live among the Shakers. At first, Lydia finds life among the Shakers confusing with their separation of the sexes, hard work ethic, lack of worldly goods and belief in confession. Daniel, too, has difficulty adjusting to his new life and longs to escape. Lydia begins to see the good points of Shaker life and care for her new family. Still, she sometimes finds it hard not to be selfish and whiny and learns that she must bend like the willow tree in order to be truly content. As usual, Lois Lowry, who has been one of my favorite writers since childhood, delivers an excellent story of a realistic little girl coping with difficult changes. The dialogue sounds like it's coming from the mouth of an eleven-year-old. I like the way Lydia sometimes talks in questions ("My house? I mean my house in the world.") like real children do. Her world is very vivid and described in enough detail to interest and teach the reader. Though I have read books about the Spanish Influenza and Shakers before, I especially like how Lowry makes her heroine innocently ignorant about who the Shakers are so that Lowry can explain about the Shakers and their life through Lydia's eyes as Lydia learns about Shaker life.The Author's Note section includes information on the Spanish Influenza and Shakers, including photos taken by one of the Shakers featured in the story. I highly recommend this book to children 8+ and to their sisters, mothers, aunts and anyone who likes a good, simple story. My only complaint is the computer-generated portrait on the front cover which lacks the charm of the historic paintings used in the original Dear America series. 

The Unflappable Miss Fairchild by Regina Scott -- Regency Romance
Chas Prestwick,  younger brother of the Earl of Prestwick, is a well-known rakehell, but when a former paramour confronts him at a party and threatens to make a scene, he only wants to escape. Luckily, he's accidentally rescued by the arrival of Miss Anne Fairchild who rises to the occasion and handles the situation neatly and quietly. Chas is instantly taken with this angel but thinks she's not for the likes of him. Capable and dependable, Anne has always been willing to do whatever anyone asks in any given situation. The one thing she refuses to do is marry without love, and that happens to be the one goal her Aunt Agatha has in mind for Anne. When Anne finds herself again unexpectedly thrown together with Chas Prestwick, she can't help but enjoy the free feeling the adventure provides. Chas can't get this angel out of his mind and is determined to find out who she is. As luck with have it, Anne's aunt Millicent was a good friend of the Dowager Countess, therefore, Chas finds a legitimate excuse for being in Anne's company and longs to court her properly, but knows he isn't the man for her. For Anne, Chas makes her other suitors appear foolish and boring, but she knows that she doesn't have what it takes to be the woman for Chas. Can true love win out over misunderstandings and the sins of the past? This is a nice, light romance with just the right amount of depth to keep it from being totally fluffy. Chas is a flawed hero and he recognizes his flaws and the reasons for his behavior, which I really like. I also like the family dynamic of the Prestwick family and the way it plays out in the end. Anne is a multi-dimensional character. Her independence is more subtle than most characters and her coolheadedness is much to be admired. The romance is sweet and the chemistry develops nicely without overpowering the plot. There are a few serious kissing scenes but fortunately, they lack the excessive emotional language that often accompanies those types of scenes. I like the characters very much and would like to be friends with them. The plot kept me engaged after a slow Prologue and first chapter. This is a great, quick read for those who enjoy the old style Regencies.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment on my blog at History and Women. In perusing your blog, it is apparent we love the same kind of books. I very much enjoy your blog.


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