Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What I've Read Recently

What I've Read Recently . . .

In The Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

In 1854 London, Seventeen-year-old Molly works hard as a parlourmaid in a rich household, but an enemy destroys her chance of ever climbing the ladder higher. Unable to face her family with the shame of her disgrace, she learns of Florence Nightingale's request for nurses to go to Crimea and nurse wounded soldiers. Molly is rejected because she's too young and not a trained nurse but she is determined to find a way. Her tenaciousness pays off and soon she finds herself on a dangerous journey to the unknown in Turkey where she will experience things she's never seen or felt before. Though the nurses are forbidden from fraternizing with the staff or patients, Molly strikes up a friendship with a young doctor which she thinks may develop into more. Molly discovers a deep empathy for the suffering and her skills are desperately needed. She keeps busy nursing and trying to keep her friend Emma out of trouble. Then someone from her past shows up on the front and complicates matters. Molly is torn between duty and loyalty. One will cost her her heart and the other will cost her job. This is a coming-of-age novel set against the backdrop of the Crimean War. I do not know anything about that war or even where Crimea is on a modern map. My biggest complaint with the story is that there isn't enough historical background that explains what the soldiers are fighting for. A map would have been appreciated. Otherwise the historical details are excellent, almost too good, for the book contains detailed descriptions of period medical practice complete with blood and gore. The author also describes the unsanitary conditions of the hospital where Molly works. The plot of the novel is fine. There are some really unrealistic moments, even some bordering on fantasy, which I did not like. I could have done without the romantic triangle plot. Molly is a plucky heroine and one to be admired. Florence Nightingale was a true heroine and I would like to read more about her.

The Rogue Crew (Redwall) by Brian Jacques -- Middle Grades Adventure/Fantasy

This final novel by Brian Jacques features  a vermin leader known as a Wearat who rides a ship with a green sail over the high seas until being burned by the rogue crew of sea otters of the High North Coast. Razzid Wearat nearly went to Hellsgates in that attack but he survived and now he's bent on revenge. His ship now has wheels and it carries the vermin leader wherever he wants to go. A surprise murder of Salamandastron hares has some of the Long Patrol heading out to form an alliance with the Rogue Crew. Back in Mossflower, the peaceful Redwell Abbey dwellers face the problem of a gluttonous young hedgehog Uggo Wiltud. While sleeping off a stomachache, Uggo sees the green sailed ship on wheels sailing towards Redwall. The otter Cellarkeepeper Jum Gurdy knows of his ship and the destruction it could cause to the Abbey. He hopes his uncle will be able to tell him more and takes young Uggo off on a journey to find out whether Razzid Wearat and his ship were finished off long ago. The adventure will take all of the characters off on a dangerous quest where they will come closer to the enemy than they ever dreamed. It's up to the Redwallers to defend their home against the vermin raiders and hope the experienced warriors arrive in time. This story follows the usual pattern of the Redwall novels but it's a grand adventure just the same. I felt it dragged a bit in parts and took too long to get to the point. There were also so many characters I had a hard time connecting with any of them. I also thought too many good guys died and some of the characters were pretty gruesome. Though the plot is predictable it's a rousing good yarn anyway. The book works as a stand-alone as long as the reader has read Redwall. This series by a much-loved author will be much missed by legions of fans all over the world. Farewell old friend!

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