Saturday, February 25, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . . 

His Saving Grace by Julia Parks -- Regency Romance

Adam Havenhurst is the newly appointed vicar in Pixley, near his older brother, the Earl of Foxworth's, hunting lodge. Adam is looking forward to striking out on his own and repenting for his past life of dissipation. When he encounters a local school teacher, Grace Edgewood, he is instantly attracted to her. He decides she will be a temptation but as a vicar he will try to resist such a temptation. Grace is struck dumb by the handsome vicar. Confident and capable, she's never reacted this way to a man before. What a lot of bother! With her older friend and co-teacher Margaret in love with Grace's uncle and a bunch of silly schoolgirls on hand, Grace should have enough of romance. Grace decides to throw herself into her teaching. The subjects taught at her progressive school are rather unusual. They include Greek, Latin, swimming (*gasp*) and possibly soon fencing (The horrors). When the villagers begin to gossip about Grace's reputation based on her curriculum, Adam feels the need to intervene. Unfortunately, his attraction to Grace causes him to open his mouth and insert his foot. It seems that he will never get her to love him, especially not once his rakish brother and meddling mother arrive. Grace is furious with Adam for telling her what not to do and she's determined to teach him a lesson on love that he'll never forget. I really really wanted to like this book. Grace's school sounds amazing. I would love to have attended a school like that if I were a 19th century girl. I thought any teacher of such a school would automatically be an appealing heroine. Instead I found Grace annoying. She's quarrelsome and stubborn and she's also really lacking in common sense for a teacher. I hated the way she handled the situation with Adam and the Earl. Her actions made her vastly unappealing. I did not much like Adam either. One minute he's lustful and the next he's priggish. His reactions are based on his emotions and never once does he display any sense. I finally liked him for a moment near the end. I did not understand what the heroine saw in the hero. He never revealed his true self to her. The secondary characters are far more interesting, especially Grace's two big brothers. I would recommend this to those who like more passionate romances and not to those who like the Georgette Heyer style.

Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

It's 1919, and Rosalind James' father, a  British civil servant is ready to return home to his family in India. He's mentioned sending her to school in England but hasn't yet because ever since Rosy's brother died away at school, Rosy's mother has kept her close. Her mother's over-protectiveness has had many benefits for Rosalind. Her rebellious spirit has been allowed to flourish and form a friendship with her nanny's daughter Isha who takes Rosalind to the local bazaar where Isha's husband has a carpet stall. There Rosalind overhears some talk about a man named Ghandi who speaks of freeing India from British rule. Rosy is curious and interested in this unusual man who refuses to fight. She cultivates a friendship with the radical college student Max Nelson. Max encourages Rosalind's interest in the Indian freedom movement and causes her to think about her own freedom from her father's strict rules. Then, at the urging of Isha, Rosalind does the unthinkable and breaks a million rules, finally trying her father's patience enough to banish her to England. A difficult and interesting voyage leaves Rosalind a bit older and wiser so that she's ready to face her formidable Aunt Ethyl who pinches pennies and tyrannizes over sweet Aunt Louise. Rosalind and Louise's stories parallel the Indian freedom movement and Rosalind is able to use the lessons she's learned in India to help fight for another kind of freedom. This is another winner from the amazing Gloria Whelan. Her depiction of India brings the country immediately into my mind though I know very little about it. She incorporates the language and the history seamlessly into the plot. Rosalind is such an appealing character. She's on the cusp of womanhood and treated like a child, much like India. As she grows and learns, she is able to make sense of what she's been told and figure out what she wants. I really admire her courage. This is a fabulous coming-of-age story that anyone 10 and over would enjoy!

The Pirate Captain's Daughter by Eve Bunting -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

Fifteen-year-old Catherine has grown up very isolated on a Caribbean island. Her mother, a proper Bostonian, had run away with a dashing naval officer, and left her family and friends far behind. Catherine's father has a dark secret - he's actually a pirate captain! Catherine finds her father's job mysterious and thrilling. She longs to join him at sea and have an adventure. After Catherine's mother dies, her father comes home to take her away. It is not safe at home for someone is searching for something that belongs to Catherine's father and he won't tell her what. Catherine decides to disguise herself as a boy and join her father's crew. Her father forbids her to reveal her gender for pirates are a superstitious lot and fear having a woman on board. Being a pirate is not as much fun as Catherine thought it would be. The crew are bloodthirsty, rude, crude and ruthless. Even her loving, gentle father is stern and doesn't shy away from doling out justice. Her only true friend is a young sailor named William, who had a kind heart. However, despite her father's best efforts to keep her safe, the villain or villains who tried to rob Catherine's home are on the ship and still searching. They'll stop at nothing - not even murder - to get what they want. The plot moves along at a fast pace, ending abruptly without resolution. There isn't much substance in between. Catherine is very naive and doesn't know the first thing about pirate life or even being a boy. She longs for adventure, which I can relate to, but she seems a little stupid. I did not find her a strong or empathetic character. I felt sorry for her that she lost the safety of her world but it was her choice to stay with the pirates. The story is a bit too bloodthirsty and gruesome for me. It focuses more on those aspects of pirate life than the character's internal journey.This book is intended for teens. The depiction of pirate life is pretty brutal and bloodthirsty and not very Disney-fied, however, the writing is very simple, more like a middle grades novel than young adult. I did not enjoy this book as much as Pirates by Celia Rees. It's nowhere near as entertaining as the Pirates of the Caribbean movies though more historically accurate. If you are a slow reader or know a young person who might not be ready for Celia Rees or the Bloody Jack adventures, then I recommend this book. If you are an adult reader looking for a great book, pass on this one.

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