Sunday, July 21, 2013

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

Fog Magic by Julia Sauer -- Children's Classic/Historical Fantasy

Greta has always loved the fog and known that fog is magic. When she's eleven years old, she is allowed to walk in the foggy woods and comes across an outline of a house where she knows no house exists in her own time (1940s). Through the fog and over the mountain she travels to another place and another time to the prosperous fishing early 19th century village of Blue Cove. Greta makes a new best friend and becomes a part of village life, but when the fog rolls away, it's time for her to head home. I find it hard to believe that I never read this book as a child. It's exactly what I loved. It's probably a good thing I didn't, or I would have been out getting lost in the fog looking for my own Blue Cove. This story is very gentle and simple. It has a message about growing up at the end that I didn't really care for. I loved Blue Cove and the residents and visitors. I wish the book was longer so I could have spent more time there. I couldn't quite pinpoint the exact date of Blue Cove but more than 100 years before Greta's time before 1820 I think. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the time travel and some of the residents of Blue Cove, but overall, this is a sweet, satisfying read.

Park Lane by Frances Osborne -- Historical Fiction

Grace Campbell has left her home in northern England to find a place as a secretary in London. She has the training, thanks to her school teacher aunt, but her accent precludes her from finding a job. She's forced to take a job in service at a grand house in Park Lane in order to help her family. She lies about her job and sends every shilling home.The work is hard, the other maids are a bit cruel at times, and Grace is attracted to the handsome footman Joseph. She knows that way lies trouble and tries to deny her feelings. Her brother Michael is also in London working as a law clerk. He's dissatisfied with his lot and wants to change the world. Beatrice Masters, the daughter of Sir and Lady Masters, is almost 21 and unmarried. She longs for freedom and independence from her overbearing American mother. She thought that her young man John would take her away from this life and she would be content to live a bohemian life with him, but he turned out to be a fortune hunter. Beatrice doesn't have a fortune. Her father is busy wasting money in all the fashionable gambling spots on the Continent and her younger brother Edward is poised to follow in their father's footsteps. Bea's older sister Clemmie is smugly marries and Mother is busy trying to get women the vote peacefully. She has no use for those wild women suffragettes who chain themselves to gates and go on hunger strikes in jail. Bea's aunt Celeste offers her an opportunity for a bit of independence working with those very suffragettes Lady Masters disapproves of. Bea becomes caught up in the excitement of hearing Emmeline Pankhurst and becomes devoted to the cause. Whenever she finds herself in trouble, a young man named Michael is there to save her. He feels she's a spoiled little rich girl and despises everything she's grown up with, but Bea can't help but find this dangerous young man appealing. Then war comes and women's suffrage is put on the back burner. Everyone must do their duty to help the war effort, even Bea. When the war is over, who will remain and will there be a new world order? Downton Abbey fans will be satisfied with this basic plot points novel. It contains many of the same hackneyed plots as the show minus the witty dialogue and pretty costumes. It even reads like a play because it's told in first person present tense. Grace and Bea alternate in telling the story. The events of the plot are largely summarized and there's no real dialogue to speak of. It takes a long time to get interesting and when important things happen, the timeline skips forward. I really didn't like the direction the story took. I would have written it completely differently. Grace is an entirely unappealing character. She lies, steals and makes really bad decisions. I felt bad for her on occasion but mostly I hated her. Bea is slightly more interesting. I can relate to her feelings in the first third of the novel. I got caught up in her activities and couldn't sleep until I read to the very end. The history behind the story is very interesting. I liked learning about the women's suffrage activities the best, but the descriptions go on far too long. I really wanted to like this book but it was just too slow, awkward and cliched to be appealing.

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