Friday, January 22, 2016

What I Read in March 2015 Part I

What I Read in March 2015 Part I ...

Mr. Montgomery's QuestMr. Montgomery's Quest by Martha Kirkland -- Regency Romance

How do you solve a problem like Maria kept running through my head while reading this books. "How do you solve a problem like Charlie?" For Miss Charlotte Pelham, her tomboy/athletic nature is a problem. In her childhood she could keep up and best her younger brother and his friend but she is aware that her behavior is not ladylike in the eyes of the rest of the world. Only her beloved late father and her younger brother(s) supported her behavior. Now with her mother newly married to a vicar with young children of his own, Charlotte needs to find employment. Not being suited to working as a governess or a companion, she applies to lead a cross-country walking tour in the north of England. SHE knows she's qualified but just in case Bonadventure Tours dismisses her application because she's a girl, she applies as Mr. Charles Pelham. She'll figure out how to solve her problem of lying to her customers later. Mr. Harrison Montgomery is on a special quest to locate the little brother he last saw 12 years ago. He has reason to believe his brother is one of Miss Pelham's younger brothers traveling with her, but which one? He resorts to blackmail to join the tour and try to figure out the mystery of the missing brother. Charlotte is infuriated with Harrison and wonders why he's on the tour. When mysterious accidents start to occur, she suspects him but at the same time, she's attracted to the man. She tries to remain focused on her tour but it's difficult with a handsome, virile man taunting her at every step. Likewise Harrison tries to keep his mind on his quest but it's difficult to concentrate on anything except Charlotte's lips and figure.

This book is part travelogue and part mystery and part romance. I liked the blend of the three but I felt that there was just a bit too much going on and the author should have limited it to one mystery. The second mystery wasn't all that necessary though it added drama to the plot and kept me hooked to see if Charlotte would make it. There's not much here to indicate that it's set in the Regency era except the fashions, a brief mention of current events and one brief Assembly scene. It could really be any time before women worked. I liked how the author kept the reader guessing as to which boy was Charlotte's brother. I figured it out before Harrison did but it wasn't easy to tell. The romance plot was a little weak. The hero spends too much time thinking about Charlotte's figure and lips and dreaming of kissing her. I would have preferred a little more friendship and connection between them

Charlotte is a fabulous heroine. Some may say she's too modern but I think there must have been some girls like her. She's athletic, intelligent and strong in spirit. She's confident in her ability to lead this tour and doesn't fall apart easily. I can see why Harrison fell in love with her. She's so different from the sheltered women he's always known. Any man would be proud to have her in his family, as her brother/s are. I think she found a kindred spirit in Lady Griswall. I would like to know more about Lady Griswall because she's so unconventional. I really enjoyed her and how shrewd she was.

I was ambivalent about Harrison. If he didn't spend so much time lusting after Charlotte, I would have liked him better. He's strong, confident, brave and though a bit arrogant, he is willing to give Charlotte a chance. He believes in her and supports her and I think he would be a good husband. My reservation is that Charlotte doesn't know him very well.

Jonathan and Peter are the best characters in the book after Charlotte. They're two peas in a pod and are obviously very proud of Charlotte. They accept that she's better at all their childhood games than they are and they accept she's the leader of this tour and she knows what she's doing. They were both well brought up and will be fine gentlemen when they're older. I liked that the mystery was dragged out and not played out like a cheesy novel. The author made it seem realistic. The other men are not very fleshed out and appear as little more than stereotypes but they're good supporting characters for this type of novel.

I picked this up at the library for 25 cents and it was well worth it.

The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy, #3)The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale-- Middle Grades Historical Fantasy

Miri is thrilled that she will at last be returning home to Mount Eskel where she will be reunited with her father and sister and become formally betrothed to Peder, but an urgent summons from the King puts a stop to her plans. The King wants Miri to travel to Lesser Alva to tutor some royal cousins in preparation for a marriage alliance with King Feder of Stora who has just invaded a neighboring country. If Miri refuses, the King will sell Mount Eskel to merchants who will destroy the way of life in her beloved mountain home. Miri agrees on the condition that should she succeed the King grant her the rights to Mount Eskel. When Miri arrives in Lesser Alva she discovers her task will not be easy. Lesser Alva is hotter than hot, swampy and the royal cousins: Astrid, Felissa and Sus, not only do not realize they're royalty, but are completely wild and adverse to tutoring. Living inside a house of linder stone, Miri senses the house's memories and believes there is some mystery surrounding the house and even the girls themselves. Once again she has to look inside her heart and choose sides to do the right thing.

This is an absolutely wonderful book that reminded me of why I love Shannon Hale. Everyone needs to read this book. The wisdom contained in this book would help prevent wars if only people would listen to children. The plot was so full of twists that I couldn't put it down once. I got so swept up in the story I had forgotten the title so the big reveal came as a surprise. I should have guessed it and I wasn't completely surprised but it was still a great plot twist. My big problem with the previous book was that it was preachy. This book avoids that pitfall and allows the characters to act naturally and therefore the message comes across loud and clear without being heavy handed. The prose is beautiful and lyrical in places and the descriptions of various places are so vivid I could easily see an image in my mind. The epilogue wraps up the series nicely but I'm sad to say goodbye to Miri and friends. The series, especially this book, would be a cute animated movie in the vein of How to Train Your Dragon. The only thing I didn't like in this book were the letters. They summed up the plot every so often and felt redundant.

The characters in this novel are fabulous. They're all three-dimensional, even the minor characters who appear in one or two scenes. They reveal hidden depths that Miri and the reader never suspected. That is unusual in a children's book and I appreciated the superb writing that made this book above average. The three sisters that play prominently into the story each have a different personality and different strengths. I liked how Miri saw that and helped the girls develop their own strengths and subtly teach them what they need to know to be royal without being the imposing tutor she had planned to be. My favorite is inquisitive Sus. She's the youngest and the most like Miri. She's very very smart and absorbs information like a sponge and is able to process what she reads and apply it to the situation at hand. I also loved strong, proud Astrid, the eldest and leader of the sisters and sweet Felissa who feels deeply. They're so well drawn I feel like I got to know them very well and I was there with them on their journey. Miri is still Miri: bright and clever but human enough to make mistakes. I liked how she slowly adapted to swamp life by trial and error. Peder is a dashing hero who comes to the rescue when needed. The King and Queen were not very likable but I felt sympathy for the Queen by the end. The King remains largely unlikable but he does prove to have a redeeming quality.

This book is similar to Sherwood Smith's Crown Duel for younger readers. There is some violence but nothing super graphic and some kissing.

Push Dick's ButtonPush Dick's Button by Dick Button-- Non-Fiction Figure Skating
In this book, the esteemed Mr. Dick Button invites figure skating fans to sit on his couch (with the dogs), have a drink and some popcorn while discussing figure skating. He goes into detail about the history of the sport, the people he knew, how/why the judging system is the way it is and what needs to be done. I loved his commentary (most of the time) and I loved the Push Dick's Button segment featured on TV during the 2006 Olympics. I'm glad he finally got around to publishing this book. I learned a lot from his commentary and even more from this book. I agree with most everything he says (except Yu Na Kim, she's beautiful to watch compared to some of the other jumping bean girls). He states he doesn't want to get involved in the political aspect of the sport but if Dick Button set himself up as the "Il Duce" of the ISU, I don't think true skating enthusiasts would mind much. He's so wise and seen and done it all that I feel sad that the powers that be don't care about the sport as much as he does. If you are a true skating enthusiast and miss Dick's commentary, then buy this book. I'm hoping he gets around to volume 2!

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