Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What I Read in November 2015 Part VIII ...

What I Read in November 2015 Part VIII ...

The Doll People Set Sail (Doll People, #4)
The Doll People Set Sail (Doll People #4) by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated  by Brett Helquist-- Middle Grades fantasy

Kate has big news for the doll people - they have to be boxed up for a time while the girls' rooms are renovated. Kate regrets this very much but assures her beloved doll people will return to their house in her room after the humans return from vacation. Even little Nora will miss the Funcraft Family. Annabelle is upset at having to be boxed up and worried that Kate will forget about them or outgrow them and leave them in the attic for the next generation - or worse - there won't be a girl in the next generation. What happens next is straight out of Annabelle's nightmares!(Or Disney's Toy Story). The doll people find themselves on a ship to England and two of the Funcraft Family members and Nanny get lost! It's up to Annabelle and Tiffany to organize a search party and figure out how to find their loved ones and get back to Connecticut.

The premise for this book is borrowed from Toy Story 3 but slightly different. The plot is full of adventure and excitement yet I never really felt the danger was really thrilling. I was a little surprised but not surprised at the ending. There are some new characters that I found really stupid and strange but will be popular with the 5-8 year-old readers. Annabelle and Tiffany learn some valuable lessons which are imparted gently. I didn't find this story as fun as the previous books in the series. The illustrations are pretty close to the original illustrator's design. I think the target age would really like this more than their parents/other adults.

Miss Davenport's Christmas by Marion Chesney-- Regency Romance
Miss Davenport's Christmas
Mr. and Mrs. Davenport, the strictest of all Puritans, are in despair. First a regiment of redcoats was posted in their Yorkshire neighborhood posing a threat to their teenage daughters, Miss Jillian and Miss Amanda. Then, a smallpox outbreak chases them from their London home. The Davenports turn to their acquaintances, Sir John and Lady Harrington, to take Jillian and Amanda into their home with strict instructions to avoid participation in Christmas. The Harringtons, sensing the girls need some holiday cheer, take Jilly and Mandy home and rush headlong info a fun season of holiday cheer. Lord Ranger and Lord Paul, attending a house party nearby, are delighted with the innocent, fresh young ladies but are cautioned that the Davenports will be choosing their daughters' husbands and the rakish sons of Dukes are not on the approved list. Bold Jilly and shy Mandy are having the time of their short lives but when they lose their hearts they fear that their parents will show up and crush their dreams. If only Lord Ranger and Lord Paul would propose and whisk them away.

This story has much darker undertones than most of Chesney's Regencies. The heroines have been abused by a cruel maid and their dour, unfeeling parents. Their fear of repercussions for any kind of behavior that their family would consider unseemly (anything fun) runs through the story. In the beginning the Davenport girls have a hard time accepting kindness. It puts a different spin on the romance aspect of the story. I could have done without the jealously plot. There was enough going on here without it. I think the ending is improbable. The "villains" are vanquished too easily. The author steps out of the story a lot to explain the history of Christmas customs. I learned a lot about the history of Christmas celebrations but it was a little too much history and could have been worked into the plot better. This story is missing Chesney's trademark humor. It made me smile in places but not laugh out loud.

The romance in this story just didn't work for me. I can see why the rakish heroes would fall in love with such fresh, innocent girls and why the girls would fall for any man who was kind of them, but for a story about a passionate girl, there is surprisingly little chemistry between the heroines and heroes. Most of the romance is told to us from the point-of-view of one of the characters. There is a bit of showing the growing friendship but no real chemistry. I don't need sizzling heat, but some connection would be nice. I thought there was going to be a big misunderstanding plot towards the end but thankfully Chesney refrained from that trope. 99% of this story is kisses only. At the very end, the last scene he takes off her clothes, then his and lays his naked body over hers- fade to black. Chesney's trademark is a naked person!

The characters are rather two-dimensional. The heroines are, of course, good looking, sweet, kind and very innocent. The heroes are supposedly rakes but they don't exhibit any rakish tendencies in the story. I did have sympathy for Jilly and Mandy and wanted them to be happy. I especially liked Lady Harrington and how she dealt with her rival and I also liked the Colonel's story. Lady Harrington and Sir John are wonderful people that I would like to live with. Lady Harrington is the only older adult with any real warmth. Lady Tenby has a large personality but is rather stereotypical.

The reader is very good. She speaks in an upper-class British accent and pitches her voice for different characters. However, I couldn't really tell any of them apart without listening carefully to the words explaining who was speaking. Overall, this is a pleasant sort of read. Not exactly a heartwarming Christmas story but a nice read for a snowy or rainy afternoon.

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