Saturday, March 25, 2017

What I Read in December 2016 Part II. . .

What I Read in December 2016 Part II. . .

The Boy Is Back (Boy, #4)The Boy Is Back by Meg Cabot--Austenesque Women's Fiction

Becky Flowers owns a successful senior relocation business in her hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. She enjoys helping seniors transition to a new life and wine tastings at her boyfriend Graham's wine and cheese bar. When she learns that local bigwig Judge Stewart and his wife have been arrested for trying to defraud a local casual eatery, she believes she can help. The Stewarts were very kind to her in the past and she wants to repay that kindness, certain this is all a misunderstanding. However, the Stewarts children know things have gotten out of hand and they need Becky's help. Her sister Nicole urges her NOT to take the job; the Stewarts sound like hoarders and the job may bring back Becky's high school boyfriend, Reed Stewart, whom she hasn't seen or heard from in 10 years. Becky is sure she can maintain a professional working relationship if Reed returns. Riiight.... Reed Stewart, pro golfer and ladies man, hasn't spoken to his parents since prom night 10 years earlier. He's happy to send a check to help them if that's what his siblings want, but his sister-in-law Carly has other ideas. She wants Reed back in town and back in Becky's life. Reed's uncle believes he has unresolved issues and should return to his hometown. Reed isn't sure what he wants, but if he returns, it will be to help his parents only- right?!

Meg Cabot does Persuasion *SQUEAL*! I'm sure all of you know Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel and dear Jane one of my favorite writers. Meg Cabot is my favorite contemporary women's fiction author ("chick-lit") and the marriage of the two is the perfect combination. I loved the previous "Boy" books, especially Every Boy's Got One so of course I had to read this one. The book had me with the epigraph from Persuasion.

The texting/chatting/e-mail format is a little weird. She doesn't use Twitter's limit on characters though so the messages are long enough to get in plot and dialogue. The discussions are lively and funny, especially Marshall's attempts at using bad language which autocorrect overrides. The plot develops nicely despite the limitations of the format. The one message format I didn't care for were the long-winded reviews of items purchased. They didn't really add anything to the story and neither did the Stewart grandkids' antics, though they did add to the humor, which Meg Cabot always does well.

Another thing Meg Cabot always does well is create memorable and quirky characters. At first I didn't like Reed. He seemed like a "douche" as the modern Bennet sisters in the "Lizzie Bennet Diaries" would say, but then I fell madly in love with him for the same reason Becky did. He reads Jane Austen! He quotes from Jane Austen's novels! Then when Becky reveals what actually happened on prom night, it made me love him even more. I ended up with a big cheesy grin on my face and swooning with delight as I finished the book. Though there is one moment where he sounded like Darcy in the first proposal scene but that was quickly cleared up.

Becky isn't quite as memorable as Reed. She's a girl-next-door type character who is content to live in her small town and date a boring guy she isn't compatible with. I admire her for taking over her late father's business and running it successful with her mother and sister. She handles the Stewarts very well and even the junior members of the family respond to her. I guess she's supposed to be a modern Anne Eliot, but she has a little more spunk and of course, a modern life where she has choices and freedoms Anne doesn't have. I like the relationship between Becky and Reed. I wasn't sure the limitations of the format would be enough to develop the love story, but it works. The multi-character point-of-view helps develop the story instead of just getting Becky and Reed's sides of the story.

The secondary characters are so much fun! I loved the Stewarts. At first I thought they would be the usual rich, snobby people found in the previous Boy books and Reed would be the black sheep, but this story breaks from the mold. The Judge and his wife are entirely likable with all their quirks and faults. They're very kind and obviously love their family and their community. Their house and obsessions were cringe-worthy but it could happen to me or anyone who collects anything, or anyone who uses ebay. It seems at first like Carly would not be likable but I enjoyed her very much. She keeps her family in line while still allowing their natural unique qualities to shine. She loves her family and wants them all to be happy, especially Reed. She is NOT Mary Musgrove. She's more like Sophia Croft but all her own person. Her husband is a bit of an idiot, but he's funny. Their daughter Bailey is hysterical but not necessary to the plot. Trimble is the only Stewart I didn't like and she was written as unlikable. Her siblings can't stand her and neither can I. Her kids are awful but Ty has some good insight into the family dynamics.

Becky's family is also quirky. Her mother, Beverly, is a hippie-like woman trying to fight injustice. I admire her fight, I question her methods! Nicole is a bit sarcastic, feisty and protective of her sister. She always tells it like it is. She's the younger sister but sometimes acts like an older sister to Becky. Becky's best friend Leanne doesn't add anything to the story except as a confidant to Becky.

I'm marking the book clean and technically it is kisses only but there is some suggestive dialogue and references to sex.

This story is best appreciated by Janeites, especially Persuasion fans. I don't know if people who don't know Jane Austen's original work will enjoy this one. They might like it but probably not as much as #TeamWentworth would!

The Good MasterThe Good Master by Kate Seredy--Middle Grades Historical Fiction

Jonsi, a boy from the Hungarian Plains, is unimpressed when his cousin Kate comes to stay from the city. She's pale and skinny and insults his clothing! Kate's father says she has come to recover from the measles, but the truth is, Kate is dreadfully spoiled and headstrong. Her father can not control her and is hoping is brother will be able to guide Kate with a firm, but loving hand. As weeks turn into months, the cousins have many adventures together and Jonsi may decide that having a girl for a cousin isn't so bad after all.

This is a charming book. It is the Hungarian version of Little House on the Prairie! The ranch is presented as a healthy, good place to grow up. The cousins have many fun adventures but at the same time, the harsh realities of life on the plains are described in detail. Instead of Pa's fiddle and country dances, we have folk tales, gypsy music, and folk dancing. I liked the adventures of Kate and Jonsi and the folk tales were interesting. The folk tales give a better look at Hungarian culture and beliefs than the main narrative but they are very weird. I loved all the period details about life on a pre-industrial ranch, especially the brief mention of preparing and spinning flax. Mother and Kate must be very strong! The cover image is gorgeous. It reminded me of the Moravian Easter egg designs in The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous, which makes sense. I wasn't crazy about the interior illustrations. The author illustrated the book herself and chose a stylish, sleek, modern style of illustrating her book. The style was not cozy or friendly.

At first I found Kate too headstrong and crazy but I grew to like her. If you like Pippi Longstocking, Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls, you'll like Kate too. Jonsi isn't as memorable as Kate. He is a little goody goody at first but he and Kate bring out the best (and sometimes worst) in each other.

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