Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson was published in 2012 by Shadow Mountain.

Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry. From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

Rating: 4/5

You would think, with Blackmoore being so enjoyably bad, that I would avoid more books by the author. There’s only so much enjoyable nonsense I can take, after all. However, something compelled me to pick up another book by Donaldson (maybe because I saw that my library carried it). And, I must confess, I ate up Edenbrooke and its angsty romance even more than I love-hated Blackmoore.

Plain and simple, I enjoy romances like Edenbrooke’s. I delight in the angsty “I love him but he couldn’t possibly love me” type of self-denial that’s found in this book. I mean, it does tend to make the heroine seem a little dense at times, but there’s something about this particular romantic archetype that I enjoy every time I encounter it. And it doesn’t matter how poor the rest of the book is—I would read it simply because of that one element.

To be honest, though, Edenbrooke really isn’t all that bad. It was actually much better than I was expecting, and it lacked a lot of the contrivance that Blackmoore had, though there were some random parts that stretched the bounds of believability a little. I highly enjoyed every minute of it—I even teared up a time or two. It’s certainly not classic literature, but it’s far from the sort of trashy romance novel you’d be embarrassed to be seen reading. Edenbrooke was good enough that I might keep my eye on Donaldson to see what else she has up her sleeve.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction

I lifted my chin, feigning dignity. “I was hiding so that I would not be seen wet and muddy.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You were wet and muddy? Before you fell in the river?”

I cleared my throat. “I fell in twice.”

He pressed his lips together and looked off in the distance, as if trying to regain his composure. When he looked at me again, his eyes were brimming with laughter. “And may I ask how you came to fall in the river the first time?”

My face burned as I realized how silly I had been, how childish and inelegant. Of course, he already knew those things about me from my actions at the inn last night. Singing that song! Laughing, and then crying! And now falling into a river! I had never been more aware of my faults than I was at that moment.

“I was, er, twirling,” I said.

His lips twitched. “I cannot imagine it. You must demonstrate for me.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2kE0ni2

The Black Stallion’s Courage by Walter Farley

The Black Stallion’s Courage, by Walter Farley, was published in 1956 by Random House. It is an indirect sequel to The Black Stallion (by which I mean it’s number twelve in the series).

When Hopeful Farm burns down, Alec’s dreams for the future go up in smoke. How can he get the money to rebuild? To make matters worse, a strong young colt named Eclipse has taken the racing world by storm, threatening to replace the Black in the hearts of racing fans. Against all odds, Alec sets out to save the farm and prove that the Black is still the greatest race horse of all time!

Rating: 5/5

Normally when I read a series, I prefer to go in chronological order. However, my plan for doing so with Farley’s Black Stallion series was foiled when I discovered that my library simply doesn’t carry them all. So, I have to jump around and review them randomly. Luckily, only a few books in the series really need to be read chronologically—the rest stand alone and can be read in any order.

The Black Stallion’s Courage, the twelfth in the series, is not technically a stand-alone book, since it’s a direct sequel to the events of The Black Stallion’s Filly, but it’s not entirely necessary to have read that book before this one. I chose this book because it’s the Black Stallion book I remember liking the most beyond the original—and now having reread it, I might even like it more!

One of the things I like the most about the Black Stallion books is that they’re so predictable—of course the Black will win the race!—but Farley delivers on the tension and the obstacles so that in the moment, you’re feeling the anxiety of the characters enough that the predictability flies to the back of your mind. The race in The Black Stallion’s Courage is fantastic, as are all the races before the grand finale.

These books also teach a lot about horse racing and Courage spends a great deal of time stressing the nature of handicap races. And Farley does it well enough that when the time comes, we know why the different weights carried by the different horses is so important and we feel the tension with Alec and Henry about the weight the Black has to carry versus the rest of the field’s. It’s a quality of writing that I love, that ability to communicate something and get the audience to feel with the characters as they experience it. Farley is not necessarily the best writer in terms of style, but he is an effective one.

Simply put, I eat up The Black Stallion’s Courage every time I read it. I think I like it even more than I like The Black Stallion. To put it in perspective, I’ve read this book four or five times, whereas I’ve read the “prequel,” The Black Stallion’s Filly, maybe twice. It’s a fast-paced, heart-racing adventure and even with the number of times I’ve read it and its predictability, I still wonder, every time, if the Black, with all that weight, can beat the two best horses in a race.

(Also, funny story to end: I wondered while reading if Eclipse was really fast enough to beat Secretariat’s record (described as the Preakness/Belmont record in the book)—then realized this book was written some twenty years before Secretariat raced. Oops.)

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

One of the reporters touched Henry Dailey on the shoulder as the small procession neared the long green-and-white sheds. “How come you didn’t let the Black finish out the season at Hopeful Farm?” he asked.

“It seems we need a good handicap horse more than we need another sire,” Henry answered. “Satan’s there.”

“Then you think you can win again with the Black?”

“Sure. Why not?”

The reporter laughed. “Well, I can think of a lot of reasons, but I’d rather listen to you. As far as I can remember there was only one older horse that was ever able to come back after being retired and that was Citation.”

“That’s your quote, not mine,” Henry said. “I’m not worryin’ about the Black bein’ able to make a comeback, so don’t you worry, either.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2kQLdcT

Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson

Blackmoore, by Julianne Donaldson, was published in 2013 by Shadow Mountain.

Kate Worthington knows she can never marry the man she loves, so she plans to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals. Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore, determined to fulfill her end of the bargain. There she enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. In the wild, windswept countryside near the coast of northern England, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Rating: 2/5

Blackmoore is a melodramatic, over-the-top historical romance, but it’s a fun melodramatic, over-the-top historical romance. It’s one of the books you read not for its literary quality or romantic appeals, but for the sheer joy you get while reading it and thinking “This makes absolutely no sense but I love it anyway.”

That’s not to say that the plot is confusing or unrealistic. It does require some stretching of the boundaries, but hey, it’s a romance. Characters are supposed to conquer all odds in order to be together at last, which calls for some situations that might seem contrived or over-the-top. And Blackmoore combines those with some high levels of chewing the scenery melodrama and an unoriginal romantic plot (combined with some poor writing that makes it seem as if something sinister is going on behind the scenes. Spoiler: there’s not). At one point I was cheering for Kate and the younger Mr. Brandon, just to relieve some of that thick romantic angst that Kate had hanging around her whenever she was around Henry.

But, oh, I had fun reading this book. Even during the times I was wincing at the excessive internal angsting and monologuing of Kate, or at all the obvious plot twists, I was still enjoying Blackmoore. And, to be honest, I’m being a little harsher than my enjoyment/opinion of the book warrants. I did like Blackmoore, and I did enjoy it–even if it was for reasons the author likely didn’t intend.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None

Genre: Historical Fiction

I paused at a sound. At first I thought it was the wind—the sound that came to me. Then I realized it was weaker than wind. It came in spurts and sputters, and as I cocked my head, puzzling, and concentrated on the sound, I realized I recognized it. It was voices, coming to me on the wind of whispers, raising the hairs of my neck. I pinched my candle out, the smoke rising to sting my nose, and held as still as I could while my heart raced. But though I strained to make out the whispered words, I could not discern what was being said or from whence the whispers came—from the hallway, beyond the tapestry I hid behind, or from some secret passageway on the other side of this wall. Footsteps sounded, soft and scraping, and the whispers teased me, just out of reach of my comprehension. Sylvia’s stories of ghost haunting this wing floated through my mind, and I shivered with a sudden chill.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2jXgxXb

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter

Disclaimer: An Uncommon Courtship, by Kristi Ann Hunter, was provided by Bethany House. I received a free copy. No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

When her mother’s ill-conceived marriage trap goes awry, Lady Adelaide Bell unwittingly finds herself bound to a stranger who ignores her. Lord Trent Hawthorne, who had grand plans to marry for love, is even less pleased with the match. Can they set aside their first impressions before any chance of love is lost?

My rating: 4/5

An interesting and unique take on a marriage of convenience, An Uncommon Courtship returns to the familiar setting of the previous books in the Hawthorne House series (though explains enough that newcomers will not be lost), this time telling Trent’s story.

Perhaps not every reader will enjoy the shy, shrinking Adelaide, but I thoroughly enjoyed her—I’m tired of confident, “I know what I want” female protagonists who are as interesting as a brown paper bag. Adelaide is both as insecure as her upbringing would create and as assertive as her new situation would start her to be, in a good display of character development overall. Trent, with all of his questions and lack of confidence, was also a good character. Oftentimes male characters in these sorts of books seem a little too wise; Trent’s confusion was a nice change of pace.

I also appreciated Hunter’s take on the convenient marriage plot; while perhaps being a little too obvious about giving marital advice, some good questions and answers were raised in a context where a majority of people are often curiously silent. Marriage in books like these tends to be treated as the ultimate destination, the ultimate summation of happiness, and maybe it is, but Trent and Adelaide’s journey seemed to me to show the hidden side of it, with its struggles, conflicts, and emotions. So, kudos to Hunter for changing it up from her first two books (and the novella) and showing something that I, at least, have never really seen before.

There’s one last unmarried Hawthorne left, and I’m curious to see if Hunter will write a final book for Griffith. That would be an interesting read, I think, so I hope she does.

An Uncommon Courtship, while not as fascinating or as gripping as I found An Elegant Façade, is a unique take on the marriage of convenience, dealing with marital guidance and how to communicate with someone you barely know, among other things. Adelaide and Trent had good characterization, and while I wish some of the other characters weren’t so underdeveloped and one-dimensional (such as Adelaide’s mother and sister, who started out the series as gossiping golddiggers and remain so three books later), I have really enjoyed Hunter’s Hawthorne House series despite that.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/2kc4uGh

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi, was published in 1990 by Orchard/Scholastic.

In 1832, thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle is returning from her school in England to her family in America. Charlotte’s voyage takes place on the Seahawk, a seedy ship headed by a murderously cruel captain and sailed by a mutinous crew. When Charlotte gets caught up in the bitter feud between captain and crew, she winds up on trial for murder…and is found guilty!

Rating: 4/5

I read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle once more than ten years ago and it stuck pretty well with me all these years. Though some of the details were muddled in my mind, I remembered very vividly one of the last lines in the book and the overall gist of the story.

It’s not that this book is particularly complex or amazing, which is usually the sort of book I remember well these days. It’s incredibly straightforward and simplistic, and Avi doesn’t leave a lot of time to develop much of the other characters beyond Charlotte. We don’t know much about anything about Charlotte’s family except that they’re pretty stereotypically Victorian upper-middle-class, which means they’re prim and proper and gasp in horror at their daughter’s adventures, and we don’t know or learn much about any of the crew members that Charlotte meets, except for Zechariah.

Yet somehow, it doesn’t seem to matter. There are no frills, no bells and whistles attached to this book. It is, as Charlotte herself will tell you, a detailed description of what happened to her—and it works, or at least it did for me. Though things happen quickly, they happen realistically. They make sense. Charlotte’s trust in Jaggery at the beginning of the book makes sense, as does her increasing unease, her heel-face-turn (and, subsequently, the crew’s), and her ultimate loyalty to the ship. I don’t even mind how it ends, because everything that came before it made sense.

I also think that Zechariah’s character is a pretty interesting one, in that he’s not the (stereo)typical portrayal of a black man in Victorian England or America. He’s the most eloquent, which I think is a good contrast for a lot of black characters we see in historical fiction that speak in dialect. It shows a different side and I like that.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a simple story, but it’s one that’s stuck with me as I grew up, and one that I expect will continue to stick with me in the years to come.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade

“Begging your pardon, miss,” the man murmured, his look more hangdog than ever. “Barlow’s the name and though it’s not my business or place to tell you, miss, some of the other’s here, Jack Tars like myself, have deputized me to say that you shouldn’t be on this ship. Not alone as you are. Not this ship. Not this voyage, miss.”

“What do you mean?” I said, frightened anew. “Why would they say that?”

“You’re being here will lead to no good, miss. No good at all. You’d be better off far from the Seahawk.”

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/2hW2FfY

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, by Laura Amy Schlitz, was published in 2006 by Candlewick.

On the morning of the best day of her life, Maud Flynn was locked in the outhouse, singing, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” That is the day that Maud—“plain, clever and bad” girl of the Barbary Asylum for Female Orphans—is adopted into a real family, surprising even Maud herself. The elderly Hawthorne sisters, led by the charismatic Hyacinth, think that Maud Flynn is absolutely perfect, and Maud follows them eagerly into a brand-new life, expecting to be pampered and cherished beyond her wildest dreams. Once she settles in with Hyacinth, Judith, and Victoria to live out an orphan’s fantasy, however, Maud learns that “perfection” has more to do with the secret role she can play in the high-stakes and eerie “family business” than with her potential as a beloved family member. Not one to give up easily, Maud persists in playing her role in the hopes of someday being rewarded with genuine affection. But the burden of keeping secrets and perpetuating lies grows heavy even for Maud, and she must ultimately decide just how much she is willing to endure for the sake of being loved.

Rating: 4/5

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair is a heartwarming novel about a girl who just wants a family and the lengths she will go to in order to feel loved. While the plot was obvious, it was well-written and I didn’t mind so much that I knew how the novel was going to end.

While I found Schlitz’s other novel, Splendors and Glooms, strange and unlikeable, this one, while containing some slight supernatural elements, was much more subtle about it and everything was integrated nicely into the plot. In addition, Maud is not the character type that I tend to like, but I liked her—Schlitz shared just enough of her feelings and of her past that I understood her and I appreciated the time spent in the characterization of Maud, as well as the other characters, especially Victoria, Anna, and Mrs. Lambert.

I also appreciated that Schlitz shows how Maud has an accent without actually writing out the dialect. Writing in dialect sometimes doesn’t come across very well, so I’m glad that the improper English was implied rather than directly stated whenever Maud opened her mouth. A strange thing to appreciate, I know, but dialects can very quickly become too over the top and Schlitz avoids that all together.

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair is sweet, at times sad and a little disturbing, and ultimately heartwarming. I enjoyed reading it and I’m glad that the somewhat cheesy subtitle (A Melodrama) does not take away from the novel in the least bit.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade

Hyacinth squeezed her again. “You really are a darling girl,” said Hyacinth Hawthorne. “Isn’t she, Judith?”

Judith didn’t answer. The elder Miss Hawthorne had turned to face the window. Her profile was hawklike, with its sharp eyes and Roman nose. Maud had a feeling that Judith didn’t talk about “darlings” very much. A little daunted, she glanced back at Hyacinth.

Hyacinth was smiling faintly. Maud relaxed. It was Hyacinth who mattered, after all—and Hyacinth thought she was a darling girl.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2gPRSSw

Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Ingleside, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1939. It is the sequel to Anne’s House of Dreams.

Anne is the mother of five, with never a dull moment in her lively home. And now with a new baby on the way and insufferable Aunt Mary visiting – and wearing out her welcome – Anne’s life is full to bursting. Still, Mrs Doctor can’t think of any place she’d rather be than her own beloved Ingleside. Until the day she begins to worry that her adored Gilbert doesn’t love her anymore. How could that be? She may be a little older, but she’s still the same irrepressible, irreplaceable redhead – the wonderful Anne of Green Gables, all grown up… She’s ready to make her cherished husband fall in love with her all over again!

Rating: 4/5

Anne of Ingleside is another “fill in the gaps” Anne story. It’s also technically the last Anne story, as it was published last, after Anne of Windy Poplars. Since it was published after Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside (the books that chronologically come after Ingleside), it actually hints at—to be honest, more like downright spoils—events that occur in those books, most noticeably what happens to Walter in Rilla of Ingleside.

As a “fill in the gaps” book, Ingleside is much, much better than Windy Poplars. We don’t get much of the familiar Anne except at beginning and end, but her children are just as ridiculous and loveable as she was in Anne of Green Gables, so they’re an almost suitable replacement for our beloved Anne Shirley, who becomes “mother” Anne for the rest of the series.

Of the “children” novels, I think I like Rainbow Valley best, but Ingleside has lots of fun shenanigans, some heartbreaking moments such as Ronny and his dog (which made me tear up) and some slightly over-the-top but enjoyable nonsense such as Anne becoming worried that Gilbert doesn’t love her anymore.

My main quibble with this book (and with Montgomery’s portrayal of Anne’s children in general) is that, while Montgomery is quite deft at giving each child his/her own personality and story, she completely leaves one of them by the wayside to the point where I wonder why even have him in the novels at all. I’m talking, of course, about Shirley, who is mentioned briefly at the beginning and almost never mentioned again. Each child of Anne’s gets his own narrative (or even two!) in Ingleside, except for Shirley. Each child gets his own thoughts interjected into the overall narrative, except for Shirley. It makes Anne seem the slightest bit neglectful of one of her own children, and Montgomery’s possible explanation for why Shirley barely makes an appearance only makes it worse.

Ingleside serves its purpose well: as a transition from the series being focused on Anne to the series being focused on her children. It blends both Anne-related things and children-related things neatly together, paving the way for the children-centric Rainbow Valley and the Rilla-centric Rilla of Ingleside. My only complaint is that Shirley is neglected, and as a result, a completely unnecessary character.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“Susan! What has become of Gog and Magog? Oh…they haven’t broken, have they?”

“No, no, Mrs. Dr. dear,” exclaimed Susan, turning a deep brick-red from shame and dashing out of the room. She returned shortly with the two china dogs which always presided at the hearth of Ingleside. “I do not see how I could have forgotten to put them back before you came. You see, Mrs. Dr. dear, Mrs. Charles Day from Charlottetown called here the day after you left…and you know how very precise and proper she is. Walter thought he ought to entertain her and he started in by pointing out the dogs to her. ‘This one is God and this is My God,’ he said, poor innocent child.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2gHUkw9

Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery

Anne’s House of Dreams, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1917. It is the sequel to Anne of Windy Poplars.

Anne’s own true love, Gilbert Blythe, is finally a doctor, and in the sunshine of the old orchard, among their dearest friends, they are about to speak their vows. Soon the happy couple will be bound for a new life together and their own dream house, on the misty purple shores of Four Winds Harbor. A new life means fresh problems to solve, fresh surprises. Anne and Gilbert will make new friends and meet their neighbors: Captain Jim, the lighthouse attendant, with his sad stories of the sea; Miss Cornelia Bryant, the lady who speaks from the heart — and speaks her mind; and the tragically beautiful Leslie Moore, into whose dark life Anne shines a brilliant light.

Rating: 3/5

Anne’s House of Dreams makes up in some ways for the forgettable, unnecessary Anne of Windy Poplars that came before (and yet after) it, but still struggles with what I’m going to term “Montgomery sound-byte-ism,” which is the tendency of Montgomery to have chapters completely dedicated to one character’s quirky stories. Now, if you like those quirky stories, then you’ll have no problems with this. I, however, tend to think that they get very tedious, very quickly. I ended up skimming most of the parts where Miss Cornelia kept going on and on about one thing or another. If that is someone’s favorite aspect of Montgomery’s stories, then I apologize—but it’s not mine.

Montgomery really went all out in terms of description for House of Dreams, something I don’t remember her doing in the previous books (but I could merely be forgetting).  I do know that description in the earlier books mostly came through Anne’s eyes and mouth as she told us what she saw or described how she saw it. However, in House of Dreams, while we may be “seeing” through Anne’s eyes in terms of her being the main character, Montgomery is the one describing things like the sea and the house, and quite beautifully at times.

House of Dreams is also the first Anne book to have a major tragedy. In Green Gables and Avonlea, there is a death, but Joy’s death in House of Dreams is even more heart wrenching. That, coupled with the overall tragedy and gloom of Leslie’s backstory, makes House of Dreams one of the “darkest” Anne novels so far, if not the darkest. And to be honest, I like that adult-Anne’s world in House of Dreams is not as full of rainbows and sunshine as child-Anne’s world was in Green Gables. Plus, some of the theological questions that arise in this book are spot-on and are maybe even better explained through the use of a story that just stating it flat out (especially when trying to explain such things to children).

Anne’s House of Dreams, while not holding a candle to the first three books, is an improvement over the regrettable Windy Poplars, and its inclusion of more mature story elements makes it more nuanced than even the books that came before it. It’s too bad “Montgomery sound-byte-ism” made the whole thing a little tedious.

Recommended Age Range: 10+ (and lower!)

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

“Let’s introduce ourselves,” she said, with the smile that had never yet failed to win confidence and friendliness. “I am Mrs. Blythe—and I live in that little white house up the harbor shore.”

“Yes, I know,” said the girl. “I am Leslie Moore—Mrs. Dick Moore,” she added stiffly.

Anne was silent for a moment from sheer amazement. It had not occurred to her that this girl was married—there seemed nothing of the wife about her. And that she should be the neighbor whom Anne had pictured as a commonplace Four Winds housewife! Anne could not quickly adjust her mental focus to this astonishing change.

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/2flqtF7

In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap

In the Shadow of the Lamp, by Susanne Dunlap, was published in 2011 by Bloomsbury.

Rating: 2/5

It’s 1854, and Molly would give anything to change her circumstances as a lowly servant in a posh London house. So when she hears of an opportunity to join Florence Nightingale and her nurses in the Crimea, the promise of a new start—and perhaps even adventure—is too tempting to pass up. The work is grueling, the hospital conditions are deplorable, and Miss Nightingale proves to be a demanding leader. But before long, tending to sick and wounded British solders becomes more than just a mission of mercy; it becomes a mission of the heart when Molly finds that she’s falling in love with not one, but two young men. With the battle raging ever nearer, one of the men will fall victim to the great guns. Will it be the dashing young doctor who sees molly as more than just one of Nightingale’s nurses or the foot soldier who has left everything behind and joined the army to be near to her?

I should have known from the summary that In the Shadow of the Lamp would be a rough ride. It doesn’t even try to hide the love triangle romance. And it’s the worst kind of love triangle, with the unoriginal “Old Friend vs. Exciting Newcomer” (where 90% of the time the Old Friend wins) and with the protagonist thinking how much she loves her Old Friend, then when she meets the Newcomer is convinced that her Old Friend is just a friend and that she really loves the Newcomer, and then realizes at the end that the Old Friend was the one she loved the whole time, really.

And most of the time for these sorts of love triangles I always root for the Newcomer to win because they almost never do. They turn out to be cads and/or die.

So, yes, I was very unhappy with the love triangle. But the historical aspect of the novel was actually quite good. I liked the portrayal of Florence Nightingale and the realization the novel gives as to how profoundly she affected nursing during the Crimean War. And the bits on the actual nursing were good, too.

The one thing I didn’t understand was why Dunlap decided to throw in some sort of odd mysticism/fantastic element to the whole nursing thing. Was it just to stay true to the people who were present during the war or what? The whole “healing hands” thing was weird from start to finish. And it also made Maggie one of those protagonists who a.) everybody ends up liking and b.) has some sort of special insight into a topic that she beforehand knew nothing about. And her waffling between Will and Doctor Maclean was annoying, especially since I didn’t buy her romance with Will one bit.

In the Shadow of the Lamp is decent historical fiction, but has a terrible love triangle romance and the protagonist has too many flaws in terms of characterization. I liked the look at the Crimean War, but I could have done without everything else attached.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

“These are the men who were just admitted last night,” Dr. Menzies said.

As my eyes became accustomed to the half light, I could make out shapes writhing on the floor. “Shapes” was all I could think to call them. Human bodies so mixed together and covered with blood and gore it seemed I was looking at a single creature.

“The wards are above. If you’ll follow me.”

We picked our way gingerly through the men on the floor to a staircase. Maybe upstairs in a proper ward there would be more order. My hopes didn’t last long. I heard Miss Nightingale exclaim before I reached the top of the staircase, “But there are no beds! And the linens are filthy. The stink is abominable. What is that surgeon over there doing?”

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/2fhB7Nn

Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Windy Poplars, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, was first published in 1936. It is the sequel to Anne of the Island.

Anne Shirley has left Redmond College behind to begin a new job and a new chapter of her life away from Green Gables. Now she faces a new challenge: the Pringles. They’re known as the royal family of Summerside – and they quickly let Anne know she is not the person they had wanted as principal of Summerside High School. But as she settles into the cozy tower room at Windy Poplars, Anne finds she has great allies in the widows Aunt Kate and Aunt Chatty – and in their irrepressible housekeeper, Rebecca Dew. As Anne learns Summerside’s strangest secrets, winning the support of the prickly Pringles becomes only the first of her triumphs.

Rating: 2/5

Anne of Windy Poplars is definitely one of my least favorite Anne books. I think I like it even less than Anne of Avonlea. What I find most interesting is that Anne of the Island was published in 1915, and Anne’s House of Dreams, which is the sequel to Windy Poplars, was published in 1917, but Windy Poplars was published in 1936. Montgomery actually went back and filled in the three-year gap between Island and House of Dreams (probably due to popular demand) but it highlights that Windy Poplars is an entirely unnecessary book.

Absolutely nothing happens in Windy Poplars that is important to the rest of the series. Almost every single chapter is its own separate story. I’ll say one thing, Montgomery is good at “sound bytes,” at crafting little stories that are intriguing and funny and ridiculous all at the same time. Do the romantic troubles and obstacles get tiring after a while? Yes. But they’re at least always interesting, even when they start wearing thin by the third year. However, the overall “none of this matters” atmosphere of the book is incredibly telling and really shouts “filler book” for all to hear.

It also shows a side of Anne that I’m not really sure I like—the “this is a challenge but I shall strive forward with fortitude because I’m imaginative and dreamy and win over everyone eventually” side of her. It’s cute in Anne of Green Gables, but the Anne of Anne of the Island managed to grow past the worst of that stage, combining imagination with grown-up maturity and wisdom. Yet Anne of Windy Poplars tends to regress at times, and yes, I know, Anne is beloved mostly because of her winsome imagination, but I can’t help it—I like sensible, “I’m still imaginative but I’m got my head out of the clouds” Anne better. Luckily, she starts to come back in House of Dreams, which is more “sound bytes” but strung together with an actual plot rather than an “I have to waste three years so let’s string together a bunch of stories” plot.

Recommended Age Range: 10+ (and lower!)

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s

Why didn’t Lennox Carter talk? If he would, she, Anne, could talk, too, and perhaps Trix and Pringle would escape from the spell that bound them and some kind of conversation would be possible. But he simply sat there and ate. Perhaps he thought it was really the best thing to do…perhaps he was afraid of saying something that would still further enrage the evidently already enraged parent of his lady.

“Will you please start the pickles, Miss Shirley?” said Mrs. Taylor faintly.

Something wicked stirred in Anne. She started the pickles…and something else. Without letting herself stop to think she bent forward, her great, gray-green eyes glimmering limpidly, and said gently,

“Perhaps you would be surprised to hear, Dr. Carter, that Mr. Taylor went deaf very suddenly last week?”

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