One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

Sometimes a clever and intriguing story line makes a novel great. Sometimes, it is the interaction of a number of interesting characters. And other times, a novel is great because because of the carefully developed setting that gives life to the situations and characters. In One Came Home (January 2013, Knopf Books for Young Readers), Amy Timberlake manages to win in all three ways. Continue Reading

Relish by Lucy Knisley

It is the era when anyone can write a memoir, but not everyone can write one in comic book style. Relish by Lucy Knisley (First Second 2013) is a memoir about food during her life, from childhood to her adulthood. Lucy is a child of two true “foodies,” so her childhood revolved around good home-cooked food, as well as fancy specialty foods and food memories in general. With her personal illustrations, this memoir is a delightful one to read.

From her first memories of eating to the times she ate with her mother and her father (very different experiences, I may add), Lucy’s story was an enjoyable one. The illustrations added a dimension to her life that I also enjoyed. A bonus was that Lucy included a pictorial recipe with each chapter! She made me want to go cook. If you enjoy good food and the ways it makes itself known in the special memories of our lives, you will enjoy Relish, which helps us remember good food and good life with delight.

Note: I received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher via netgalley for review consideration.

Quicksand by Nella Larsen

Quicksand, Nella Larsen’s debut novel (published 1928) was not nearly as satisfying to me as her second one, Passing (published 1929), which I found a complex but intriguing look at race and repressed sexuality for a light-skinned “coloured” woman in New York during the Harlem Renaissance (thoughts here). Despite my frustrations with Quicksand, it is still a rewarding read, especially in its historical context as a defining novel of the Harlem Renaissance.

In Quicksand, mixed-race Helga Crane, like other protagonists in the Harlem Renaissance novels I’ve read, struggles to find her place in a racist world. Continue Reading

The Blue Castle and Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (Brief Thoughts)

I grew up with Anne of Green Gables, which I reread frequently. For some reason, I don’t recall branching out and reading the other Lucy Maud Montgomery novels. As I was reading some longer, denser books recently, I felt the need for a reading break and took the chance to read two stand-alone novels by the writer from Prince Edward Island.

The Blue Castle (published 1926) is one of Montgomery’s novels written for adults. Valancy is a 29-year-old old maid who is constantly criticized, berated, and teased by her extended family, finding her only relief from reality in nature writing and daydreams about her dream home, an exotic Blue Castle. I must admit that when I began the novel, I really did not like the set up. I didn’t know anything about the plot, and I worried that I’d be able to read a novel with a weak woman. Never fear, L.M. Montgomery was able to quickly bring me around. When Valancy receives some surprising news, she comes to a decision that shocks her family: she speaks her mind. I loved Valancy’s transformation, I loved the twists in her life, and the ways in which she struck out on her own. I loved the romance in the story and all the coincidences of the plot. The Blue Castle is a novel I will enjoy rereading, and I suspect each time I finish it, I’ll be able to say with a sigh, “Ah, that was nice.”

Jane of Lantern Hill (published 1936) focuses on a young child (11 years old) but she faces similar frustrations in her life. Her grandmother nags and criticizes her, her loving mother is a weak-willed woman who still succumbs to the grandmother, and Jane longs for something to make her life complete. Like Valancy, Jane retreats from reality in to a daydream, in her case a trip to the magical moon. When she finds out that her long-absent father is alive and wants to spend the summer with her on Prince Edward Island, Jane is delighted by her new freedom. Although Jane transforms in ways similar to Valancy and even Anne Shirley herself, Jane didn’t feel as alive to me as these other favorite characters. Maybe because the romantic notions of a preteen no longer echo my own notions as preteen reading Anne of Green Gables, or maybe the plot simply wasn’t as satisfying. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed reading about Jane’s self-discovery. It was a hopeful and peaceful book.

I now look forward to finding the other L.M. Montgomery novels I have not yet read!

(Can I just add that I greatly dislike these awful 1980s covers?)