Longbourn by Jo Baker

This novel is the retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view or rather focuses on the lives of the servants.

I picked this book up spontaneously from the library’s Express Books as I often do. Looking for some midweek relaxation, I read it last evening. It wasn’t particularly difficult to read, but I do feel I glossed over some of it.

There are some nice moments and if you’re familiar with the Austen books or the time period, it can be an easy read. I did realize early on that I wouldn’t really love this book. While I felt a bit for Sarah, I wasn’t really engaged with her all the time too.

I found most of the novel on the boring side. To be honest, this is a historical novel that feels like it randomly inserted characters with the same names as the ones in P&P rather than act as a homage to the work. I just didn’t really see the link between this novel and P&P other than it sharing some characters.

What got me most after I finished it was that the tone of the novel was very different than P&P. While Austen does have her dramatic and serious feeling moments, the satire, social commentary, and tongue in cheek nature of some of her characters make the novels light. There wasn’t any lightness to this novel. It felt dour and humourless. The ending was a happy one, but it didn’t make up for how most of the novel was heavy.

Reading the reviews of it afterwards on GoodReads, it polarized people. I can see some positives to it, but I would not call this a true homeage to Austen.

Read October 28th, 2014.

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Going into this reread of the series, I always remembered this book the most. It was the image of Laura and Almanzao driving back in the cold winter.

Of all the books. this is my favourite in terms of being enjoyable and it feels good. The Ingalls aren’t moving around, things are settled, Laura has grown up so much, and she is happy. There is one scary moment in the beginning, but it’s not as bad as the racism in the earlier books.

I just think this is a lovely book about the past. For me, it’s a classic.

I know that Laura and Almanzo didn’t have an easy life after this, but the book captures a good time. I would reread this novel again.

Reread October 16th-17th, 2014 on Kindle.

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

In this book, Laura takes on her first job, Mary goes to college, Laura is walked home by Almanzo Wilder, and she becomes a teacher.

There was one whole chapter on American patriotism which is something I can’t particularly relate to. I did like Laura’s sauciness to her Ma about Pa still liking her even if her waist it not as small as it use to be.

It’s really a wonder about each teenager having a whole orange at a birthday party. It really
makes you appreciate the fruit we have now. This book was nice, but more a filler to the last two.

Reread October 5th, 2014 on Kindle.

Sunday Salon: Transitions

Sunday Salon

Hello! It has been awhile since I wrote a Sunday Salon post. I have dropped off a bit with my Little House series readalong and fell behind actually. I may try to catch up this week.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve gradually knit less. I even started a pair of socks over a month of ago, but I’m just one third through the foot. I should have picked an easier pattern to return to knitting.

I have many hobbies and interests, and of late, my social life and running/fitness has taken over. I am the most fit as I have ever been in my life. It’s taken me a couple years to have this kind of social network; I only had a couple of friends here three years ago. I even started a new work contract recently. I still watch some TV shows. I’m interested in “Outlander” and “Black-ish” these days. I have not seen a movie in a couple months though.

The saddest aspect is that my reading has dropped off significantly this year except for during my holiday to China in May. I took my reading goal down from 70 to 52 books, and even with that, I’m struggling at 31 right now.

I will always love reading and consider myself a reader. Lately, I’ve found it hard to be one. I don’t want to force myself to read either. I think it’s just a transitioning time for me, and I’ll definitely go back to bibliophilia when the time is right. Hopefully soon.

Have a great week!

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

As the title says, this book was just about one long winter. It is the most boring of the books so far. It’s just blizzard after blizzard and the belated Christmas scene at the end did save it for me.

Almanzo features again for the first time since Farmer Boy. I found the switching of narratives not seamless and a bit clunky. I did enjoy how every time the Wilder boys were mentioned, pancakes were featured!

Mary continues to be a sanctimonious wet blanket while Laura is still a relatable protagonist. I listened to half of this in audiobook from HarperCollins. I got use to the narrator after awhile. She made the singing more bearable too, but there is too much singing in these books.

All in all, the

Reread September 12-14 on audiobook and Kindle.

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Two years pass between this book and the last one. Almost immediately we are told that Mary has become blind and Ma had has another baby so now there are four girls. They experience their first train ride, hotel experience, and moving to Dakota Territory to become homesteaders.

There was a lot of singing in this book. A bit too much for me. I really enjoyed Laura’s adventures in the wild and Laura is so relateable. Opposed to Mary. She was Ok in the beginning (“you create pictures with your words, Laura”) then got annoying: “I really don’t know, Laura, why you’d rather those rough men… I’ve finished another quilt patch while you’ve been idling.” Carrie seems to be afraid of everything.

I do feel sorry for Laura. She is growing up and has to be the eldest all of a sudden. Pa tells Laura that Ma wants one of the girls to teach and it has to be her. Sigh.

Caroline’s racism returns again in this book: “I always heard you can’t trust a half-breed,” Ma said. Ma did not like Indians; she did not like even half-Indians.

They talk about how they wouldn’t have been scalped back in Indian Territory except for one and Caroline argues back. It doesn’t make sense though; it’s just prejudice. I mean they were in Indian territory! What did they expect? Her issue was with them moving to Indian territory and that was Pa’s decision.

On a final note, I like the side characters as usual: Big Jerry and the Boasts: “Mr Boast’s laugh tickles,” Carrie said.

Laura’s writing continues to be lovely in parts. I had forgotten how excellent a writer she is (or Rose, it’s hard to tell). It gives me more mixed feelings about the books. Sigh.

Re-read Sept 5-6, 2014 on Kindle.

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The more I re-read these books, the more uncomfortable I am with Charles Ingalls. While the books have some lovely moments especially with Laura exploring the wild and the glimpses of frontier life, I get annoyed with Pa.

He buys lumber for a house in the spring on credit of the wheat he will harvest later. It is a big lack of foresight because the last wheat harvest by the previous owner was poor. He does not research the area they move into very much at all. Unsurprising that they have locusts for two years. It’s horrifying to read though.

On a positive note, I continue to like Laura. She relatable to most girls. Aside from the moment where Ma gives Charlotte away, I have to hand it to Caroline. She does very well under the circumstances. I have also liked Christmas scene in the book so far. I like how it was a cherished time of family, love, and unselfish behaviour among people. There is a deep sense of gratitude and warmth in the gift scene. I also think Caroline and Charles do really love each other. Charles loves his family, and I feel sorry for him and his family.

I continue to have mixed feelings about the books, but some of my favourite moments will come as Laura grows up.

Reread August 30th-September 3rd, 2014 on Kindle.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

This is not a book review. I started reading this book six months ago, and I have only made it page 68 out of 261. I am officially giving up this book.

This was a Classics Club spin book, and my reading has not been as good this year. I tried many times to pick up this book, but I just found it too boring. Giving up a book is not easy for me. It’s only happened five times in recent memory. I am a speed reader so I can usually skim to some degree, but even skimming this novel was difficult.

I bought the book at used charity book fair because I loved The Jungle Book. I read the reviews and recaps of the books to spur my desire, but I couldn’t do it. First, the novel was too slow paced for me. I did not get a sense of the protagonist. I did not like the dialogue style. There are a lot of “thee” and “thou”. Utter tedium for me and I’m not even sure why it even bored me that much. I’ve read War and Peace, but nope, I have wasted enough time on this book. I think I will donate it.

Life is too short to read books that you don’t enjoy.

Started reading March 2014, gave up Sept 1, 2014.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Compared to the first book, lots of things happen in this novel. So also begins the
the restlessness of Charles Ingalls.

This novel had moving, travel, house building, Indians, malaria, and more. A lot of the stuff was on the scary side such as the creek crossing part, almost losing Jack the dog, and basically all the parts with wild animals.

It was a bit interesting to watch them travel and build a home on the prairies. Pa also seems to be a great hunter. I do like his endearment to Laura being “half-pint of sweet cider half drunk up.” I also liked the introduction of Mr. Edwards; I liked him when I was a kid too. I enjoyed the Santa Claus chapter and laughed out loud with that line: “In the Southwest, Santa Claus rides a pack mule”

The Scotts’ racism against Indians was a low point though. Pa wasn’t particularly prejudiced, but I’m wary about this whole land issue in the book.

I can’t judge this book without reading the others I feel. There are some nice moments that exemplified Laura’s (or Rose’s) writing ability.

Reread August 23, 2014 on Kindle.

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This book in the series is known for its food, and there is lots and lots of food at the beginning stages. Almanzo’s childhood is relatively stable and abundant when compared to Laura’s. I think Laura wrote all the food to emphasize how much Manly had, but also how much she herself didn’t have growing up.

This is actually a really good standalone children’s book. There are a lot of period details about farm life from harvesting, weaving, animal husbandry, the fair, and much more. I only felt bad for the women and girls. Alice, Eliza, and Mother seemed to have been in the kitchen their whole lives. Alice even says “Boys have all the fun.”

The other discomfort would be the outdated stories about the Indian at the fair and playing “Indian”. The other annoying thing was Almanzo randomly getting $200 at the end for no reason really. None of the kids get “tanned” by their parent in this story. In fact, Father Wilder seems to be an incredibly savvy and benevolent man.

I’d reread this in the future. There was some sweet moments, but the ending was a bit abrupt.

Reread August 19-21, 2014 on Kindle.

The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is part of a readalong of the Little House series I am organizing on an internet forum I moderate.

One of the reasons I organized the readalong was to see if they were as good as I remembered, but also to look critically for things. Rose Wilder wrote a lot of these books with her mother, and her political views are sprinkled throughout. Secondly, reading between the lines, a lot of other readers wondered if Pa Ingalls as that good of a family man after all.

The Little House in the Big Woods

This book was more boring than I remembered. Actually, maybe this book is so idyllic, it edges onto tedium.

I did enjoy some aspects, particularly the food parts: butchering, cheese-making, butter churning, maple sugaring, and more. I like the hunting moments, Christmas family moments, and Ma making hats. The ending is sweet too.

Some of the stuff I wasn’t loving was the punishments, spankings for birthdays, and the rivalry between Mary and Laura in general was a bit discomforting. I didn’t like how they wrote about how Laura was not noticed because of her brown hair and curls: “They were ugly and brown.” Poor Laura.

Why did they move? I don’t know how the woods were so crowded when Laura and Mary had never even seen two houses together let alone a town or a store.

All in all, this was a lackluster start. It had its moments. I may consider it for children’s reading.

Reread August 18, 2014 on Kindle.

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon

This is the eighth book in the Outlander series. I honestly can’t believe I’ve read all the books to this series.

I now moderate an Outlander forum so I had to catch up for the show’s airing. Great start to the show by the way.

As for this novel, I feel the first couple of books were my favourites. I think the first novel is the most tightly written. Each of them subsequently have become more and more sprawling. There are a lot of narratives and it can often drag in the middle.

Case in point, I did not always like how various characters and families were split apart. I also did not like William or care about his struggles.

On a more positive note, Gabaldon’s novels usually end on a high or on a plot hanger. This one was the former. Ultimately, these books are about family and marriage in extreme circumstances. I really enjoyed the every day moments featured at the end. So much so that I will read the next book.

I have given up on other series before, but Gabaldon’s writing just makes it so that I still hang out every time I finish.

Read on August 3rd-14th, 2014.