Some books are so well written that I find myself transported to another place or another time. When I finish the story, I always close the book, hold it in both hands and look back to the cover. I smile because just a few days ago this book was a stranger to me and now it is a friend.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley was a beautiful unknown stranger when I started reading it last week. I always say that a book should be given at least three chapters and by the end of chapter three this book had me mesmerized. I was transported to Victorian England and Japan through the eyes of Thaniel, Grace and Mori. Now that the story has ended I have been abruptly thrust back into the reality of today and find that these characters are not here. Thankfully, a good book is a friend that is always there for me so I can visit them again.
Thaniel, short for Nathaniel, is a clerk. One evening a bomb threat is telegraphed in to Home Office. That same evening he returns home to find a pocket watch in his solitary dwelling on his bed with no explanation. When the bomb eventually does go off, the watch saves his life. And so begins Thaniel’s investigation into the mysterious watch and its more deliciously curious maker, Kieta Mori. Grace Carrow is a reluctant socialite pulled into the story slowly at first until she is completely intertwined with Thaniel and the Watchmaker.
I loved this story. This book was like looking at a place on Google map. At first, everything was general and far away and I couldn’t quite make sense of it all. But, as I kept reading the picture zoomed in slowly until little details because so clear and inviting that I couldn’t stop and I wanted to live there forever. I want desperately to speak in more detail but I had the great joy of reading it without the damper of other’s opinions or any plot spoilers and I will not take this experience from anyone else.
I highly recommend The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. This novel’s complex, yet enjoyable characters and delightful story made for a thoroughly enjoyable adventure on this cold wet January week.
Tell me, please!
Have you read or are you interested in The Watchmaker?
I picked up The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi from a used bookstore after I started seeing it everything. It was on display in bookstores, at the library and on required reading lists at the local schools. I must confess, while I hated required reading when I was in school I have grown almost fanatical in my desire to read everything on those lists in my adulthood. This might just be my “adult” reason for reading excellent children’s literature.
Charlotte is not a book I would have chosen without other encouragement. Frankly, I might still not have read it except for the lure of the used book store price. Even then it sat on my shelf for close to a year before I finally started the story. My reluctance stems directly from my fear of boats and more specifically being stuck on boats. And the synopsis only added to my fear.
“An ocean voyage of unimaginable consequences.”
“Not every thirteen-year old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guiltygbv. But, I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however: If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as I lived it.”
I was as terrified for Charlotte the whole story long as I was enchanted by the prior owner of this books use of sparkly pens to circle unknown vocabulary. Charlotte is stuck on a boat, friendless and at sea and we know someone will be murdered. I just kept thinking, “if sparkly pen can see this to the end so can I!” Otherwise, I may have stopped reading when the boat first left the shore.
And Charlotte is more than a historical fiction story about murder at sea. I was once a thirteen-year old girl myself. Charlotte’s voice and experiences may have happened nearly 200 years ago but all thirteen-year old girls struggle to emerge into womanhood the way Charlotte did. We want to be treated like adult women and admired in our society in one way or another but the illusions from our childhood and nativity can twist our understanding of our role. For most young women awkwardness is the paramount sensation. For Charlotte, her life was at stake.
This is an beautifully written story that I found terrifying and lovely all at once. I grew to adore Charlotte and the crew and I was elated to discover that the author has put Charlotte in other books. All in all, I am thrilled that it is my first book of 2018!
Today’s FGR is another children’s novel that I really believe everyone should read. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan is a sweeping piece of historical fiction that covers all of the major events in American history through the eyes of children and linked them together through a magical harmonica.
I wrote about Echo months ago and have recommended it to everyone for at least a year. Recently, a young reader told me they found the book “terrifying.” I was a little taken aback – I had not considered it scary at all.
But, that is the thing about fears. For me, the ocean is the most terrifying setting possible. So, a book set on a cruise ship is already terrifying. A submarine…..full shudder. For this child, this book reached into his deepest darkest psyche and kept him up reading until all hours. Thankfully, he found it thrilling!
Echo tells the story of three children struggling through some of the most difficult moments in modern history. The rise of Hitler’s Germany, the Great Depression and segregation in America are all experienced through the eyes of these young and brave kids. It is the harmonica – an immensely popular instrument in its own time – that provides a means of escape for the each of them.
But, the forces working against our little heroes provided enough tension and mystery to create fear in the younger reader. So, for today I recommend again the fabulous Echo.
Tell me, please!?
Have you ever read something that just terrified you (even though it wasn’t supposed to)?
For today, my Frighteningly Good Read recommendation is The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Beginning with A Discovery of Witches, adventuring through Shadow of Night and culminating in Book of Life, the adventures of Diana the Witch and her Vampire soul mate Matthew were thrilling and fascinating. And, since it is soon to be a BBC television series (*squeal!*) it is right at the front of my mind this Halloween season.
Much like Diana Galbadon’s sweeping historical fiction series Outlander, Deborah Harkness utilizes fascinating historical details to bring the story depth. This is not a surprise, really, since Ms. Harkness is a historian herself. I quite enjoy that she describes herself as, “A history profession who tumbled down the rabbit-hole and wrote the Internationally best selling All Souls Trilogy.”
If you follow my blog then you know that, for me, it is often the supporting characters that take a book from enjoyable to obsess-able. And All Souls Trilogy has a cast of supporting characters that I adored. A tremendous time is spend on Diana and Matthew and their budding (forbidden!) romance. But, I loved the Demons in the books, the third category of non-humans who were incredibly and diversely talented. They reminded me of all the wonderfully productive adults I knew who were told to “slow down” as children.
I appreciated that there were several LGBTQA+ characters in the book including Diana’s adoring aunts. I also revealed in the rich addition of history and scenic details. To be in a library like the ones Diana visits is a dream of mine. Visiting them through this book is as close as I am going to get this year.
Several reviewers have called this Twilight for grownups. There may be some truth to this but I would add that it is a smarter, stronger and more grownup story. And I liked Twilight! I will say that there is a scene that involves all three magical species together practicing Yoga. I enjoyed the scene but it appears to be the Jar-Jar Binks of this book. If you can accept that Witches, Demons and Vampires might get together in a human-free environment and downward facing dog then the rest of the series will be magical.
So, the FGR for today is really this delightful trilogy. I don’t know when the BBC plans to give us the television version but it is going to be difficult to top these books! Well, Matthew Goode as Vampire Matthew might help.
Tell me, please!
How much would you love doing yoga with a bunch of supernatural beings?
I have been seeing this book everywhere. It is on display at all of my favorite bookstores both major and minor. I didn’t pick it up because I was sure it was going to be bad-sad (that sadness that feels foisted upon you by authors). Finally, I requested it from my local library because I wanted to give it a chance. I am so glad I tried it.
This book is Ada’s story but it so much more. Ada is nine (maybe) and her brother Jamie is six in 1939 when Hitler has begun to threaten England. Children are being sent to the country for safety. We have all read this story haven’t we?
But, this is where author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley changes the tune. Ada is not just poor and unloved by her cruel Mother. She was born with a clubfoot. In 1939 having a clubfoot was treatable but Ada received no medical attention for her’s and has been kept in her one room apartment in London nearly her entire life.
Whenever I read stories of London’s children being sent to the country during World War II I am struck but the terrible decisions families made to keep their children safe. As a kid, I couldn’t dream of being away from my parents. As an adult, I cannot imagine handing a child over to a stranger on the other side of a train.
But, for Ada, could this separation might be her salvation? Since the book is called, The War that Saved My Life, it is a good guess that the answer is yes. But, what I think made this book really magical was the way being in the country affected Ada.
I loved this book so much I had to own it. I cannot wait to read the sequel The War I finally Won because all of these characters because very dear to me. So, if you enjoy historical fiction or are participating in the When Are you Reading Challenge like I am, this is a fantastic juvenile fiction novel.
I picked this book up because the cover caught my eye. And the tag line on the front reads, “The Inquisitor’s Tale Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog.” I was sold. It took me a fair bit of time to get around to reading it but I just finished it and I must recommend it to all of you. It was a lovely story!
The Inquisitor’s Tale is set in 1242 and features three unique children from different backgrounds and a dog. The dog, Gwenforte, is a white greyhound who has died (don’t stop reading! Remember, its a Holy dog!). The peasant, Jeanne, is fierce and honest and has visions that show her glimpses of the future. Jacob is a young Jewish boy and his story touched my heart the most. Then there is William, a young monk with tremendous strength. These children are “magical” or blessed with “powers” but their story really comes from the people who met them.
The combination of the setting, France in the Medieval Ages, and the way the story unfolds was quite reminiscent of Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales. Throughout the story someone is collecting the stories of these children. We hear about them through a Nun, a Brewster, a Librarian, and many other interesting people all of have gathered in a small French inn. The dog’s story and that of the children was woven together so well and so smoothly. But, I also enjoyed the peek into the mannerisms and lives of all the characters who told their tale.
Adam Gidwitz really captures the time period in this book. If you read the note at the end, the author’s explains the inspiration and background for the story. I didn’t need that to help me understand how much work had gone into this book. The whole thing really felt like I was in Medieval France.
This was a really enjoyable tale. I have a difficult time finding well written Children’s Historical Fiction and this is one of the best I have read yet. The fact that it checks the box in my pre-1500’s When Are You Reading Challenge is just the halo on my holy dog.
Tell me, please!
Children’s Historical Fiction – Does it interest you?
This delightful second Kopp sisters novel gives us another peek into the historically rooted adventures of Constance, Norma and Fluerette Kopp. In Girl Waits With a Gun, the women took their first steps outside of their country home and into the adventure, and danger, of a changing world. Now, in The Lady Cop Makes Trouble, the women are determined to more fully engage in their chosen journey and each of them finds challenges great and small.
Constance, the main Kopp sister, has been accepted by the Sheriff of Bergen County as equal to the task of law enforcement and he has appointed her as one of the nation’s first female deputies. Constance finds herself a useful (and paid!) member of the sheriff’s department. Unfortunately, no adventure is ever smooth. Soon, an inmate escapes and Constance is blamed. Her dream of being a policewomen are placed in peril.
I love this character. Demoted and ashamed she could have just accepted a new position or gone back to the farm. Does she? Hell no. She has had a taste of the job she is destined to have and she is determined to win it back.
Constance is described in a variety of ways though the first and second book. Since she is a real person there are even photographs of her. But, for me, her actions paint the best picture of all. She kicks down doors, wrestles men to the ground and shoots her gun. She is smart and thorough. Constance stands quietly in the face of men and women who do not think she belongs on the force. She all but goes door to door righting wrongs. I love Constance.
Norma is a hard to crack and her obsession with carrier pigeons is…unusual. Fluerette is determined to build her life on a stage. These two sisters take a backseat in this installment but, and I say this with great hope, we will hear more from them very soon.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. Sometimes an author creates a whole fictional world around a single fact, a unique person or one event. What Amy Stewart does that I absolutely adore is transport the reader into the past through intricate details like fabric samples, changes in transportation, social and economic shifts and some fabulous ladies. She freely admits which things she invents for the sake of the story and which are absolutely true. This book, like the last, almost feels like listening to a very old person tell a story they have told 100 times before. You know that things are embellished or perhaps not entirely historically accurate. But you also know that Constance, Norma and Fluerette are real. That is what makes the Kopp Sisters stories so very enjoyable.