Tag Archives: fiction

The Young Clementina by D.E. Stevenson

I’ve recently been enjoying the works of D.E. Stevenson, a writer from around WW1. I have avoided posting reviews of her books because I think several will appear on my end-of-the-year favorite book list. But as The Young Clementina only garnered three stars from me, I thought I might share this (unsuccessful) venture into vintage fiction. 

Written in 1935, the story follows Charlotte Dean—a woman life seems to have forgotten. At 35, she lives a monotonous life in London with no friends. Her life takes a dramatic turn when her former fiancé suddenly appears and asks her to take care of his daughter while he travels in Africa. Now Charlotte must face her past to bring healing to the difficult and withdrawn child.

D.E. Stevenson is a master of human emotions. Her comedy of manners books (like the Miss Buncle trilogy) somehow make the whole world feel cozy and good. Alas, with The Young Clementina she goes more Brontë than Gaskell, and the end result whips from excruciatingly depressing to predictably trite.

The description I gave of the plot, while the crux of the story, really doesn’t kick in till halfway. First we get to relive Charlotte’s childhood, her experience with WW1, and the tragic break with her fiancé . And despite how depressed it made me, I still low-key loved it. I felt moody and depressed reading it, but I also felt like it summarized how WW1 changed people. I read into it a bigger analysis about dreams and hope and lost youth.

Turns out, I was too ambitious in my interpretation. I still held hope for an alternate love interest to pop up and change the path the story was heading towards. No luck. The story shoulders on with some rambling paragraphs that don’t hide the very obvious, sappy conclusion. Characters generally get their comeuppance. I think I still would have rated this book 4 stars because I did love the tragic nature of the beginning, but the ending killed it by undercutting much of the character motivation.

If you like melodrama that feels vaguely Gothic without being so, you might enjoy this one. But personally, I found it underwhelming.

Can’t Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released.


Guess what comes out (probably) on February 4th?! 

Okay, I kind of gave it away. Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed. It is a book aimed at YA that is about…political canvassing.

As in going door to door for a candidate. 


Early reviews are definitely positive. And a book about politically engaged teenagers? I mean, that is right up my alley. I cannot wait to get a hold of this one. 

What book can you not wait to be published? 

2018 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 4

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott

Giving and receiving criticism are two of the most difficult parts of being a boss. This book takes that reality and addresses it head on. I really, really enjoyed and appreciated it. It is somewhat niche as the author’s main case studies come from Google, Apple, and Twitter. However, a lot of the principles she mentions carry over into everyday life. Even as someone not currently managing people, I found a lot of her principles just good advice for every day relationships.

Don’t Cosplay with My Heart by Cecil Castellucci

This Young Adult novel tells the story of a high school girl who copes with her messed up life by cosplaying as her favorite comic book character. I unexpectedly loved the book. It tugged on my heartstrings and wrapped me up in a world of fandoms and cosplay. It wasn’t perfect – a little on the nose with its “all fans are equal” message and I’m never a fan of teenage romance – but it successfully walked the line of emotional and angsty. While it could have been more fleshed out, I liked it because it wasn’t. Short, fun, appealing. It captures what brings people to fandoms and cosplay and how one girl channels her anxiety about life into her costumes. If I have one complaint, it is with the title. It does not do the book justice.

2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious by Shannon Hale

I am officially obsessed with Shannon Hale’s Squirrel Girl. And this is solidly Juvenile fiction. Not aimed at adults at all. Doreen is a Marvel superhero – Squirrel Girl. She doesn’t get to hang out with the Avengers much, but she does text with them! (The Winter Solider is scary…) Her powers include a giant tail that she hides in her pants and the ability to communicate with squirrels. It sounds weird, it is weird, but it works so well. I giggled my way throughout. Also, I am pretty sure I am Squirrel Girl. I need more books in this series PRONTO.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Sometimes, Young Adult novels are really terrible, and sometimes they are written by Maurene Goo and are amazing. This book hit me right in the feels. Clara Shin doesn’t take life too seriously. She loves pulling pranks, though, and finally her pranking goes too far and her Dad forces her to work at his Korean-Brazilian food truck over the summer with her arch-nemesis. I loved Clara from the start. I loved the diversity in this book. The character growth. The food truck. I d that even though it is packaged as a sort of Sarah Dessen teeny romance, the real focus is on female friendships and learning to care. The romance hits the right note of important, but not all consuming for the plot. Just good.

My Plain Jane by by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton

This is the second book in the The Lady Janies series. The first one told the story of Jane Gray – the fated 9-day, English Queen – and the third one will tell the story of Calamity Jane (I wanttttt). My Plain Jane, however, tells the story of Jane Eyre. But not the story you know. As always, the Lady Janies mess with history (or in this case, literature) to include a host of fantastical characters and hilarious, witty plot points. It is so fun and creative. You can read it with without reading the first one (only the names connect them.)

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

Using psychology, philosophy, theology (ish), and some biology, Jonathan Haidt digs into what brings true happiness and how we define it. I like how intellectually engaging the book was. Most of the studies, philosophies, and ideas he presented were familiar. However, I’ve never seen them combined like this. It really is about “modern truth” born from “ancient wisdom.” I might disagree with how he reaches his conclusions, but overall I liked chewing it over.

A Lady of Quality by Francis Hodgson Burnett

If you are anything like me, the name Francis Hodgson Burnett brings to mind books like A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, or Little Lord Fauntleroy. And what do those books share? They are all sweet, beloved children’s stories without an ounce of vice in them. Can you think of a more perfect main character than Sara Crewe from A Little Princess

I did not expect much more from A Lady of Quality. Yet almost from the moment it began, the book took all my preconceived notions about Burnett and threw them out the window! I kept double-checking the author because I could not believe she wrote this. 

The heroine of the story, Clorinda, behaves horrendously. She beats servants, belittles peers, swears, breaks commandments, and a whole lot more I won’t get into so that I don’t spoil anything. The point is, she is not a nice character. And yet, unlike what you would expect from a Victorian novel, she never gets her competences for her actions. If anything, the plot pardons it all! The story is heavy on melodrama and certainly sanitizes her by the end, but the process of getting her sanitized is what I found truly remarkable. 

She isn’t a character you like, and yet precisely because of that she become redeemable. There is no really likable character in this book, but neither is anyone truly evil. (Okay, maybe one guy. But even the book pities him!) I did not expect the level of nuance that I found within the characters. 

The story is a melodrama and a romance in the traditional sense and, at some level, it follows that line exactly. Everything builds up for the final, grand marriage at the end. Yet romantic love is not the only thing pushing this plot. Self-love and sisterly love and sacrificial love all play important roles in developing the characters and the story. While I might look for such themes today, I did not expect to find them in a little remembered book from 1896! 

I think I need to read more by this author, especially her adult works!

Can’t Wait Wednesday

I love following kattiescottagebooks…I learn about so many different weekly spotlights (like Teaser Tuesdays) and now, Can’t Wait Wednesday! If you like reading about books, you should definitely follow her here.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted here, at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released.

This was an easy pick for me. I can’t wait to read…

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Title: I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Publishing date: May 30th, 2017

Plot: Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and has never had a B in her entire life. She’s for sure going to Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation-magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds her answer in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Rules for True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and fake car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.


KOREAN DRAMAS AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION.  It is the combination of two of my favorite things; I’m psyched. There is no way this book will live up to my expectations. It just isn’t possible. I also know this because the synopsis says, “where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten.” That is a blatant lie. Everyone knows that if the heroine is in her true love’s arms in episode ten, something horrible is going to happen because there are 6 more hours to go. HOWEVER, I’m super excited anyway. Hopefully this won’t be the next Girl Online

Marie Lu

Marie Lu is a popular Young Adult writer whose works always seem to be hovering about my to-read list never getting read. I finally decided to change that and over the past week or so read the first books in her two trilogies: The Young Elites and Legend. Unfortunately, neither overly impressed me. 

The Young Elites has an X-Men, fantasy feel. Certain survivors of a deadly fever start developing superhuman abilities. Society fears and alienates them. A few band together and become rebels, openly opposing and attacking the corrupt, inefficient government. I did not particularly care about any of the characters and this removed a lot of the emotional punch from the story. The writing style annoyed me. In the end, this book was more creative than Legend, but never enough to win me over.

With Legend, I liked the characters separately but was driven to distraction by their awkward insta-love. This is an unoriginal, dystopian novel that relies heavily on the usual trope but doesn’t particularly add anything. The writing style annoyed me so much I nearly gave up after the first two chapters. There is certainly some possibility here but it lacks the world-building necessary to be something really interesting. 

I might try her third series when it comes out but I probably won’t go out of my way to read it. 

Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent

I stumbled upon Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent while browsing at a local library and I am so glad I did. The book was surprisingly charming and adorable while also handling real life issues in a believable way. 

The plot follows 14-year-old Joseph Calderaro, Korean by birth but raised Italian by his adopted parents in New Jersey. He doesn’t fee like he belongs in either world. When his social studies teacher assigns an essay about heritage, Joseph struggles to merge his two worlds and discover who he truly is. 

The book’s main focus is adoption, but also balances the struggles of middle school, girls, and the meaning of family. I like that the ending doesn’t get corny and wrap up with a perfectly written essay or something. I really thought it would. While it has a “happy” ending, Joseph’s struggles are never underplayed or overplayed. They were realistic. He is a middle school kid who just wants to figure out where he comes from. 

I definitely recommend this one for older grade school/middle school readers and anyone interested in adoption, Korean/Italian culture, or just a good, “coming of age” story. 

Tuesday Teaser #TuesdayBookBlog

Tuesday teaser is a weekly bookish meme hosted by http://www.booksandabeat.com

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two or three *teaser* sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful not to include spoilers ~ make sure what you share doesn’t give to much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others.

Share the title and the author too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR list if they like your teasers!


“But he is a good man,” she added. “And as long as you work well, you will eat well. You will even eat meat every day.” She stopped to spit; the saliva left her mouth with a sucking sound and landed in the grass.
Ugwu did not believe that anybody, not even this master he was going to live with, ate meat every day.

We’re discussing this book in book club on Monday so I figure I should get a start on it. So far everyone has loved it. We shall see…

Whatcha Reading…? 2/15/2017 Book Update

My last Watcha Reading Update was in September…whoops! (Still working on An Autobiography…Sort of. It is somewhere in my room. Probably.) 

I’ve read quite a few books since then, mostly fiction, which don’t fit in the Watcha Reading format very well. I don’t usually read them all at the same time. However, my ban on getting anything new from the library until I’ve read what I have has got me juggling several books at once. I just finished Reading Women: How The Great Works of Feminism Changed My Life by Stephanie Staal and the audio book The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I am currently reading The Story Girl by Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Candymakers by Wendy Mass, and re-reading Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. I’ve got The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad on audio book. 

Reading Women was disappointing. I didn’t expect to agree with the author’s take on the feminist texts, but I hoped to at least feel challenged. Instead I was bored. At 29, the author gets married, has a kid, and moves from New York City to Annapolis. The book emerges from her struggle to “be a Mom” and a “have a career.” I might have been more sympathetic if the author and her husband didn’t both work from home and co-parent their one child and if the move didn’t entail buying a three story house. Her “rediscovery” of feminist texts such as A Vindication of the Rights of Women, The Yellow Wallpaper, and The Feminine Mystique made for only a nominally interesting read that I nearly gave up on several times. However, you won’t find this one in my end of the year 1 star reviews, because despite my annoyance with the author’s first world problems, I found I did like the author and she takes a stance against pornography which I appreciated. So…1.5 stars. 

I read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins this year and enjoyed it so I figured I would enjoy Collins’s other famous novel, The Woman in White. However, it wasn’t as good. It was very Gothic, dramatic, and dull. I didn’t like any of the characters and the females were always fainting or wishing they were a man. It was interesting enough to keep me engaged for over 25 hours, but not one I’d read again. 

I’m not very far into The Story Girl, but I’ve struggled to keep myself interested. The book is only 177 pages so I assumed I would whip through it in an afternoon. However, I’m confused by the multitude of characters and bogged down by the weirdly cramped font of this copy. I like the idea of it, though, and am pretty sure I’ll get into it more the farther I go.  

The Candymakers was recommended to me by my cousin Ella years ago and I am only now getting to it (sorry, Ella!) I like it so far! It is super creative and reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while still feeling original. The book is 450 pages and I’m only 100 pages in, but I like how several underlying mysteries have surfaced. There is the overt plot (who will win the competition?) but also some subtle ones (why did The Candymaker stop all tours?) I look forward to seeing how it all plays out! 

Gaudy Night is book 12 in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, and probably my favorite of all of them. I love anything by Dorothy L. Sayers but this books is particularly well done. There isn’t as much mystery but there is a lot of discussion about being a woman and an academic. Also, it takes place at Oxford University, so every line paints a familiar picture for me. We’re reading this in one of the book clubs I belong to and I’m excited to discuss it more fully with my friends. 

Finally, I am listening to The Secret Agent. This is my third try with this book, once before in print and once audio, but this time I am determined to finish it. I didn’t make it through Heart of Darkness but I will make it through this one!

Tuesday Teaser #TuesdayBookBlog

Tuesday teaser is a weekly bookish meme hosted by http://www.booksandabeat.com

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two or three *teaser* sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful not to include spoilers ~ make sure what you share doesn’t give to much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others.

Share the title and the author too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR list if they like your teasers!


“I was twelve years of age when I chopped of my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from ruin. I made it almost to the end of my front garden.” (1)


Isn’t that a great intro? I’m only half way through but this book has been super charming and fun so far. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. When in a reading slump, it never hurts to head back to Juvenile fiction.