In the Bookcase


Book Review: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables (5 star review)

Anne of Green Gables

written by L.M. Montgomery

309 pages // published in 1909 // YA historical fiction


When Marilla Cuthbert's brother, Matthew, returns home to Green Gables with a chatty redheaded orphan girl, Marilla exclaims, "But we asked for a boy. We have no use for a girl." It's not long, though, before the Cuthberts can't imagine how they could ever do without young Anne of Green Gables--but not for the original reasons they sought an orphan. Somewhere between the time Anne "confesses" to losing Marilla's amethyst pin (which she never took) in hopes of being allowed to go to a picnic, and when Anne accidentally dyes her hated carrot-red hair green, Marilla says to Matthew, "One thing's for certain, no house that Anne's in will ever be dull." And no book that she's in will be, either.

My Review

5 Star Rating

Well, I finally came around to reading “Anne” again. I was 13 when I found my first kindred spirit (in Anne Shirley, that is). Of course, before that, I didn't even know what a kindred spirit even was. Honestly, my young self had no clue what I was getting myself into, all those years ago. But I did understand the fact that I had found something charming and unique to read. To be honest, I had never read anything like it before – with that beautiful descriptive writing, and a heroine who I found so interesting, like no one I'd ever heard of before...

Well, a “lifetime” later, I've read it again. I found out that I had remembered some of the main plot developments in the novel, but there was a lot more that I had “lost” in my memories of how things really happened. So it was wonderful to meet up with one of my favorite female literary characters again – and to measure up how I see her now, reading it as an adulthood, and in effect, to see how I've changed since my first time.

The re-reading experience was totally different. This time around, I saw the story as an adult. I connected with the grown-ups in the story much more – for example, when I was 13, Marilla and Matthew were background characters to Anne and Diana. But now? The story seems to be more about Anne and Marilla's relationship than what I ever realized before.

[Matthew:] “I suppose—we could hardly be expected to keep her.”
[Marilla:] “I should say not. What good would she be to us?”
“We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.

Marilla. She needed Anne to show up in her life, and even though she wants to give back this orphan girl for the boy she expected, well – Marilla gets much more than what she could have anticipated. In a way, Marilla finds herself again – or in some ways, for the first time. For example: “...some of the things Anne had said... were what she herself had really thought deep down in her heart for years, but had never given expression to. It almost seemed to her that those secret, unuttered, critical thoughts had suddenly taken visible and accusing shape and form in the person of this outspoken morsel of neglected humanity.” Over time, Marilla comes to love Anne, even though she didn't mean to at first, and still she certainly doesn't say it much, as emotions come hard for this aging woman, but she loves Anne all the same.

“I’ve been here for a year and I’ve been so happy. Of course, I’ve had my troubles, but one can live down troubles. Are you sorry you kept me, Marilla?”
“No, I can’t say I’m sorry,” said Marilla, who sometimes wondered how she could have lived before Anne came to Green Gables, “no, not exactly sorry.”

Matthew. If it's emotions for his sister, it's words that come hard for this soft-hearted man. “Still Matthew said nothing and Marilla had a sense of having wasted words and breath. There is nothing more aggravating than a man who won’t talk back—unless it is a woman who won’t.” He is a humble farmer, notably comical in his escapades of silence. I couldn't get over him. To me, he's a charmer, because though little words he may speak, he listens – and listens well...

[Mrs. Lynde:] “But to think of Matthew taking notice of it! That man is waking up after being asleep for over sixty years.”

Diana. To a girl who's never had a friend, someone she can trust with her innermost secrets, Diana is exactly who Anne needed to find in this great big world. And they just happen to be neighbors, after Anne is taken in at Green Gables. As Anne dramatically proclaims to Marilla: “I cannot ever live without her. But I know very well when we grow up that Diana will get married and go away and leave me. And oh, what shall I do? I hate her husband—I just hate him furiously.”

Gilbert. I couldn't help but smile every time his name came up in the story. Anne passionately hates him, and the scrapes she gets it to avoid him are hilarious. She says she'll never forgive him for the “carrots” episode, but... when one is as emotional as Anne, you never know when your feelings will do a flip-flop.

“The rivalry between them was soon apparent; it was entirely good natured on Gilbert’s side; but it is much to be feared that the same thing cannot be said of Anne, who had certainly an unpraiseworthy tenacity for holding grudges. She was as intense in her hatreds as in her loves. She would not stoop to admit that she meant to rival Gilbert in schoolwork, because that would have been to acknowledge his existence which Anne persistently ignored...”

Anne. There are enough words to sum up this particular girl. She's an odd bird, to be sure. She also tries her best to please the Cuthberts who have fulfilled this orphan's dreams of a happy home. In her own words, “Miss Marilla Cuthbert is a very kind lady who has taken me to bring up properly. She is doing her best, but it is very discouraging work.” In her all little mistakes (no matter how many she makes), we find each relatable to our own life. In her “scope for imagination” we find the ideas and creativity that childhood freely gives, and most people never use properly.

“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”

Until we meet again, dear friend.

- - - - - - - - - -

Other quotes I found ever so delightful...

“Who’s bringing this child up, Matthew, you or me?”
“Well now, you,” admitted Matthew.
“Don’t interfere then.”

“I love Miss Stacy with my whole heart, Marilla. She is so ladylike and she has such a sweet voice. When she pronounces my name I feel instinctively that she’s spelling it with an E.”

“It must be a great deal better to be sensible; but still, I don’t believe I’d really want to be a sensible person, because they are so unromantic. Mrs. Lynde says there is no danger of my ever being one, but you can never tell. I feel just now that I may grow up to be sensible yet.”

“I don’t know—I don’t want to talk as much,” she said, denting her chin thoughtfully with her forefinger. “It’s nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one’s heart, like treasures. I don’t like to have them laughed at or wondered over. And somehow I don’t want to use big words any more. It’s almost a pity, isn’t it, now that I’m really growing big enough to say them if I did want to.”

Matthew, with a suspicious moisture in his eyes, got up and went out-of-doors. Under the stars of the blue summer night he walked agitatedly across the yard to the gate under the poplars.
“Well now, I guess she ain’t been much spoiled,” he muttered, proudly. “I guess my putting in my oar occasional never did much harm after all. She’s smart and pretty, and loving, too, which is better than all the rest. She’s been a blessing to us, and there never was a luckier mistake than what Mrs. Spencer made—if it was luck. I don’t believe it was any such thing. It was Providence, because the Almighty saw we needed her, I reckon.”

Available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio format.

Add to Goodreads

P.S. Like and vote for this review on Goodreads.


My Top 30 New Words in 2018 /// and it's only day 74

If you read a lot of books, like me, you end up coming across new words all the time -- no matter how much you read, there's ALWAYS more to discover.

These are words that have been there for decades, or centuries, as the case may be.... Words that have always been there in the dictionary, I just never looked them up before.

Well, here's a list of 30 fascinating, new-to-me pieces of vocabulary that I've found while reading just in the 74 days we've had of 2018.

What new words have you discovered recently?

The process of becoming obsolete or outdated and no longer used.

A literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts.

Waste or debris of any kind.
Gravel, sand, silt, or other material produced by erosion.

Concerned with something, especially a language, as it exists at one point in time.

A newly coined word or expression.

The effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions, e.g. through the viewfinder and the lens of a camera.

A large number of similar things coming in quick succession.

A long, mournful complaint or lamentation; a list of woes.

The highest point in the development of something; a culmination or climax.

A person or thing that is the centre of attention or admiration.

A circular symbol depicting a snake, or less commonly a dragon, swallowing its tail, as an emblem of wholeness or infinity.

An image or representation of someone or something.
An unsatisfactory imitation or substitute.

A pithy observation which contains a general truth.

Generally considered or reputed to be.

A feeling of guilt or moral scruple that prevents or follows the doing of something bad.

Forbidden, especially by an authority.

(redolent of/with) Strongly reminiscent or suggestive of.
Strongly smelling of.

Cooperate in a secret or unlawful way in order to deceive or gain an advantage over others.

The body of work of a painter, composer, or author.

The use of many words where fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive.

Provoking laughter through being ludicrous.

A state or feeling of active opposition or hostility.

A thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists, especially a thing that is conspicuously old-fashioned.

Remove (a need or difficulty).
Avoid or prevent (something undesirable).
A luminous cloud or a halo surrounding a supernatural being or a saint.
A large grey rain cloud.
A thought or reflection put into literary form; an aphorism.

A tendency to choose or do something regularly; an inclination or predisposition towards a particular thing.

Consisting of or associated with woods; wooded.
Pleasantly rural or pastoral.
The quality of having a ready insight into things; shrewdness.

A series of interconnected things.

If you have any fresh vocab, please share it with me in the comments!

*Word definitions taken from Oxford Dictionaries online.


Book Review: The Young Fur Traders

The Young Fur Traders: A Tale of the Far North (5 star review)

The Young Fur Traders: A Tale of the Far North

written by R.M. Ballantyne

491 pages // published in 1856 // historical adventure fiction


This is the story of the hard life of a trapper in Canada in the early 1800s. Charlie Kennedy lives in the Canadian arctic colony known as the Red River Settlement with Indians, Scotsmen, and French-Canadian settlers. His father, an old fur trader, hopes to convince his son to become a clerk by recounting the dangers of the trapper’s life, but the stories only inspire the boy more to explore the vast Canadian wilderness.

Through a variety of circumstances, Charlie finds himself trapping in the vast forests, on a journey with voyageurs down perilous rivers, and surviving all sorts of scrapes and adventures with a new acquaintance, Jacques Caradoc, and an Indian named “Red Feather.”

Many of Charlie’s exploits are taken from the real-life experiences of R.M. Ballantyne’s own time with the Hudson Bay Company in Canada. Just as Ballantyne had done, Charlie learns to shoot mercury from his rifle through a two inch board in 39 degree below zero temperatures! Discover the strenuous and vigorous life of a trapper through the eyes of Charlie and his intrepid friends.

My Review

5 Star Rating

My first takeaway: A Scottish author telling (in detail) all about the rugged landscape of North America? Hmm, this is a twist, one I don't encounter too often – but it turned out well. The author seems to be thoroughly educated on the topic and has created a believable setting.

Charlie Kennedy and his other young friends have waited for an adventure in the wilderness all their lives, instead of having a mundane “desk job” at the settlement. Finally chance allows them to set out intrepidly into the unknown, where they'll have to fend for themselves, and survive as trappers in the cold and biting weather... A long-forgotten (tough and dangerous) style of life is brought alive for us to read about.

There's a lot that I enjoyed in this novel, so here's a list of the basics:

1. Ballantyne is witty and humorous in his writing, sometimes fitting in absolutely absurd remarks. I couldn't help but laugh out loud on occasion – maybe it was something a character said, or maybe just the way in which the author describes a comical scene (scratch that, even in serious scenes he can still add something amusing in there). I love his writing style.

“'My eye,' exclaimed Harry, in an undertone, 'how precious cold it is!'
His eye making no reply to this remark, he arose...”

2. God is in control... many times, the story brings out the goodness and grace of God, and how the natural beauty we see on earth is done only by His hand (the forests, the animals, etc). I was greatly encouraged by the intensity and frequency of mentions of God throughout the novel. This book (and others by the author) make for good spiritual food, even if it is fiction.

3. As a tag-along to my previous note, there is also sound Biblical wisdom shared on these pages. Some passages are almost overwhelming in the precious words. For example, just before embarking on an adventure into manhood, a clergyman provides a small sermon that is fit for any growing boy. Later in the story, the men discuss topics such as lies and good/bad morals of the world – and how to handle tough temptations as a child of God as to come through it triumphantly.

Any age, young or old can enjoy it. If you have an adventurous reader on your hands, I'd say anywhere from 10 and up could enjoy it. (Some kids might consider it a long or slightly dry read, but if they like anything that's written more in the vintage style, then they'd probably be just fine with it.)

“'[W]here's the kettle, Hamilton? Have you eaten it?'
'If you compose yourself a little, Harry, and look at the fire, you'll see it boiling there.'
'Man, what a chap you are for making unnecessary speeches. Couldn't you tell me to look at the fire, without the preliminary piece of advice to compose myself? Besides, you talk nonsense, for I'm composed already, of blood, bones, flesh, sinews, fat, and–'”

Available on Amazon in paperback and (FREE) ebook format.

Add to Goodreads

P.S. Like and vote for this review on Goodreads and Amazon.


Book Review: Maud

Maud (3 star review)


written by Melanie J. Fishbane

400 pages // published in 2017 // YA historical fiction


Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery—Maud to her friends—has a dream: to go to college and, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott, become a writer. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman’s place in the world, and they do not include spending good money on college. Luckily, she has a teacher to believe in her, and good friends to support her, including Nate, the Baptist minister’s stepson and the smartest boy in the class. If only he weren’t a Baptist; her Presbyterian grandparents would never approve. Then again, Maud isn’t sure she wants to settle down with a boy—her dreams of being a writer are much more important.

Life changes for Maud when she goes out West to live with her father and his new wife and daughter. Her new home offers her another chance at love, as well as attending school, but tensions increase as Maud discovers her stepmother’s plans for her, which threaten Maud’s future—and her happiness—forever.

My Review

3 Star Rating

I so wanted to love this title, based on the early life of one of my favorite authors. But me and this book just didn't quite see eye to eye.

There's just too much mushy stuff for my taste. It seems that the entire plot moves along based on who Maud is “in love” with. She's a young teenager, for goodness' sake (who isn't even allowed to wear her hair up, you know), and I just wanted to learn more about her development as a writer than I cared for who she was crushing on.

Some notes on various characters...

Her parents (or her mother in particular) is hinted at having a shameful past, all throughout the story.

Maud's relationship with her stepmother, on the other hand, is clearly depicted as strained. There's always tension between the two characters. I, right along with Maud, intensely disliked the woman.

Oh! And Mr. Mustard! Did such a man really exist in Maud's real life? I can hardly imagine that her parents allowed this detestable man to visit her for so long and not put a stop to it.

“To Maud, books were essential; without them she would have crumbled into despair.”

There is some character development though, and I saw some changes in Maud closer to the end of the novel, like she was going somewhere new. She does sometimes have a bit of a naughty or rebellious streak showing – but maybe that's the Anne in her.

I wouldn't recommend lightly handing this novel over to young girls who have fallen in love with quirky Anne Shirley, without a parent's perusal. I'd consider it only mildly mature, but I (personally) would only recommend it to readers 16 or older.

“But creating a world of characters who spoke to her, sharing the stories she knew and loved, this was her calling. Most of the time, she didn't feel she had control over anything but her words.”

Available on Amazon in hardcover, and ebook format.

Add to Goodreads

P.S. Like and vote for this review on Goodreads and Amazon.


Book Review: The War Within These Walls

The War Within These Walls (4 star review)

The War Within These Walls

written by Aline Sax

176 pages // published in 2011 // YA historical fiction


It's World War II, and Misha's family, like the rest of the Jews living in Warsaw, has been moved by the Nazis into a single crowded ghetto. Conditions are appalling: every day more people die from disease, starvation, and deportations. Misha does his best to help his family survive, even crawling through the sewers to smuggle food. When conditions worsen, Misha joins a handful of other Jews who decide to make a final, desperate stand against the Nazis.Heavily illustrated with sober blue-and-white drawings, this powerful novel dramatically captures the brutal reality of a tragic historical event.

My Review

4 Star Rating

A hard-hitting look at one family's survival in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, Poland. In fact, it's told from first-person perspective, so it's exactly like seeing it through young Misha's eyes.

Yes, there's some gruesome/graphic scenes. Yes, there's pain and hurting on these people's faces. Yes, you're going to see and feel the pain for yourself.

The Nazis have taken over Warsaw, but the ghetto is uprising. The Jews in the area are being persecuted (the book fills the reader in on what the Jewish people could and could not do). As Misha in the story says, “I had never felt so Jewish before.” Because it never really mattered before the Nazis arrived. But the ghetto will not be downtrodden forever...

It's a fairly short read. I finished it in just a couple of sittings. But there's a big story behind these words and between these pages.

I'd recommend it for anyone 10 and up, but with a warning on some gruesome or violent content.

Available on Amazon in hardcover format.

Add to Goodreads

P.S. Like and vote for this review on Goodreads and Amazon.


Book Review: Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder, Book 1

Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder (5 star review)

Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder: On Wisdom and Virtues
Book 1

written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Stephen W. Hines

113 pages // published in 2006 // non-fiction


From helping others in times of need, to keeping and maintaining friendships, to having a positive attitude, Laura's words of wisdom in Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder: On Wisdom and Virtues are applicable even in today's world. As she shares stories and experiences from her own life, she encourages readers to live lives of integrity and to realize their dreams.

My Review

5 Star Rating

Reading this book was like breathing in cool, refreshing air. Stephen Hines has collected several of Laura's newspaper articles and put them together in a way that makes them lovely to read. This particular collection features much wisdom from pioneer Laura Ingalls Wilder, as she shares morals and advice that spring forth from her heart. I had personally never read any of her newspaper writings – so this was quite the treat! I loved this volume so much.

Each article is named and come with the original date, so you can follow along a little better. Her writings are filled with a bit of wittiness, and plenty of moral guidance. I laughed out loud at some – including the story about her dog, Shep. (The whole story is just too cute!) Just about everything that Laura felt and wrote about is still applicable to us as humans in the modern age.

Some of the article titles include: “Keeping Friends”, “The Armor of a Smile”, “The Helping Hand of Helpfulness”, “A Man's Word Is All He Has”, “Learning Something New”... just to name a few, so you can see the kind of topics are covered.

Most of these I could see reading aloud during family reading time with your children. But overall, I think women (young and old) would especially enjoy this collection, and be able to take away a lot of good thoughts and encouragement.

Available on Amazon in hardcover, paperback and ebook format, starting at $1.99.

Add to Goodreads

P.S. Like and vote for this review on Goodreads and Amazon.