Book Chat

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Laddie Gene Stratton PorterLaddie; a true blue story is by Hoosier author Gene Stratton Porter. It was written in the early 1900s and is set in (I’d guess) the 1870s, and it’s truly a product of its time period: the characters are outspokenly Christian and wholesome. “Laddie” is the oldest of the 10 children of the Stantons, the family whose life is detailed in the book. “Laddie” will remind you of the good ol’ days, when people were apparently so much more accomplished than the typical today (a spelling bee has Laddie and his contemporaries spelling words like “ichthyology” and “gewgaw” before heading to the Bible to spell “Nebuchadnezzar” and more. How many kids today would even be familiar with that name? It’s a true piece of its time, with overly emotional female characters (Mother states, “the fountain head of tears and laughter lies in the same spot, deep in a woman’s heart. Men were made for big things! They must brave the wild animals, the Indians …”). Laddie’s intended girlfriend is called “the Princess,” reminiscent of GSP’s “Freckles” where the female lead was known only as “the swamp angel.”

“Laddie” will take you back to another time, for sure — a time where all the family members pray aloud, throughout the day — a time when neighbors are looked down on because they don’t believe in God — a time when characters say things like, “Oh, do let’s have a double wedding!” — a time when girls run out to the farm field to bring their brother a piece of pie, and cover his face with kisses when they find him. After dinner, Father requests that one of the kids bring him a book on Taxation so that he can talk over a few points from it with them. It’s all just too too, but as I said — it’s either the time period, or maybe it’s just Gene Stratton Porter.

I’ve previously read, and enjoyed, Porter’s “Freckles” and “Girl of the Limberlost.” “Laddie” was not as exciting to me — just seemed to drag on, and not a lot happened (the whole book seemed designed to answer the question of whether or not Laddie and the Princess would ever end up together — can you guess the ending?). Anyway, if you’re looking for a wholesome, total escape from today’s excesses (and I would totally understand if you were), give “Laddie” a try.

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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has been on my to-read list for a while. All my girls have read and enjoyed it, and the cover intrigued me with its — uh, peculiar vintage photo. This book seems to have gotten lots of attention for the odd vintage photos it uses throughout the story. Many people seem to have loved these, but I felt they almost seemed to be the author’s reason for writing. A photo would be thrown in and there’d be a page describing its significance; maybe it was just me, but it felt more like the author was just trying to justify the photos’ use by adding in unnecessary parts to the story to accompany them.

Anyway, the basic idea of this book is that Jacob, a modern-day high school boy, is troubled and searching for some answers. He came across his murdered grandfather, and some strange photos and letters that had belonged to him, and he sets out to learn the truth. Along the way, he stumbles through a portal into another time 80 years or so ago, where a group of peculiar children living in a big old house with caretaker Miss Peregrine loop back through the same day over and over again.

The book includes a few plot twists and lots of suspense, but ultimately — in my opinion — not a whole lot that happens. The last few pages set up the next book, but honestly, had I not already been obligated to read it because of getting a review copy, I would not be sufficiently interested to continue.

The book seemed very Harry Potter-ish to me (understand I’m saying this as someone who’s only read the first HP book), with strange creatures known as ymbryes, wights, and hollows. There was quite a bit of foul language, which confused me because I felt this book was targeted at kids/young adults — although I suppose anymore rough language is probably par-for-the-young-adult-course. So, language- and situation-wise, I’d say this is a book for adults. But I feel the plot would be of more interest to kids. Hmmmm …

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Hollow City So, on to the sequel, Hollow City. Jacob and his peculiar friends are off on an adventure, trying to save Miss Peregrine from an eternity in the form of a bird. Similar to the first book, they come across a variety of spooks and creepy situations, but they always overcome. And just like in the first book, they use a lot of profanity for a group of kids. And sure enough, at the end of the book — there’s a build up for yet another adventure! Which is coming in January 2015! And the the Peculiar Children movie will be out in July 2015!

Again, the book was based around a series of vintage black and white photos. Like I did with the first book, it felt like the author did an exercise where he put the photos in a stack and then moved from one to the next, making up a story about what he saw. This would be a fun thing to do with kids, but seemed like an odd method for writing a book. I even got to a point where I’d begin to recognize when another photo was coming: there would be a specific description of something, I’d turn the page, and sure enough: there it was, in a vintage photo!

And … I just lost interest. These books have content that would appeal to kids or teens, but language that I even cringed at as an adult. Still not sure of the target audience, and still not real interested. Book 3 will have to happen without me.

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things that matterI always enjoy it when Charles Krauthammer pops onto my TV screen doing commentary, so I was excited when a friend offered to loan me her copy of his latest book, Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics. It’s just a compilation of Krauthammer’s columns from the past 30 years. The book is arranged by topic: columns on personal topics, historical topics, and of course, political issues. I enjoyed reading these just a few at a time so I could reflect on Krauthammer’s thoughts. He’s so intelligent, and expresses himself so well, that it’s a pleasure reading his words. Some quotes I liked:

  • From an essay on raising hopes about stem cell research leading to cures for spinal injuries: I advise instead to concentrate on making a life (and a very good life it can be) with the hand one is dealt (for those who don’t know, Krauthammer was paralyzed in an accident while he was in medical school).
  • From an essay on his favorite baseball team, the apparently unsuccessful Washington Nationals: You get there and the twilight’s gleaming, the popcorn’s popping, the kids’re romping and everyone’s happy. The joy of losing consists in this: Where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment … When you live in a town with a great team, you go to see them win. When you live in a town with a team that is passing rapidly through mediocrity on its way to contention, you go for the moments.
  • There’s a nice essay on the FDR memorial in Washington DC where Krauthammer debates the merits of whether or not FDR should have been depicted in his wheelchair. He opines that FDR wished to keep his disability under wraps, which today would be labeled “denial”: Denial is not in great favor today. It is considered unhealthy, an almost cowardly psychic constriction. The mantra today is that all must be dealt with, talked out, coped with, opened up, faced squarely. This may work for some … Roosevelt’s denial of his disability was more than just a denial of crushing adversity, more than a jaunty, smiling, damn-the-torpedoes refusal to dwell upon … his physical reality. It was a denial of self, a strange notion for us living in this confessional age when self … is paramount.

I recommend this one. It’s like having a talk (well, a whole bunch of them) with a smart friend.

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 royalty reading challenge

 Join me during March for a royalty reading challenge. I’ll put up a post about it a week from today, but basically you can read any book about any royal topic you like (fiction, biography — the options are many).

See what others are reading this month at 5 Minutes for Books.

8 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. That is quite an intriguing picture on Home for Peculiar Children. Sounds like an interesting read but maybe not, according to what you’re saying here. ha. I’ll take your opinion and not read it just yet. Things that Matter sounds like a book I would like!

  2. Well, Peculiar Children will apparently be a candidate for the Common Core cannon then if it has so much to dislike! Sorry, just my two cents on Common Core! I’ve started Girl of Limberlost a few times, but haven’t finished it. Your review of Laddie I will consider as permission to skip it! Hope next month is more enjoyable!!

  3. I loved Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost as a child, but not so much when I revisited them as an adult. I’ll be skipping Laddie, too, as well as the Peculiar Children books.

    I have never actually heard Charles Krauthammer, or even heard of him, that I remember. Sounds like I need to look him up!

    Interesting thoughts about FDR. I think there was an era when it was thought impolite to talk about one’s physical troubles – I have a dear older friend who seems to operate on that assumption, and as she has been having some physical issues, it is hard to know what’s going on.

  4. Gene Stratton Porter’s books take me back to my youth. I checked them out from the Huntingburg Public Library. I wonder who inspired me to read them. Was it Mother or Daddy or Miss Gen, our petite hard of hearing librarian?
    I love Charles Krauthammer! This quote can help anybody: “I advise people to concentrate on making a life (and a very good life it can be) with the hand one is dealt.”
    Could I say that if I sat in his wheel chair?

  5. I read Girls of the Limberlost but haven’t read anything else by Porter. Your other books are all new to me. Things That Matter looks interesting!

  6. I’ve enjoyed several of Porter’s books. I’m not sure whether I’ll read this one. I’m sure I won’t read the Miss Peregrine ones. They would not be to my liking. But I have a growing appreciation for Krathammer. For reasons I don’t really understand, he just came across my radar within the past year or so. His intelligence is amazing and the way he has handled his disability is equally amazing. Thanks for your reviews.

  7. I started Laddie a few years ago but never got very far into it. I do like Freckles and Limberlost, but mostly for the nostalgia. I think I’ll avoid the Peculiar Children. Sheesh!
    Your royal challenge sounds fun!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing from you.