The English Roses: Too Good to be True by Madonna

The English Roses: Too Good to be True

When I first spied this book in the bargain bin at Marsh, I thought it lovely and grabbed it up immediately. For my Elizabeth, of course. But that doesn’t mean that Mommy can’t enjoy a pretty book, too. When I saw the title, I colored myself surprised. I have seen Madonna’s renditions of folk tales before but never The English Roses.

Think that your friendship can withstand anything? So did the English roses: Charlotte, Amy, Grace, Nicole, and Binah. This is the second book in the series, the first outlining how the girls become friends. Now, the English Roses are starting fifth year  of school together. And with that fifth year come several surprises, chief among them are a teacher named Miss Flutternutter (I kid you not), the fall dance, and a gorgeous new exchange student by the name of Dominic de la Guardia (yes, like the airport). Of course, all of the girls instantly fall for him and try to gain his favor. Except Binah. But this is the classic instance of the girl who doesn’t try is the one who gets the attention. But what will this obvious preference by Dominic do to the girls’ friendship? Will the other Roses allow the Green-Eyed Monster to come between them or will they learn another important lesson in life and friendship?

Madonna writing style is very much the intrusive narrator, who stops frequently to address a fictitious reader, who also interrupts with comments. It’s rather endearing, in my view, and children will find it funny, I believe, especially if read aloud. The illustrations and illuminations on each page, done by Stacey Peterson, are colorful and lively and fit well with the voice and style of the book. This is an excellent partnership between author and illustrator, a fun story, and a delightful read altogether. Well done!

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

So, my experience with Orson Scott Card has been limited to his books Enchanted and Hart’s Hope. I enjoyed the former and definitely struggled through the latter. However, in a night of boredom in the husband’s absence and the baby’s slumbering, I walked over to Ben’s Card library and pulled down this hardback, finding myself struck by the cover. Reading through the synopsis, I decided to give it a try. I am fewer than 100 pages into it but it is rather interesting thus far. I am rooting for Danny and have easily come to instantly despise some of his family members.

I will be honest in that I’m not entirely sure of what to expect of this book; it’s been years since I read a Card book but I am hoping for this to be a good adventure. I like Mages.

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

Started 5/28/2013: I read Amirrezvani’s first book, Blood of Flowers, and found it excellent. I know that I shall have to read it again to truly get all of the nuances and the like but the imagery and importance of the carpets is beautiful.

Now I have begun her new novel, Equal of the Sun, the story of Pari, a Shah’s favorite daughter and, undoubtedly, the equal of any man in the palace in the areas of governance and strategy. When the Shah dies unexpectedly, without a will or a named heir, Pari and the narrator, Javaher, her newest eunuch and gatherer of information, must navigate this world of men and prevent the Shah’s kingdom from falling into civil war amongst his sons.


The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

I have just crested page 100 of Philippa Gregory’s The Kingmaker’s Daughter and I marvel on how much has happened in just these first 100 pages. Let me remind you, there are 412 pages in this book, so I have hardly scratched the surface.

Gregory paints such a picture of tumult, confusion, embarrassment and agony for Anne and Isabel Neville that it breaks your heart over and over again. Within 100 pages, we have had three rebellions and have just embarked upon a third. It’s all rather amazing that so much has happened in only 100 pages.

Anne Neville is an incredibly sympathetic character. You feel for this poor girl who has been taught familial loyalty no matter what and is thus moved back and forth in a deadly chess game by her constantly scheming father Warwick the Kingmaker. You can see the effect that the tumult has on her mind and her heart, as well as on her perceptions of the world. She had been taught that the world was one way and, at a moment’s notice, that idea can be turned on its head, presented as her new normal, and leave her foundering for a foothold, poor girl.

I am greatly looking forward to see what continues to happen with Anne Neville as she and her elder sister are played for pawns by their power-hungry father. Though he may never be able to possess the throne himself, Warwick will take it any way he can and sacrifice whomever he must to make his power complete.

Just how safe can one be? Even his daughters?

Sofia The First

Care to guess what I have been reading lately? You got it: children’s books! The most recent is Sofia the First by Catherine Hapkin. This is a Disney publication, the story of a little girl whose mother marries Roland, King of Enchancia, thus raising an ordinary girl to the rank of Princess. There’s just one problem: poor Sofia doesn’t know the first thing about being a princess. And there’s a ball coming up where she’s expected to waltz with King Roland. Oh, dear.

I really enjoyed reading this book to Elizabeth and watching her look at the pictures and smile. The illustrations are graceful and very artistic in their composition. It is also very fun to see familiar Disney characters, such as the three Good Fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, cast in new roles. Most of all, this story teaches a lesson that I want Elizabeth to grow up knowing like the back of your hand: it is perfectly fine to just be yourself, no matter what.

Starting Young…

My daughter Elizabeth is two and a half months old now. We spend our days playing, smiling, taking pictures, having tummy time, laughing, and making music, with bottles and naps in between. Oh, and reading. Elizabeth has a bookshelf all her own and part of a bookshelf on Mommy’s bookcase. I read to her all the time; in fact, I try to read to her about four or five books a day. I know that she’s little and she doesn’t understand quite yet, nor will she necessarily be interested, but reading is incredibly important to me, as you know, and I truly want to foster a love of books with Elizabeth. On her shelf are books that I have given her, as well as those gifted by her father, her grandparents, and various others who know her Mommy’s obsession with books.

Some of the books that are on Bizzy’s shelf are:

Her First Bible

God Gave Us You

Night Night, Little Pookie

Into Your Dreams

Baby’s First Book of Action Rhymes

A Fairy Good Friend

The Little Duckling

Why I Praise You, God

The ABC’s of How I Love You

Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree

Peter Pan and Wendy

My Very First Book of Manners

I Love You, Little Pumpkin!

I Love You Through and Through

I also read to Elizabeth from the books that I am reading, such as Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters anthology Elemental Magic. Granted, she falls asleep in the middle of my reading most of the time but I don’t mind that at all. What better way to fall asleep than to your mommy’s voice reading you an imaginative tale that will continue in your dreams?

I want my girl to grow up loving to read. I would love to have to tell her to go to sleep three times because she’s sitting up reading “just one more chapter!” I want to ask for a Christmas list and have it be mostly books. I want to foster an imagination and love for all things story in our daughter. Love of story and imagination is one of the main things that brought her father and I together. It is her birthright. It is her legacy.

Elemental Magic, edited by Mercedes Lackey

This was a great find! I discovered it while Christmas shopping for my husband mere days before I was to give birth to our daughter. As someone obviously in love with Mercedes Lackey’s world of the Elemental Masters and magic, I was very, very excited to find this collection and even more so to see that it not only contains stories written in that world by other authors but also a new Elemental Masters short story by Lackey herself.

Can you say “squee”?

I will admit, however, to having not yet gotten past the first story. Newborns make things like reading for pleasure tough. *snicker* But I will say that I am excited enough about this collection to have bought the hard copy as well as a digital copy on my Kindle so that, no matter where I am, I am able to have it with me for when I can snatch those coveted moments of reading while my dearest little daughter sleeps.

I cannot explain what it is about the elemental masters world that draws me so. Perhaps it is that connection to the elements through magic that draws me; the idea of being so connected to a part of the world as to be able to influence it, wield it, commiserate and communicate with it. Perhaps it is that…intimacy that draws me. The magic is wonderful but what I love is the interaction with their element and elementals that the magicians and masters have; it is an almost familial connection that I find beautiful and almost soothing in a way.

So, again, I can easily (and with the utmost faith) say: Well done, Mercedes Lackey!

2/28/13 – I have greatly enjoyed reading through this anthology and was overjoyed to find Isabelle Harton, Sarah, and Nan in their own adventure in this book, as they are, of course, my favorite characters. 🙂 I read the story (“A Flower Grows in Whitechapel”) to my two-month old daughter, as well as “Stones and Feathers” and, naturally, she fell asleep in the middle of them but I still enjoyed it nonetheless.

Thank you, again, Mercedes and all of these wonderful authors, for a book full of new adventures in the world of Elemental Magic.


The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

10/28/12 – This book was recommended by a student of mine and I owe that girl quite a debt of gratitude. It is incredibly interesting. I read 130 pages in one half-morning sitting. The idea is very striking, the dichotomy of the stark, austere world of Quill versus the hidden, vibrant, magical world of Artime is simply beautiful. The idea of creativity being culturally forbidden, stamped out by virtue of nurture,  and punishable by death wounds my heart and boggles my mind, but it is a gorgeous premise for a book such as this.

I enjoy the characters: Alex, Meghan, Lani (though she does annoy me due to immaturity). Mr. Today, and the creatures of Artime — the animals, the statues, the talking blackboards. All very enchanting and you feel for the characters almost immediately, and worry for them, too.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to the other 260 pages.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

 9/2/2012 – This enchanting little book begins with a girl named September, who was born in May, has a mole on her left cheek, and whose feet are large and ungainly (page 1). She is whisked away by the Green Wind, upon the Leopard of Little Breezes, one evening just after her twelfth birthday. The Green Wind is taking her to Fairyland, a place fraught with wonders, rules, and dangers of its own.

Valente’s writing is sweet and engrossing, her metaphors darling and whimsical. I love the Honorable Wyvern A-Through-L (the son of a dragon familiar to a “most puissant Scientiste” and illustrious Library) and his knowledge of all things alphabetical (well, at least the first 42% of it anyway). So far, my favorite part of the book is the House Without Warning, a bath house that one must pass through before entering, or even nearing the Fairyland capital city of Pandemonium.

The House Without Warning springs up wherever it is needed, with its faithful tender Lye. Lye will take you along gently and wash everything that’s important: your courage, your wishes, and your luck. All those things that one never thinks about but that need to be washed and lightened from the gunk, cares, and dust of the world from time to time. I loved the imagery of this chapter, the idea (and gentle reminder) that these unseen parts of one’s soul are just as important and in need of cleansing and care as one’s skin and clothing was especially poignant to me right now as I face the major life change of becoming a mother in a few months.

I look forward to continuing this book and finding more and more to love about Valente’s work and to falling deeper into the throes of her wonderful writing.

10/2/12/ –Favorite quote thus far:

“Perhaps it was Lye’s bath, but she [September] felt quite bold and intrepid and, having paid her own way, quite grown-up. This inevitably leads to disastrous decisions, but September could not know that, not when the sun was so very bright and the river so blue. Let us allow her these new, strange pleasures.


Very well, but I have tried to be a generous narrator and care for my girl as best I can. I cannot help that readers will always insist on adventures, and though you can have grief without adventures, you cannot have adventures without grief. (page 68)”

I love this because, as a writer, it is often not my readers who insist on adventures and turmoil for my characters but rather the characters themselves forge ahead when I am trying to protect them and keep them safe. They insist on their own adventures and, thus, their own grief. It is just incredible fun to see another author utilize this reality of outside (or inside) forces upon our characters’ paths and decisions.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

 9/13/2012 – One Year Anniversary of The Night Circus! Congratulations to Erin Morgenstern on the one-year anniversary of her first novel, one that continues to be read and loved the world over and is being celebrated with the release of the paperback edition here in the United States. It’s just as beautiful as ever and has me wanting to buy it all over it again every time I see it! 🙂


9/22/2011 –  I bought and started this book while on a weekend vacation in New Orleans a few days ago. It has been quite a long time since I have been instantly captivated and charmed by a book and The Night Circus does that beautifully. The characters are intriguing, the world colorful and lovely and intriguing. It is a world that you want to sit and watch unfold and that is a very encouraging start to a book.

9/26/2011 – I’m still mesmerized. Celia’s audition for Les Cirque de Reves  was simply amazing! And the challenge has begun!

Morgenstern’s way of weaving color, image, and action  makes everything flow like water around you, like a river that you cannot stop, nor would you want to. It’s too beautiful, too…much. You just want to lie back and let the river take you where it will.

9/30/2011 – How is it possible that almost every chapter of this book makes me smile, marvel, and re-read in some way, shape, or form? It does and I am amazed by it. Single lines, entire descriptions, quick moments or quips…these all catch me and make me thrill all over again. It has been a long, long time since I have been so enthralled by an author and I think I shall just keep praise Morgenstern over and over again until she proves me otherwise.

One of my favorite passages:

“So proper for a circus girl,” Mme. Pava says with a gleam in her eye. “We shall have to loosen those corset laces if we intend to keep you as intimate dinner company.”

“I expected the corset lacing would take place after dinner,” Celia says mildly, earning a chorus of laughter.

“We shall be keeping Miss Bowen as intimate company regardless of the state of her corset,” Chandresh says. “Make a note of that,” he adds, waving a hand at Marco.

“Miss Bowen’s corset is duly noted, sir,” Marco replies, and the laughter bubbles over the table again. (page 136)

10/5/2011: I will say that we must needs credit Ms. Morgenstern with being the author who convinced me to purchase my first book on a Kindle. I decided that The Night Circus is so amazing that I simply must share it with friends. But what would I do when I no longer had the book in my possession? I would be bereft. So I asked my husband’s permission to purchase a copy of the book on his Kindle so that I would always have access to it. So…brava, Ms. Morgenstern. I am not fully converted but I am willing to note uses. ^_^

10/7/11 – Few books have affected me, surprised me, dismayed me, and delighted me so that I had to put them down for a little while. This is one such book. I will not give away the moment, as that would be unfair to others.

While some may find Morgenstern’s back and forth between past and present jarring, I still feel that it flows fairly well as, by that point, you are absorbed into several different threads of the same tale, each their own story in and of themselves. I find myself able to move fairly easily between Celia and Marco, Laynie and Mr. Barris,  Marco and Chandresh, Bailey and the Murray twins, and, when they all finally come together in a startling moment, the effect is quite striking. And, yes, jarring.

The kind that leaves my heart pounding and aching for more.

10/8/2011 – FINISHED: I finished this book in the quiet of a sleepy Saturday morning and in the company of friends. No better way to do so, I think. I have to say that I was quite pleased with the ending, with the way that the important parts of the stories were laced together and bowed, like the laces at the entrance to Widget’s dream and memory tent.

This has been the first book in a long while to capture me as it has and I must tip my hat to Miss Morgenstern. She has perhaps only one grammatical quirk that could tend to annoy me, if I decided to let it. But I won’t.

Thank you, Erin, for an amazing debut. May all your future efforts be as fruitful and, if I and other reveurs may hope, perhaps someday we may all return to the Circus together.

The Night Circus is Coming....