Ahoy there me mateys! For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes. Occasionally I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were. So today I bring ye a muster of historical fiction reviews. What be a muster?
Well the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:
- assemble (troops) especially for inspection or for battle;
- collect or assemble (a number or amount); or
- a group of peacocks.
While I did read other books by the L.M. Montgomery when I was younger, me re-reads in the last decade were from the Anne of Green Gables series. Then this past August I read the standalone a tangled web because I had somehow missed that one. It made me want to re-read other non-Anne books and refresh me memory. So here be reviews of four of her standalones:
Side note: the book covers come from Goodreads and ye can click on them to add the books to yer Goodreads’ Ports for Plunder List.
kilmeny of the orchard
I couldn’t remember if I had read this one or not. Turns out not. This book was published in 1910, two years after anne of green gables. What a silly romance this was! It was so melodramatic. There is a man, Eric, who goes to PEI to teach and meets a mute girl, Kilmeny, in a garden playing a violin. He immediately falls in love with her beauty and innocence and child-like nature. Sigh. So they meet in the garden in secret. He gets called out for his thoughtless behavior and tries to make it right. Then he kisses Kilmeny and awakens her womanhood. More melodrama occurs. This involves an evil Italian whose base nature emerges. Of course Kilmeny’s disability and circumstances of her birth make her a horrible match for Eric. But she be pretty. “Magic” occurs, her disability vanishes, and her gorgeous face stops all objections. Bah! I would have thought this was a debut book and was surprised it was written after Anne. Too silly for me.
“The woods are never solitary–they are full of whispering, beckoning, friendly life. But the sea is a mighty soul, forever moaning of some great, unshareable sorrow, which shuts it up into itself for all eternity.”
Once I started reading this, I realized that I had read it before but all I remembered at first was the atmosphere in the Toronto house. All other details were gone and didn’t really come back until midway through the book when I abruptly had the ending rush back into me noggin. This story follows Jane who lives in her grandmother’s house. Jane’s grandmother sucks and is overbearing. Jane loves her mother but the whole household is under grandma’s thumb. Jane believes her father is dead. Then she turns 11 and is told the truth from others. Her father is alive and living in PEI. She is invited to visit her father on the island for the summer and her whole life changes. I loved Jane even if she is a tiny bit of a Mary Sue who can do whatever she puts her mind to and whom everyone loves. The relationship Jane has with her dad is awesome and endearing. This book deals with not being able to get a divorce in Canada. This book flew by and showcased Montgomery’s writing talents. The only issue was the too nicely wrapped up ending but as I loved Jane that be okay. Arrrr!
“Let me remind you that the measure of anyone’s freedom is what he can do without.”
Apparently, I had never read this one but I absolutely loved it. Valancy Stirling is celebrating her 29th birthday and is unmarried and miserable. Her only solace was an imaginary world of the blue castle but it be time she faces that facts about never being happy or loved and the long, miserable days ahead. Then Valancy is given a horrible medical diagnosis with a limited time to live. And well she basically decides to do what she wants with it. It was glorious. Valancy is sorta obnoxiously fun to her ridiculous relatives and begins to comes to terms with the new version of herself. Ye would think that death is a burden but Valancy is finally free to do as she pleases. But of course shenanigans ensue. I guessed three of the twists at the end and missed one but loved every moment. I do think that a tangled web is better but this was close. So glad to decided to read these standalones that I didn’t know I had missed!
“Valancy herself had never quite relinquished a certain pitiful, shamed, little hope that Romance would come her way yet—never, until this wet, horrible morning, when she wakened to the fact that she was twenty-nine and unsought by any man. Ay, there lay the sting. Valancy did not mind so much being an old maid. After all, she thought, being an old maid couldn’t possibly be as dreadful as being married to an Uncle Wellignton or an Uncle Benjamin, or even an Uncle Herbert. What hurt her was that she had never had a chance to be anything but an old maid.”
magic for marigold
Even after finishing this, I cannot be sure if I ever read it before or not. The beginning felt very familiar but the ending was certainly not remembered. I do think that some of it comes down to how reading four of these books in a row shows that Montgomery did in fact recycle ideas and sometimes seemingly direct quotes from her own works. Some non-spoilers include a blue jug, jam on a tablecloth, and a Klondike uncle’s stories. I did enjoy that Marigold is a child absolutely showered with love. That was different from the women in the other three books in many ways. I also thought the beginning was brilliant. I loved the mess about the name, the entire plot with Old Grandmother, and Marigold’s early years. It was once Marigold has to go to school that the book seemed to lose its magic. I still liked it but the plot kinda gave up and became a series of almost vignettes of Marigold visiting her various relations and how she dealt with the local children. Somewhat poorly to me mind. And the ending of this was awful and abrupt and kinda sad. I wanted more for Marigold. I did however love the cats and magical feel to a lot of the story. The cats actually talk in this one and I love them. I loved how cats and kittens were basically glorified in this book. I wish I could have so many excellent “balls of fluff” around. Based on the first half, it should have been a five star read but it didn’t work out that way in the end.
“Once upon a time–which, when you come to think of it, is really
the only proper way to begin a story–the only way that really
smacks of romance and fairyland–”
I am very glad to have recently read all of the non-Anne standalones. Next up are rereading the non-Anne series about Pat and Emily. And then reading the story girl series because I don’t remember if I ever did. Arrrr!