#9 Pioneer Girl: An Annotated Biography edited by Pamela Smith Hill A
This is Laura Ingalls Wilder's original version of the Little House books. It was a manuscript she wrote, getting down all of her memories, and then sent them off to her daughter, Rose, who was an author herself and knew several publishers. After years of going back and forth, it was published into Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, etc.
This book is for the serious Little House fan. As someone who has been to the Wilder home in Mansfield, Missouri three times, and has read almost every book on the subject, I think I qualify. I pre-ordered this book on Amazon in November and didn't receive it until the last week of January. Release dates kept getting pushed.
It includes LIW's text that she originally wrote with pencil on school tablets at her Rocky Ridge Farm. On the sides of the pages are annotations and explanations of what was happening. LIW didn't give a whole lot of context as she was writing her memories, so the editor provided that. I knew a lot of the information, but found it very interesting and informative anyway.
I was always confused, as a child, how these books could be "fiction" when they were clearly the story of Laura's past. This annotated biography sums it up well: Laura wrote her original memories, but got a lot of names, places, and dates confused. The timeline is also sometimes out of order. She knew this was happening in most cases but decided that for the flow of the story, that was how it had to be. There was a greater theme (that of westward expansion and the strength of the pioneer family) and that was held true to until the end of These Happy Golden Years. The best example is that Little House on the Prairie comes after Little House in the Big Woods but, in reality, the family lived in the Kansas territory before Little House in the Big Woods took place. It wouldn't have made sense (in the theme of "expansion") if the family had moved from Wisconsin to Kansas and back to Wisconsin. That's what happened though in real life. Also, Laura was only 2, 3, and 4 years old when she lived in the Kansas Territory, so her memories are enhanced for the book. So there. A long-sought childhood mystery explained to me.
Speaking of enhancement...Rose did most of the enhancing. This book and other biographies explain it better than I ever could, but Rose was the go-between among Laura and the publishers. She "adjusted" the story in order to get it to sell and Pioneer Girl was originally intended for an adult audience. It was changed to make it fit the genre that would make it profitable: children's literature.
Speaking of Rose...I don't like her. She was very bossy, very assertive, and did whatever she needed to in order to get ahead. Rose Wilder Lane is virtually an unknown author today, but she was quite famous during her lifetime. However, her book Free Land was essentially a rip off of Pioneer Girl, which is probably why she insisted on adjusting her mother's story so much; didn't want it to sound too much like her own. If you happen to be near Mansfield, Missouri (you won't be), a visit to the section of the museum dedicated to Rose will probably cause you to agree with me.
My only real complaint is that this story didn't go into the history of Farmer Boy. I would have liked that.
Honestly, I could go into further detail but, truthfully, if you're a fan of LIW, it's already on your to-read list and if you're not a fan, you've probably already stopped reading this post.
#10 A Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub C+
I really like food-related books. I really like challenge-oriented books. I've also been into non-fiction lately.
However, this book...maybe it's because the narrator's voice was awful. Maybe it's because the privilege of the Schaub family practically bled through my car's speakers. Either/or. There was an air of "wealth" to this narrative. As in, "we can give up sugar because we can afford to spend all day researching and cooking our own food". She didn't seem to have a job. They went on many trips in just this one year and it's implied that they travel a lot. I mean, if your biggest issue is that you don't know how you're going to say no to multiple gelatos during your two weeks in Italy, then I can't relate.
Also, if you read her 10 year old daughter's journal entries, she keeps calling it a "diet". And there seemed to be this constant theme of restriction. Eating a lettuce and plain veggie "sandwich" because that's the only thing that was available? If you were truly hungry, you should've been better prepared and/or should've done some research. This book would probably be very triggering to someone with an eating disorder/disordered past and I think Eve could've easily screwed up her daughters' view of food and eating with this challenge.
Most reviews on Goodreads mention that it wasn't a year of no sugar. It was more like a year of focusing on only certain kinds of sugar. They ate lots of dextrose, but wouldn't touch honey. Meh.
It was an interesting idea, and I like memoirs, but the writing was incredibly annoying. Also, terribly sorry your trip around Italy was so difficult, Eve.
#11 Me Before You by Jojo Moyes B-
I never read books like this. But this had a couple of things going for it. It was a rather non-traditional love story, it takes place in England (not some Sparksy location in a Carolina), but the main character was annoying. I did find Louisa to be very bland in the beginning. Kind of simpleton-ish. Just didn't seem to strive to get anywhere in life. It made me sad. She had no desire to do anything. She was the absolute opposite of empowering. I mean, she was 26, never went to college, she worked at a coffee shop, lived at home, etc. That's all well and good, but she didn't even have a fun hobby or something. I'm not sure what she did with all her time.
Was it a sad story? Eh, I guess. Was it tragic? A bit. I think it'd make an okay movie. I think the characters' families were the depressing part of this book.
#12 The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming B+
Having only ever read books and fictionalized diaries from the Romanovs' point of view, this was kind of refreshing. To know what was actually going on in the whole of Russia while the imperial family was in power was sort of mind-blowing. Some of it was really drawn out and, even though I know it was written toward the young adult market, parts were kind of repetitive. The talk of government officials and explanations of laws went on for awhile.
My real takeaway from the book was that the Romanov children were terrors. I mean, the descriptions of the things they did and how they acted...made me want to write out an office referral slip. However, I think that Nicholas and Alexandra were fools themselves, so I find it not to be surprising that their children were horribly behaved. Parents and children haven't changed much in a hundred years I suppose. As in, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
#13 I Survived The Great Chicago Fire by Lauren Tarshis B-
It would only make sense, I think, that I read and review a kid's book each month. And it is a chapter book, so I'm counting it.
I love the I Survived series but, more than that, I love how much kids love I Survived books. This is the newest in the series and I got one for each of my students for Valentine's Day. I enjoyed it about as much as I enjoyed all the others. My favorite is still the Titanic one.
I liked the nonfiction blurb at the end that gave background information. The characters weren't well-developed. The Titanic one comes first in the series and, I think, had the best backstory.
and then there was Lincoln in the World by Kevin Peraino D for didn't finish...
See review here.
I'm working on two other books right now but didn't finish them in February the way I originally wanted to.
What was the best book you read this month?
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