March 3, 2015

February Books

#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?

Sharing at Show Us Your Books!


  1. Authors (and bloggers, too, for that matter) who are rich enough to seem out of touch with how un-normal their lives sound do tend to annoy me too. I have a low tolerance for first world problems, probably.
    The Pioneer Girl book does intrigue me--I know I've heard before about how it was fictionalized in different ways, like Carrie appears in events that actually occurred before she was born, but the details are quite foggy now...

  2. I have been struggling again this year when it comes to reading, I just can't seem to find time to unwind and do it.

  3. I am so excited to read Pioneer Girl! I have it on hold and am being very patient with the library. It'll be nice to get a non-Rose tainted perspective.

    I loved Me Before You and I typically don't enjoy those kinds of books. Yes. The family was horribly depressing.

  4. I can't wait for Pioneer Girl. I think I'm 34th on the library list.

  5. Me before you would TOTALLY make a good movie!

  6. I just went back and read your Lincoln review, and that's so disappointing that you didn't like it. I saw it on Blogging for Books, and I will make sure not to choose that one! I definitely would love to read Pioneer Girl!

  7. I feel like I *should* want to read Pioneer Girl, but for some reason I've just never been that interested in her...even though I loved the show when I was a kid. ;)

    I have two books that Isaiah got me for Christmas that I haven't even started...I need to get on that. (One is Orphan Train and the other is a non-fiction by Greg Gutfield). Most recently I read The Girl on the Train and I didn't love it like everyone else loved it...I kind of found the main character a bit insufferable and stupid.

  8. You killed it in the books dept again this month. I failed miserably. I gave up on me before you. I could tell within the first few pages that it just wasn't the kind of story I was interested in.

  9. Hmm Pioneer Girl sounds good, adding it to my list!

  10. Ahh! I must read Pioneer Girl now. Thanks for the recommendations!

  11. I need to read some of the I Survived books. My 6th graders really like them, too.

  12. I really enjoyed Me Before You at the time, but looking back on it, it didn't stick with me and I can see the flaws that I didn't see originally.
    I don't know much about the Romanov family, a few fictionalised stories as well, but I'm sad to hear the kids were terrors and the parents were fools... I mean, I know it's real life and real history but I liked my fictionalised version better. Oh well.

  13. I'm kinda glad you rated the Jojo Moyes book lower than A because her books get such rave reviews and I want to know that there are people who don't like it ;). I haven't read it yet but want to. Of all the books I read last month, so many good ones! If I had to pick one, it'd be Everything I Never Told You, but only because I related to it so personally. A generally great book is Wonder.

  14. I am 100% going to read Pioneer Girl. I had no idea it existed. Love the Little House books though!!

  15. Wow I have never heard of Pioneer Girl, now I am intrigued!!

  16. I really liked Me Before You, original stories are some of my favorites and I'd never read a story like that before.

  17. Me Before You was okay but not as good as I was expecting due to the hype. The families were the worst part, totally agree.

  18. Me Before You is sitting on my bookshelf at home, but nothing has made me have the urge to read it. I read all sorts of reviews about it. I'll get to it eventually.

  19. I much preferred The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. I don't even know how I ended up reading Me Before You, but I agree with the family being very underwhelming.. with a family like that, why would she STAY? I just attributed it to being a UK thing, lol


Comments make my day!