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Title: The Grey King
Author: Susan Cooper
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~5.5hrs
Date read: August, 2012

With the final battle between the Light and the Dark soon approaching, Will sets out on a quest to call for aid. Hidden within the Welsh hills is a magical harp that he must use to wake the Sleepers - six noble riders who have slept for centuries.

But an illness has robbed Will of nearly all his knowledge of the Old Ones, and he is left only with a broken riddle to guide him in his task. As Will travels blindly through the hills, his journey will bring him face-to-face with the most powerful Lord of the Dark - the Grey King. The King holds the harp and Sleepers within his lands, and there has yet to be a force strong enough to tear them from his grasp.

I think this may just be my favourite of the lot so far. I warmed to Will in this on, and really liked Bram. His heritage was perhaps slightly contrived, but I thought it worked well enough. I'm not really sure I get what the Grey King was trying to do though... perhaps just work chaos, because he also knew who Bram was?

I'm still not blown away by this series, but it is turning out to be better than I'd originally thought, and now it would just be silly not to finish it ;-)
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Title: A Good Yarn
Author: Debbie Macomber
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 380
Date read: August, 2012

Lydia Hoffman owns the shop on Blossom Street. In the year since it opened, A Good Yarn has thrived-and so has Lydia. A lot of that is due to Brad Goetz. But when Brad's ex-wife reappears, Lydia is suddenly afraid to trust her newfound happiness.

Three women join Lydia's newest class. Elise Beaumont, retired and bitterly divorced, learns that her onetime husband is reentering her life. Bethanne Hamlin is facing the fallout from a much more recent divorce. And Courtney Pulanski is a depressed and overweight teenager, whose grandmother's idea of helping her is to drag her to seniors' swim sessions-and to the knitting class at A Good Yarn.

You know it's been a good book when you look at the watch after 5 minutes and discover that an hour has passed!

On the surface just as good as the first book, but there were a few aspects I wasn't so keen on - mainly the intro and wrap-up in first and last chapter, the development between Lydia and Brad and the development between Emily and Maverick.

The development between Lydia and Brad bugged me the most. It seemed unbelievable, and I honestly don't see how Lydia can be certain it won't happen again. I know Debbie tried to spin it as a good thing, but I'm not buying it, so that really bugs me. Further details would be going too far into spoiler territory, so I'll leave it there. Maverick wasn't much better though... apparently having a gambling addiction is A-OK as long as you win? *sigh*.

Fortunately there was a lot to love in the book as well. Especially the storylines concerning Courtney, Bethanne, Annie and Andrew. Seeing Courtney grow and come out of her shell was lovely :) And apart from the Brad issue, I loved Lydia as well :)
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Title: The Shop on Blossom Street
Author: Debbie Macomber
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 416
Date read: August, 2012

There's a little yarn store in Seattle.

It's owned by Lydia Hoffman, and it represents her dream of a new life free from cancer. A life that offers a chance at love...

Lydia teaches knitting to beginners, and the first class is "How to Make a Baby Blanket." Three women join. Jacqueline Donovan wants to knit something for her grandchild as a gesture of reconciliation with her daughter-in-law. Carol Girard feels that the baby blanket is a message of hope as she makes a final attempt to conceive. And Alix Townsend is knitting her blanket for a court-ordered community service project.

These four very different women, brought together by an age-old craft, make unexpected discoveries--about themselves and each other. Discoveries that lead to friendship and more...

I picked up "Back at Blossom Street" at a whim at a garage sale, not realizing until I sat down to actually read it that it was the third in a series. Not one to let a small thing like that stop me, I immediately turned to Amazon and as they had the two first ones at a reasonable price, I bought them and started reading. It took me less than 10% to fall in love with the series.

"The Shop on Blossom Street" is a wonderfully cozy story. There's not much plot to it, but it's simply a charming comfort-read. I liked the main characters and enjoyed getting to know their good and bad sides. I especially enjoyed seeing the relationship between Margaret and Lydia evolve.
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Title: A Certain Slant of Light
Author: Laura Whitcomb
Genre: Paranormal
Rating: 2/5
# pages: Audiobook
Date read: August, 2012

In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, a boy who has not seemed remarkable until now. And Helen--terrified, but intrigued--is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.

I can see the charms of this book and understand its reputation, but it's just not for me.

- Love at first sight I can believe. What I don't believe is that a girl raised 150 years ago would immediately fall into bed with a guy at the first chance she got... at school even!
- The only Christians described in the book were religious nut-jobs. I know there are Christians out there like Dan and Kathy, but they're few and far between, and I would have liked to see that acknowledged.
- The entire concept of how the spirits got bodies seemed questionable and contrived.
- I liked Mr. Brown and was very disappointed that his storyline was never resolved.
- The ending seemed like a huge cop-out.

So why do I still give it 2 stars? Well, it did keep me interested enough that I wanted to see how it ended, and the first half actually wasn't too bad. It wasn't until the second half that things started going down-hill.
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Title: Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
Author: Louise Rennison
Genre: YA
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 247
Date read: August, 2012

She has a precocious 3-year-old sister who tends to leave wet nappies at the foot of her bed, an insane cat who is prone to leg-shredding "Call of the Wild" episodes, and embarrassing parents who make her want to escape to Stonehenge and dance with the Druids. No wonder 14-year-old Georgia Nicolson laments, "Honestly, what is the point?" A Bridget Jones for the younger set, Georgia records the momentous events of her life--and they are all momentous--in her diary, which serves as a truly hilarious account of what it means to be a modern girl on the cusp of womanhood.

Had I read this as a teen, I would have loved it. It's exactly the type of book I devoured back then.

Unfortunately it can't quite impress when being read for the first time at the "ripe old age" of 32 ;) It was okay, but not much more than that. I would recommend it to teens though, because I didn't really have anything against it other than being too old for the target group.
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Title: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Author: Aimee Bender
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 294
Date read: August, 2012

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents' attention, bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother's emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother - her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother - tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden - her mother's life outside the home, her father's detachment, her brother's clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

I hardly know what to make of this book. There isn't much plot and certainly not many resolutions. It's even heartbreakingly depressing at times. I don't think I'm likely to ever reread it... yet I'd still claim to have liked it. It's fascinating and I loved the writing style, even though I think it would also be its weakest point in the eyes of other readers, because it is a bit of an acquired taste - no pun intended.

I liked Rose and I liked George. I did not like the rest of Rose's family much, although her father did grow on me even if I did think he was a coward. I think my biggest problem with the book was the lack of a proper ending, although truth be told, I'm not sure I can see how it could end.
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Title: The Tenth Chamber
Author: Glenn Cooper
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 345
Date read: August, 2012

Luc Simard is an archaeologist with a flawless academic career. When a book dating to the fourteenth century is found after a fire in a monastery in France, Luc' s old friend Hugo calls him in to decipher the mysterious illustrations that dot the coded manuscript. What Luc and Hugo find is a map that leads them to a chambered cave and the discovery of a lifetime. The secret of the caves lies in the manuscript' s coded pages, but it' s a secret that someone is willing to kill to protect

Glenn Cooper certainly knows how to write page-turners! While The Tenth Chamber isn't quite as good as Library of the Dead it's still WELL worth reading, and has quite a number of the same characteristics as LofD - a narrative split over several millennial, and a government cover-up of an ancient discovery.

It's difficult to say more about the book without giving away spoilers, so suffice to say that I very quickly got sucked into the story-line and was intrigued by the outcome.
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Title: Peter Pan's NeverWorld
Author: Peter von Brown
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 202
Date read: August, 2012

When the Neverland shows up on RADAR, the eternal youth must relocate to the NeverWorld: a planet of adventure-prone islands. But a bigger playground means bigger trouble. Besides the Neverland's wild beasts, pirates and pitfalls, Peter confronts the one who pinpointed the fabled isle - his brother Michael. Sporting the same magic, Michael Pan is out to avenge grievances past. But he's not the only one. Alistair Adams is an adult who is certain Peter Pan exists. Does Adams hold the key to destroying magic forever? Together with new friends and old, Peter must defeat these fearsome foes while restoring balance to both his own affairs and the heart of NeverWorld itself.

I had this recommended to me by (I think) the author when I posted my review of "Peter Pan" a couple of years ago. Even though the book has been out for a couple of years, there's hardly any mention of it anywhere. This intrigued me, especially as the premise sounded quite interesting, so I decided to humour my curiosity.

And really, this is not a book that deserves to be 'killed by silence'. It's a wonderfully charming and respectful sequel to J.M. Barrie's classic, and very true to the original in both writing style and atmosphere. Like the original it is rather dark in places, but not needlessly so. I loved Tiger Lily, and Halfway made me laugh - especially his way of speaking in half phrases.

A fun read for anybody who still believes in Peter Pan and Neverland.
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Title: Greenwitch
Author: Susan Cooper
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~6hrs
Date read: August, 2012

Simon, Jane, and Barney, enlisted by their mysterious great-uncle, arrive in a small coastal town to recover a priceless golden grail stolen by the forces of evil -- Dark. They are not at first aware of the strange powers of another boy brought to help, Will Stanton -- nor of the sinister significance of the Greenwitch, an image of leaves and branches that for centuries has been cast into the sea for good luck in fishing and harvest.
Their search for the grail sets into motion a series of distubing, sometimes dangerous events that, at their climax, bring forth a gift that, for a time at least, will keep the Dark from rising.

A 3.5 star review.

So far absolutely the best of the lot. I still by far prefer the Drew kids to Will, but he did grow on me in this book... even if I do wish the four of them had been able to work together instead of separately. I loved Jane's sympathy for and loyalty towards the Greenwitch.

The series work quite well as audiobooks, so I think I will continue with the rest of it in that media as well, even though I do own them as physical books as well.
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Title: West From Home
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 174
Date read: August 2012

In 1915, Laura Ingalls Wilder traveled by train from her home in Missouri to San Francisco. Laura's westward journey to visit her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, coincided with a spectacular event taking place in that city-the Panama Pacific International Exposition.

Her husband, Almanzo, was unable to leave their Missouri farm, and it was Laura's letters that gave him the chance to see what she saw during her visit to California.

Great era-snapshop and description of the fair in San Fransisco, but honestly, I don't think I'd have been all that interested, if it hadn't been seen through the eyes of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I've always wanted to know "what happened next", and this gives a nice look into her curiosity, desire to learn and her relationship with Rose and Almanzo.

I was very interested in reading that she and Almanzo had considered moving to New Zealand at one point though. I wish they had - I would have LOVED to read her description of that!
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Title: On the Way Home
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 128
Date read: August, 2012

In 1894 Laura Ingalls Wilder, her husband Almanzo and their seven-year-old daughter Rose left their drought-stricken farm in South Dakota and traveled to a new farm -- and a new beginning -- in the Ozarks. In this extraordinary diary Mrs. Wilder describes the towns passed, the rivers crossed, and the many people they met along the way. And between the lines, and in Rose Wilder Lane's beautiful setting, we sense some of the happiness this frontier family shared.

Interesting to read, but I'm glad I read Little House on Rocky Ridge before reading this one, as Laura (naturally) takes for granted that the reader is aware of a lot of background information. Makes sense as it was originally written as a diary, so I'm glad I had the background from Rose.

Even so, my favourite parts of the book were all the photos, and the end letter from Laura to her readers. But it's a very quick read that should be of interest to people who want to know "what happened next".
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Title: The Painter of Shanghai
Author: Jennifer Cody Epstein
Genre: Cultural
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 417
Date read: August, 2012

Pan Yuliang was a girl with no dreams. Her parents were taken from her at a young age, then her uncle sold her into prostitution; it was enough for many years just to cope and survive. One day, fate places a kind gentleman in her path, and she begins to discover the city outside the brothel and the world beyond China's borders. As a larger canvas of life emerges, Pan realizes that she has something of value to say -- and a talent through which she can express herself. From Shanghai to Paris, Pan is challenged by the harsh realities in politics, art, and love, and must rely on her own strength to develop her talent. In so doing, she takes a relatively ordinary life and makes it extraordinary.

Interesting and allegedly true story about the Chinese painter, Pan Yuliang... inspired by a true story anyway. I can't quite make up my mind what I think of it. The first half was brilliant, difficult to put down and rather similar to "Memoirs of a Geisha" in atmosphere. The second half was still interesting, but the last 100 pages especially were more than a little depressing... and the worst thing is that I don't think they were supposed to be depressing, they just came across that way.

I'd probably have gotten more out of it if I had known more about the history of China from 1918-1957.
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Title: The First Four Years
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Classics
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 160
Date read: August, 2012

Laura Ingalls Wilder is beginning life with her new husband, Almanzo, in their own little house. Laura is a young pioneer wife now, and must work hard with Almanzo, farming the land around their home on the South Dakota prairie. Soon their baby daughter, Rose, is born, and the young family must face the hardships and triumphs encountered by so many American pioneers.

By far the weakest of all Laura books, and a book that leads credence to the theory that Rose Wilder edited all of Laura's other books, because the writing style is so vastly different from the rest of the series.

I enjoyed learning what happened after Laura and Almanzo got married, but was sad to see that they started out their marriage with such hardship! Every year just seemed to be worse than the one preceding it. Whereas the rest of the series are lovely comfort books, this one definitely isn't.
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Title: 3096 Days
Author: Natascha Kampusch
Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 276
Date read: August, 2012

On 2 March 1998 ten-year-old Natascha Kampusch was snatched off the street by a stranger and bundled into a white van. Hours later she found herself in a dark cellar, wrapped in a blanket. When she emerged eight years later, her childhood had gone. In "3,096 Days" Natascha tells her incredible story for the first time: her difficult childhood, what exactly happened on the day of her abduction, her imprisonment in a five-square-metre dungeon, the mental and physical abuse she suffered from her abductor, Wolfgang Priklopil, and how, against inconceivable odds, she managed to escape unbroken.

Very, very chilling story about Natascha's 8-year-long captivity from age 10-18. It's deeply disturbing and I'm amazed by Natascha's strength of character to not only stay herself, but to find a way to escape and go public with her experiences afterwards.

I was especially fascinated by her analysis of the Stockholm Syndrome and think there is a lot of validity to her arguments - especially considering her very young age when she got kidnapped.
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Title: Dawn's Early Light
Author: Elswyth Thane
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 365
Date read: August 2012

Against a background of Williamsburg's quiet streets, the pomp and glitter of the Palace during the last days of British rule, and the excitement and triumph which swirled through the Raleigh Tavern, we see the people of Williamsburg whom history has forgotten: aristocratic St. John Sprague, who became George Washington's aide; Regina Greensleeves, the spoilt Virginia Beauty; Julian Day, the young schoolmaster, just arrived from England; and finally, Tibby, the most appealing, irresistible creature Miss Thane has ever written about. Washington, Jefferson, Lafayette, Greene, Francis Marion, and the rest of that brilliant galaxy are portrayed not as historical figures but as men. We see de Kalb's gallant death under a cavalry charge at Camden, the swamp-encircled camp which was Marion's fastness on the Peedee, and the cat-and-mouse game between Cornwallis and Lafayette, which ended in Cornwallis's unlucky stand at Yorktown. "Dawn's Early Light" is the human story behind America's first war for liberty, and of men and women loving and laughing through war to the dawn of a better world.

It has taken me ridiculously long time to finish this book, and I do feel bad about giving it such a low rating, but considering how long I've been reading it, I can't in good conscience claim that it was any better than ok.

The book is split up into three parts. The first part where Julian arrives to the USA and get settles I really liked. That part was a breeze to get through. I loved reading about his friendship with St. John and his job as a teacher - not to mention Kit and Tibby. Had the entire book been like that I would probably have given it a rating of 4/5. Unfortunately then the Revolution started, and with it a much more boring part two. Eslwyth Thane did not manage to make that interesting for me at all and part two was a chore to slog through.

Part 3 was fortunately somewhat a mix of part one and two, so while not quite as good an end as the beginning had lead up to, at least it did end on a better note than I at one point feared.

Guess I'll return to Diana Gabaldon instead for books about the Revolution.
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Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: YA
Rating: 4/5
# pages: Audiobook ~5hrs
Date read: August 2012

It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.

The sequel to "If I Stay", but very different both in style and in atmosphere. At first I wasn't sure I wanted to read it, as I was afraid having a sequel would diminish the impact of the first book, but it actually worked really well. It was different enough that it seemed more like a follow-up than a sequel... if that makes any sense.

I know this will sound weird, but I actually thought this one was more depressing than "If I Stay". IIS was sad as, but I never actually found it depressing, whereas WSW was very dark and bleak... or at least started out that way. Fortunately it changed, or I wouldn't have given it a 4 star rating :)

I did like it though. It didn't blow me away the way IIS did, but it's a decent book that gave a believable answer to "what happened next". And I loved the ending :)
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Title: Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings
Author: Hélène Boudreau
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 140
Date read: August, 2012

If she hadn't been so clueless, she might have seen it coming. But really, who expects to get into a relaxing bathtub after a stressful day of shopping for tankinis and come out with scales and a tail?

Most. Embarassing. Moment. Ever.

Jade soon discovers she inherited her mermaid tendencies from her mom. But this revelation raises a serious question: if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?

Jade is determined to find out. But how does a plus-sized, aqua-phobic, mer-girl go about doing that, exactly? And how will Jade ever be able to explain her secret to her best friend Cori, and her crush, Luke?

This summer is about to get a lot more interesting

I read this on a whim because I liked the title. Fortunately the book completely lived up to its title. This is YA of the best kind, even if I kept thinking Jade older than she really was (16-17 rather than 13-14) - that's got more to do with the YA books I normally read than her behaviour in this book though. It was just plain fun! I definitely want to read the next book in the series now, in the hopes that it can live up to this one :)

I loved both Luke and Cori. With friends like that and a Dad like the one she's got, Jade'll be alright :)
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Title: The Dark is Rising
Author: Susan Cooper
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 173
Date read: February, 2008


"When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back,
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone;
Five will return, and one go alone."

With these mysterious words, Will Stanton discovers on his 11th birthday that he is no mere boy. He is the Sign-Seeker, last of the immortal Old Ones, destined to battle the powers of evil that trouble the land. His task is monumental: he must find and guard the six great Signs of the Light, which, when joined, will create a force strong enough to match and perhaps overcome that of the Dark. Embarking on this endeavor is dangerous as well as deeply rewarding; Will must work within a continuum of time and space much broader than he ever imagined.

A 2.5 star review.

I'm very obviously the exception that proves the rule. I thought Over Sea, Under Stone was heaps better than The Dark is Rising. Probably mostly because I like the Drew kids better than Will. I never really got to care for him the way I did the others.

A shame, because I really wanted to love this. I'd heard so many good things about it, and I can definitely see its charms... but I never felt them. And when I didn't feel them, I can't love the book. I felt too much like an outsider looking in rather than somebody actually taking part in the action. It constantly kept its distance.

I can see that the Drew kids as well as Will all turn up in the next book, so I'll still give that one a chance to charm me :)
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Title: Over Sea, Under Stone
Author: Susan Cooper
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 173, Audiobook ~7hrs
Date read: December 2007, August 2012

On holiday in Cornwall, the three Drew children discover an ancient map in the attic of the house that they are staying in. They know immediately that it is special. It is even more than that -- the key to finding a grail, a source of power to fight the forces of evil known as the Dark. And in searching for it themselves, the Drews put their very lives in peril.

I read the first half of OSUS thinking it was a prequel, and I think that may have influenced my opinion of the book. I kept waiting for the action to start, when in reality it had been going on for quite awhile already. So far I'm not too impressed by this 'highly acclaimed series', but it's not bad either, so I'm still open to having my mind changed and willing to read the rest.

Reread in 2012: I've always had very mixed feelings about this book. It so sounds like a book (and series) that I would love, but on my first reading, I found it merely "meh". However, I really wanted to love it, so when I found them as audiobooks, I decided to give them a second chance.

And funnily enough, this time I really liked it! I don't know if it's a book that just works better as an audiobook, or if I was just more prepared to like it this time, because I knew what to expect, but I ended up really enjoying it. Fortunately I have the entire series as audiobooks, so I'll see if I can actually make it through all of them this time.

The reader (Alex Jennings) did a great job, even if he did have a bit of a lisp at times. It wasn't consistent, but I did hear a couple of "thoon"s and "thays" from time to time.
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Title: These Happy Golden Years
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Genre: Classics
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 237
Date read: July 2007, January 2010, August 2012


Summary: Fifteen-year-old Laura learns that living away from home and teaching school can be a bit frightening when most of the students are taller than she is, but every week Almonzo Wilder arrives to take her to her family for the weekend.

Review: I love all of Laura's books, but if I had to choose a favourite, it would probably be this one. It takes up exactly where "Little Town..." leaves off and describes Laura's life now that she's suddenly a grown-up school teacher. I couldn't imagine teaching school at an age where I still ought to GO to school! It's fascinating. And the courtship between her and Almonzo is just adorable. I always finish this book with a content sigh :)

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