Dreaming Dangerous by Lauren DeStefano

Well this was just a delightful sort of creepy treat just for middle grade. It reminded me a bit of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Unusual Children (is that the full title?) (with a touch of Firestarter thrown in) A large boarding school in the middle of a forest where all the children, all orphans, have exceptional powers. Plum and her friends Vien, Ardem, and Gwendle share a very strong bond. Every night they dream together and in their dreams they battle monsters.  It’s just part of their life that they record their dreams in great detail and must submit them to the director of the school. It’s also routine for their blood to be drawn regularly and to answer various questions. But the dreams become strange and different and Plum knows something bad is going to happen. When Ardem doesn’t show up in their dreams it’s up to her to figure out where he is and how to get him back.

I really enjoyed this and thought it had a marvelous ending. That said, for once I”ll say that I would like MORE! Although it was nice to be able to read this quickly and satisfyingly, it was so weird and well written and I liked the characters so much that I would like to read more about them!

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

I had a lull of good books last week and told myself to just look around my house and pick up something. Right there on a ledge was Princess Academy. I’d bought a nice paperback copy for a quarter hoping Tabby would read it and wanting to reread it myself. I read this when I was a new book but it’s been so long I forgot what it was all about and have been having a hard time recommending it at school. So I picked it up and oh it was a delight all over again. Shannon Hale is such a good writer. And now I remember the story! Miri lives in a small village on a mountain, an outlying territory in the kingdom. They are isolated, but happy, digging linder out of the mountain-a beautiful rock that only comes from there. One day a king’s messenger arrives and announces that priests have divined that the prince’s bride will come from that village and all the eligible girls must leave the village to attend a “princess academy.” A mean teacher will whip them all into princess shape. So basically it’s boarding school! With a horrible cruel mistress, girls bickering, and much coming of age and self-discovery.  I loved the mild elements of fantasy (the linder stone is a sort of conductor for “quarry speak” between the villagers), the transformation of the girls as they are educated (no one knew how to read), and Miri’s growth. Very enjoyable and I can now happily recommend this to all!

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

I loved this until I got to the last page. WTF, Maureen Johnson? Why is this “to be continued”?  This was a super exciting classic mystery with nods to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes, with flashbacks to a crime in the 1930s meshed with a present day situation in the same location, which happens to be an eccentric and elite boarding school for brilliant teens. I mean, it’s great right? Not unlike Johnson’s Jack the Ripper boarding school awesome story. But things were rolling right along with a good level of excitement and tension, everything about to be solved when… the end. Seriously, this book could have just used 20 more pages to finish everything up and I would have given it 5 stars. Instead it’s being strung out into a trilogy, which is ridiculous. As you can tell I became quite enraged at the end.

Luvvy and the Girls by Natalie Savage Carlson

Yesterday afternoon I had a friend over and we were looking at some of my old cherished children’s books. I told her all about this one, as it was one of the first boarding school books I read and I loved it very much. After she went home I picked it up and ended up just quickly reading the whole thing. Guess what? Just as good as I remembered. And I’m going to say, although I often laugh at the old fashioned books, I can see from my adult point of view that it was a really good book. Although it’s set in 1915 it was written in 1971.
The things I so vividly remembered about the book were all there–fascinating cloistered nuns, strict rules, a poor homely orphan, and a goody goody.  Objectively speaking, it’s a good story about a girl going away to school, being homesick, figuring out who her friends are.
One thing I think I had not noticed until yesterday is that the girls in the story have the last name Savage and the dedication is to the Pupils of the Frederick Academy of Visitation, which is the convent school in the story and Savage is the author’s middle name. So now I’m convinced that her family really did go to this school and it’s not entirely fictitious but based on family stories and actual events. Perhaps the girls really did march by two on a long trek to a cemetery to gather violets. Perhaps they were allowed to spend a nickel each Saturday on ice cream cones and pickles (Pickles really seem to have been a popular snack in the olden days. At least according to this and All of a Kind Family.)

Pleased to say this held up and was just as enjoyable.

UPDATE! As I wrote this and then logged it on to Goodreads my mind has been blown. Because of the way Goodreads identifies things as part of a series they are calling this The Half Sisters #2.  That means there were MORE BOOKS ABOUT LUVVY (and her half sisters.)  What a shame I never knew this as a child (and how would I? the books weren’t labeled on the cover as part of a series and if it wasn’t on the shelf at my library I didn’t know about it. No following of authors on social media. Forthcoming new titles were not promoted. If it wasn’t at our library, I didn’t know about it.) Obviously I will be looking for the other titles now.

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

stayThis was a  beautiful story, nicely told between standard writing and then the inclusion of the main character’s original poetry.  Emily (no actual relation to Emily Dickinson) is off at boarding school (in Emily Dickinson’s hometown) for a fresh start away from the terrible memories, looks, and stories after her boyfriend killed himself in the school library in front of her.  A fresh start is difficult and Emily is deeply scarred by the tragedy and coming to terms with it.  However, a powerful need to write poetry, along with a growing friendship with her roommate, K.T., help her through it.  I appreciated that though this was a bit sad, it was not an overwhelmingly sad or depressing book.   And how could I not love a boarding school story which includes a brief shout-out to the The Secret Language-the very first boarding school book I read and loved? The bits about Emily Dickinson, along with Emily’s original poetry, are beautifully incorporated. This was a lovely story.

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

I’ve had such a slow start to the year, in part because it’s taken me forever to read this despite being super excited to get it. It’s #3 in the Finishing School series.  Somehow I found it a bit slow? Less compelling? Sometimes it’s hard to get invested in a story where so much is made up and strange. Specifically, the aetherosphere that the Picklemen and vampires seem to fighting and plotting over. I can’t get that caught up in it because it’s all strange and makes no sense. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed all the details of things like Sophronia’s skill with the bladed fan and how all the Intelligencer girls act.  This one barely took place at all up in the air, as most of the story was land bound. Also, specifically, moving train bound! Everyone loves a story on a moving train.  The romantic triangle between Felix, Soap, and Sophronia continues (I’m rooting for Soap.) And there’s also a fair amount of backstory on werewolves which sort of went over my head.

However, I did enjoy this latest installment and hugely admire Sophronia for all her skills.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

hp4Gah! It’s been so long since I’ve finished a book. The problem lies in choosing to read a book I was super excited about, having it be the only book I brought on vacation, not being really into it. When we got back from vacation I picked up HP because the time was right having just spent two days at Universal Studios immersed in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My slow book didn’t stand a chance against HP. So, I know I keep saying this as I am rereading this series, but I’m really really enjoying this. Possibly more than the first time? I love reading the books so much more closely together than as published because this time I’m really appreciating the story arc, the momentum, the turn towards the dark, and I’m feeling very caught up in it without having forgotten any prior details. It’s also fun to read them after we see the movies because the movie leaves out so much of the book that it’s like the movie is an exciting teaser for the full story. [I’ll probably switch to just reading the books now because I don’t think our kids are up for watching #5 yet, but I don’t want to wait to read it.]

As a reminder, this one is the one with Cedric Diggory, the tri-wizard tournament, and the ultimate return of Voldemort, leaving the ending one filled with the threat of impending danger, battle, and sides being drawn. The Malfoys are proven to be aligned with the Dark Lord, Snape continues to confound, and the Weasleys are becoming more prominent characters. Also, Ron, Hermione, and Harry are aware of boys and girls now and thus the beginnings of romantic and confusing feelings.