NaRMo Review: Daddy-Long-Legs

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This review is my contribution for National Book Review Month (NaRMo).

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster is a charming short little novel, more of a novella, that I stumbled upon recently.  Published in 1912, it has a classic feel that has been popular with readers over the years, though I am surprised that it is not better known now.

Jerusha Abbott has lived her whole life in an orphanage, with the monotony of her studies and duties with the younger children broken up only by ice cream on Sundays.  When an anonymous benefactor offers to send her to college, she reinvents herself as Judy, a vivacious coed studying to be a writer. Her benefactor’s only requirement is that she write him letters to keep him updated on her college career, which she addresses to “Daddy-Long-Legs,” because all she knows about him is that he is tall.

Except for short introduction, the book is entirely epistolary in format, consisting of Judy’s letters to Daddy (or other epithets like “Mr. Rich Man” when she’s piqued).  Judy knows that she will receive no reply to her letters, except perhaps curt instructions from Daddy’s secretary, so the story is wonderfully one-sided yet still manages to give an impression of what her benefactor’s actions, thoughts, feelings are.

Most of the letters are amusing and often flippant, but her determination and struggles occasionally break through.  She is both full of goals and dreams for her future and at the same time determined to live life to the fullest here and now.  There are charming details of life at a women’s college mixed with her cheeky passages determining what kind of socialist she is.

The twist to the story was of course obvious to me immediately, but the dramatic irony was really enjoyable as I read between the lines of Judy’s letters to see the relationship taking shape. The ending is a bit abrupt but satisfying.

Webster also wrote a sequel called Dear Enemy, which consists of letters written by Judy’s college roommate Sallie McBride, whom Judy talks into taking over running the orphanage. While equally entertaining as the original, this novel has a few quaint thoughts (some bordering on harmful) regarding “Negroes,” “Indians,” and the “feeble-minded,” which will require some critical thinking for modern readers.  The two books together have some shadows of Jane Eyre, and I can see them being very popular with young women in particular.  

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Book reviews: Rainbow Rowell edition

I mentioned previously how blown away I was by Eleanor and Park, a book which totally eclipsed The Fault in Our Stars for me in terms of high school love stories.

After that, I had to read all of Rainbow Rowell’s other books.  So I did.  And I loved them all.  They cover a wide range of life situations, and Rowell’s Jane Austen-type insights into her characters’ psyches help them transcend their chick lit origins.  Also, I just love their covers.

Here’s a quick run-down on each:

landlineLandline (3/5 stars)–Rowell’s most recent novel goes a little speculative with a phone that lets busy comedy writer Georgie McCool talk with her husband Neal…in the past. Georgie is a very relatable character who I think will resonate with any adult looking back on her choices in life and wondering “what if?”  I like how she owns her choices, and chooses to make the best of everything.

The story’s resolution was happy and (mostly) realistic, but (*SPOILERS*) I admit I was a bit disappointed that Neal was not secretly in on the magic phone thing all along.  Like, at some point he figured out that he had talked to a future version of Georgie that week in the 90s, so then he purposely didn’t call her so she’d be forced to talk to his past self, because he didn’t want to disrupt the timeline.  Hey, if you’re gonna do sci-fi, do it all the way!

 

fangirlFangirl (3.5/5 stars)–A college student tries to save her fanfiction writing career while dealing with complications from her family, her English classes, and of course boys.  Cath is a lot like I was in college: she’d rather stay in her room writing than go to parties.  I also wrote fanfiction in high school, so I loved the excerpts from Cath’s story as well as those from the Simon Snow books (think Harry Potter).  The fanfiction angle also allows us to explore this “genre’s” legitimacy as literature, which I find very interesting.

The romance aspect was sweet, but my favorite character was actually the roommate Reagan.  I didn’t much care for Cath’s sister Wren and felt her subplot was the weak point of the story.  The setting was great for me, as I also went to college in the midwest, and around the same time period (pretty much contemporary, maybe a few years in the past).

 

e&pEleanor and Park (5/5 stars)–Jumping back in time a little, this charming novel is the story of how two high school outcasts fall in love.  I loved how it switches back and forth between Eleanor and Park’s perspectives, sometimes even within the same page.  Its use of 80s music, comics, and other pop culture will probably resonate with readers (just as with Ready Player One).

The plot of the story is more realistic than Rowell’s other novels, and it’s perfect because it doesn’t distract from the true heart of the book.  Even if you are not poor/half-Asian/Midwestern/a fan of The Cure, this book perfectly describes how it felt to fall in love as a teenager.  It felt very personal to me.  The ending is more of a whimper than a bang, but I like the ambiguity and find it hopeful.

 

attachmentsAttachments (4/5 stars)–I didn’t think anything could unseat Eleanor and Park in my Rainbow Rowell top spot, but somehow I loved this book just as much, if not more.  Honestly, as a novel, it is not as good as E&P.  This was Rowell’s first book, so many of the things I liked here went on to be further refined and perfected in E&P.

But for some reason I really related to the main character, Lincoln.  Maybe it’s because he’s the same age as me, dealing with similar issues, with a similar personality.  Maybe it’s because in my head I pictured him looking like Chris Pratt (I read this around the time Guardians of the Galaxy came out).  Maybe all the descriptions of how newspapers worked in the late 90s triggered nostalgia about my own childhood spent in my mom’s newspaper office.  In any case, it was a perfect storm, and I re-read the book twice in a row.  The ending is just a bit too neat and tidy, but it’s a happy one.

 

Kiss of the Fey review

King Xenos has a heart cold as ice from a childhood curse, so how is it that he is the only one who could save Princess Johara? 

Johara thinks there must be a mistake when Xenos takes her north to be his queen, but the rest of her life must be spent living in a gloomy castle with a cold husband.

However, things might not all be as they appear. Xenos’s passion is nothing close to cold, and Johara knows there is more to his curse than he’s telling her. Will Johara turn to ice when pressured with the cold, or will Xenos set her heart aflame?

KissoftheFeyKiss of the Fey is the 3rd book I’ve read that was written by a blogger I follow, and I don’t know why I’m still getting surprised by how much I enjoy the writing of my fellow bloggers.  That was presumably the reason I followed them in the first place.  In any case, I wasn’t expecting too much out of Kiss of the Fey, but it proved to be not only well-developed and eminently readable, but fun!

Kiss of the Fey is a fantasy romance novel by Charlotte Cyprus (Kindle version available on Amazon for $0.99), and while it’s not a literary revolution (and I caught a dozen or so typos), there are absolutely zero major issues with this story.  The characters feel familiar, but are developed and entertaining.  The plot is suspenseful and never drags.  The sex scenes are fun but tasteful, and moreover often work towards elucidating aspects of the leads’ characters.  I started reading the book while I was waiting for an event to start, and I was actually excited to get home and keep reading it.

As a fairy tale fan, I liked the integration of fairy magic into the story; it isn’t based on any specific fairy tale that I could tell, but incorporates several elements of this type of story.  Magic is integral to the plot, but luckily Cyprus is not a lazy writer so it’s not simply an easy way to solve any and all plot complications.  The worldbuildling is also nicely subtle.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to any fan of the fantasy romance genre.  I think it would be a great book to curl up with on a snowy day…maybe also with some Bailey’s hot chocolate.

Tl;dr  4/5 stars