by Julie Edwards

Published 1971

Alrighty, so, continuing my walk down memory lane, I’m reading all the books I own.  Many of them, like this one, I have owned for so long that my name in the front just says “Sarah W” in scraggly print, since I’ve owned them since before I could write in cursive!

This book is about a young girl who lives in an orphanage (Mandy, of course) and her desire to have something of her own.  She discovers an abandoned cottage and adopts it, planting flowers in the garden and cleaning the little house.

I think that what I really enjoy about this story is how Mandy has to learn about balance in her life–that having a special secret isn’t worth sacrificing honesty and friendship.

By the by, as I read these books I haven’t read since childhood, I like to look up and see if favorite authors ever wrote anything else.  And, call me super ignorant, but all these years, I had no idea that Julie Andrews was an author at all, much less that she wrote Mandy.  So that was a pleasant surprise!

This is definitely a happy little read, and a nice read-aloud for younger(ish) readers, because don’t all children dream of having a little house of their very own?

Fortune’s Folly


by Deva Fagan

Published 2009

Sometimes, I like to choose random books that Goodreads thinks I would like.  Ironically, I’m really bad at remember to update my Goodreads account, so sometimes its suggestions are a little off the wall.  Anyway, this one looked reasonable–a fairy tale-ish book for younger readers–so I gave it a try.

Sadly, though, I didn’t find a great deal to love about this book.  Fortunata has struggled to keep her father going since the death of his wife (her mother).  Once an amazing shoe-maker, her father lost his talents.  Once his wife died, the elves who had always come to tidy his workbench at night ceased to appear, and he is convinced that until they return, his skills will be lacking.  Fortunata (who also narrates the story… another mark against it, as I am innately prejudiced against first-person narratives), however, knows that there never were magic elves–it was simply her mother, slipping down to the workshop every night to clean things up.

Now, let us pause a moment.  Doesn’t it seem like the logical thing to do would be for Fortunata to simply take over her mother’s task?  Instead, she tries her best to sell the terrible shoes her father is making.  Eventually, they end up having to run away from town, blah blah blah, their donkey gets stolen by a wicket traveling amusement-wagon owner, and Fortunata and her father are forced to travel with them as Fortunata becomes the fortune-teller’s assistant.

FINALLY about a third or more into the book, we get to the main story, where Fortunata gives a fortune to a prince and has to travel with him to see if it comes true (and it has to come true, or else or father’s life is forfeit).

While I enjoyed some of the dialogue and characters, overall this book seemed lacking in direction.  Fortunata spends the entire book believing that the saints and magic (all the same, which also annoyed me, even in a fictional world) were just a bunch of hooey.  But sometimes, things that are inexplicable do happen.  Even so, Fortunata never really seems to change her mind, even while these things are never explained.  It was as though the author herself wasn’t sure whether or not magic exists in Fortunata’s world.

There were way too many villains.  There was the evil dude who disposed a random king in another city (who also happened to be the evil dude from the first chapter).  There was the evil wagon-owner.  There were his evil henchmen.  There was an evil princess (two, actually).  There was an evil witch (? her story makes her the victim, but she leaves them locked in a cage and then they steal stuff from her and once again you aren’t really sure who was supposed to be wrong or right and we never address that whole thing again really; it was just a tool so we could explain why the princess is evil, except we don’t believe in magic, right? So it doesn’t really explain it, unless magic actually is a thing…???).

Fortunata makes a living out of lying.  Her fortune telling is all a deception and she knows it.  The prince falls in love with her, but everything about her is a lie, and she never seems really apologetic about that (I mean, she says sorry, but more like she’s sorry that he had to find out about her lies, not that she told them in the first place).  I guess that, in the end, that was what really made this book unpalatable to me.  It was as though the moral of the story was, “Everyone lies, so lie when you have to, and try to not get caught.”

I’ll give it a 2/5.  It didn’t actually make my eyes bleed, but most certainly did not inspire me to seek out any of Fagan’s other works.

Band of Brothers



by Stephen E. Ambrose

Published 2001 (originally 1992)

In this non-fiction book, Ambrose focuses on a select group of men in World War II–Easy Company, a parachute infantry regiment.  And let me state right here and now: I know nothing about the military or how it works.  So please don’t judge me if I am really, really bad at explaining different groups of people!

But part of the charm of this book was that even someone as military-ignorant as myself still found it an enjoyable and informative read.  While some sections would probably make a LOT more sense if I was more familiar with military rank, etc. (I did look it up a couple of times, but it just doesn’t seem to stay in my head…  some charts or lists would have been super helpful for me), overall, the book is just the story of the daily lives of these men, and anyone can understand that.

From their incredibly rigorous training stateside, to their first jump of the war, all the way to Hitler’s mountaintop retreat, we follow Easy Company, listen to their stories, and try to see the war from their eyes.

If you’re interested in WWII, this is a good read.  Ambrose is quite readable, and makes this story an interesting one.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase



by Joan Aiken

Published 1962

I love this book.  I can’t really explain why.  Maybe because Mom read it to me when I was a little girl, and even though I didn’t understand all of it, something about the cold and the dark and desperate wolves, about Bonnie’s optimism and Sylvia’s sweetness, Simon’s resourcefulness and Miss Slighcarp’s evilness–somehow, it stuck with me.  I’ve read this book almost every year for as long as I can remember.  It’s one of my personal classics.

The story is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit.  Definitely not historical fiction by any means.  Aiken actually writes of a sort of alternate-universe England (hence the slavering wolves), but it makes an excellent story, and has the added benefit of gently reminding the reader that she doesn’t have to make everything “just so.”  I really love the characters of this book.  The story moves quickly.  I love children’s stories, where the good are good and the bad are bad and this book draws those lines distinctly.  The dark and wintry background adds to sense of urgency and fear.

Definite recommendation.

Time to Go House



by Walter D. Edmonds

Published 1969

As a child, I loved this book.  Mom bought it forever ago at a library booksale, and I can remember being fascinated by the story and the delicate line drawings that illustrate it.

Time to Go House is the tale of a young field mouse, Smalleata (seriously, is that the cutest name for a mouse or what?!) who, with her (large, extended) family travels to the human house to spend the winter.  Since Smalleata was just born that spring, this is her first time to go house.  The way is fraught with peril, and even in the house (with the humans gone, presumably south, for the season) can be dangerous.  Smalleata’s first friend is a young (handsome) house mouse.  Romance blossoms.

The story is simple and charming, and yet akin to those true classics like Bambi (the book, not Disney’s prettified animated version), humanizes animals only by giving them voice, not by taking away their animal nature.  Thus, there is some violence in this book (although not graphic, of course), especially when the weasels get in.

I do believe that this book is out of print and probably not readily available (obviously my library doesn’t have a copy any more… they discarded it about twenty years ago, lol), but if you happen to come across it, I do recommend it.  4/5.