Review: The President’s Daughter by Ellen Emerson White

The President’s Daughter
by Ellen Emerson White
Rating: ***
Date read 9/15/2013

I started out reading the original and the updated one side-by-side. I switched to just reading the original a few chapters in, because I thought that it would help me stay in the story.

I’m thinking this is going to be received as heresy by some of my GR friends, but I’m also thinking I’m going to end up liking the revised, updated one BETTER.

I cried a few times, reading this. The idea of a woman president is so close to my heart and yet so impossible in this country as it stands that reading about Meg’s mother’s election brought me to tears.

Now I want to read all the originals, then all the updates, then the originals again.

Review: A Journey of One’s Own by Thalia Zepatos

A Journey of One’s Own
by Thalia Zepatos
Rating: ****
Date read 9/14/2013

I enjoyed the writing style. I found the advice uncommon and uncommonly interesting. But ultimately, what this book did was re-emphasize for me my disinterest in travel to any but a very few first-world places. I kept reading the little travelogue excerpts and flinching. My reaction to much of this book was, “Oh, I am so glad I’ll NEVER have to do that. Or go there. Or eat that. Or have that conversation.” I liked the packing advice very much, and one needn’t be actively avoiding dysentery to use it.

Review: The Echo Company books by Zack Emerson

Welcome to Vietnam
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Rating: ****
Read 8/13/2013

Oof. Vietnam. So many things in MY head, reading this. The boys, of course, the boys are the ages of my own boys, more or less. Some of ‘em younger, even. And of course I can’t help putting them in this scenario and then I get the shakes. Also, so many of my grown friends, old men now, were there, were these very boys. There’s vertigo. And then there’s Story. And Ellen Emerson White is a storyteller for sure. Even when she’s pretending to be Zack Emerson, writing for boys.

Hill 568
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Read 8/15/2013

This book brings home what the war in Vietnam must have felt like, smelled like. How terrifying it was, and how the kids fighting it were exactly that, kids. Michael, who I first met in the fifth book of this series, makes a lot more sense to me now. And oh, how I love Snoopy.

Mostly, it’s giving me a horrifying window into the war that loomed large over my childhood.

‘Tis The Season
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Read 8/17/2013

This is Rebecca’s backstory, what you miss in The Road Home. Solid characters in an untenable situation, doing the best they can. So achingly true, so well written. I need to have this whole series of books. They surely do pass the 3 a.m. test.

Rebecca is such a wonderful person, complicated and fierce and devoted and broken. I think there needs to be a sixth book. And maybe a seventh.

Stand Down
by Zack Emerson (Ellen Emerson White)
Read 8/19/2013

This series is phenomenal. Why did it ever go out of print? The fourth installment was every bit as good as the first three, and I grew more enamored of Rebecca. I didn’t think that was even possible. And the guys, oh, how I love the guys. I had to get the fifth book again to re-read, now that I know them all better.

There’s more grim detail here about the everyday business of war in the jungle. And it’s so realistic that there are times I could actually smell it. The guys, doing their heartbreaking best, fighting a war they don’t understand under conditions that can only be called intolerable. Yet they tolerate them, and even find some beauty, some humor.

Georgy Girl! And the shout-out to Sue Barton, Student Nurse made me tear up.

Read these. In order. Because those people who told me I could just read the last one and then decide if I wanted to go back and read the first four? Those people, while technically correct, are wrong.

Review: Ramona Quimby, Age 8/ Ramona Forever/ Ramona’s World by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Quimby, Age 8
by Beverly Cleary
Rating: *****
Read 8/5/2013

I love Ramona. The end.

Ramona Forever
by Beverly Cleary
Rating: *****
Read 8/7/2013

There’s just not a lot new to say when one goes straight through all the Ramona books. Except they are brilliant. And wonderful.

Ramona’s World
by Beverly Cleary
Rating: ****
Read 8/11/2013

Not quite so splendid as the first seven Ramona books, but still head and shoulders above so many books for this age group. I’m not sure when Mrs. Quimby started reading socially, but it was only a little jarring to see her personality change a bit. The way the relationship between Beezus and Ramona evolves feels very organic over the scope of the whole series. In this book they get along maybe a little too well.

Glad I revisited these on audio. Well worth a listen.

Review: Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill

Bo at Ballard Creek
by Kirkpatrick Hill
Rating: ****
Read 8/7/2013

Yup, as Wendy promised, this was a delightful book written FOR kids instead of AT them. Hill’s authorial eye has the ability to focus on the detail in the scene that is most interesting to a kid, and pull it to the forefront, look at it from several angles, and then move on. I love the setting, I love the time period, but most of all, I love the characters. Some of the background characters sort of blend together, but for the most part each quirky individual shines in their own particular way. Highly recommended.

Review: The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

The Shell Seekers
by Rosamunde Pilcher
Rating: ****
Read 8/5/2013

I can’t exactly, truly, really file this under Burton Browbeating. But I’m doing it anyway because without Burton booktalking, I would probably not have picked this up. It’s the kind of thing I used to read, sprawled on a raft, when there was all the time in the world for fat books about people the likes of whom I’d never met. It’s easy, now, to be dismissive of that earlier self and all her indulgent habits. But she’s still in there, and this book was exactly right for me now.

I loved the people I was meant to love, and hated the bad guys. I rooted for the underdog, and caught my breath in hope. I was pleased by the ending, and suspect I will remember these characters long and well. There were some editing hiccups, and some iffy usage throughout, but it didn’t matter much. The sweep of the story, and the clever way in which it unfolds, is lovely.

A very enjoyable book, one I can see revisiting from time to time.

Review: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Beezus and Ramona
by Beverly Cleary
Rating *****
Read 7/31/2013

I love the book, so naturally I wanted to try the audio. Stockard Channing makes Ramona very annoying indeed, which is just right. Ramona is perfectly herself while at the same time she is everyone who was ever four years old. Her parents in this book are just right, alternating between fond annoyance and overt annoyance. Beezus suffers long but gives as good as she gets. Highly recommended.

Review: The Road Home by Ellen Emerson White

The Road Home
by Ellen Emerson White
Rating: *****
Read 7/15/2013

I was a little girl when we finally got out of Vietnam. I remember going outside and banging pots and pans together, my mother crying. And so many people I loved just missed being there, through luck. My starter husband had a really high number. My uncle went to Germany. My dad got out just in time. My true love kept Cape Cod safe. And there are people I love who didn’t just miss being there. People who still flinch when a Chinook flies over. People who just don’t talk about it.

So. This book, which starts in country and stays tightly focused on the war throughout, was tremendously affecting for me. It’s also very well-written. The characters are so, so real, and one roots hard for them to be okay. So hard, in fact, that one finds one’s self up all night, holding the book in a death grip, reading in a tiny pool of light. Well, maybe that’s only me. I didn’t get much more than 3 chapters in before I ordered the first 4 Echo Company books through Inter-Library Loan.

By turns brutal and tender and introspective and broken. Incredibly well-done.

Review: The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline by Lois Lowry

The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline
by Lois Lowry
Rating: ****
Read 7/10/20013

I’m putting this one on my Burton-browbeating shelf, even though in truth I had to drag this recommendation from the Burtons with barbed hooks. And wow, I’m glad I did. Unfailingly hilarious, Caroline observes life through her own special lens. She’s an entirely geeky dinosaur-lover who has a wanna-be journalist best friend, a mostly obnoxious brother, a wry and observant mother…oh, the whole cast of characters here is a delight. I chortled and guffawed my way through this, little realizing that while I was laughing I was also being drawn ever deeper into Caroline’s world.

A few bits, too good not to share:
Parsnips! Mom! Nobody makes their kids eat parsnips! Listen, before you do another thing, Mom, call the Hot Line for Child Abuse. Confess to them that you were planning to feed parsnips to your children. They’re there to help you, Mom.”


“Maybe by then I will have married a millionaire,” said their mother. “In the meantime, do either of you want another sandwich, bearing in mind that this bologna cost $1.89 a pound?”

Review: Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary

Emily’s Runaway Imagination
by Beverly Cleary
Rating: *****
Read 6/08/2013

I loved this book so much, I have no idea why I was so resistant to reading it. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Ramona as well, i suspect because the first Cleary I ever read was one of those dreadful teenage romance things, and I read it at my most cynical, disaffected and obnoxious. So my default response to Cleary is “Oh, I hate her” but in reality, I mostly love all the books she wrote. Except the teenage romances. I think.

Anyway, Emily! Oh, how I loved Emily. She’s hilarious and delightful and awkward and so very real. Everyone should read this book. Even people who think they hate Beverly Cleary. Especially people who think they hate Beverly Cleary.