Jack and Jill by Louisa may Alcott
It’s always a bit uncomfortable when you realized a book that was a childhood favorite has imperialistic undertones. However, if you can get past that, Jack and Jill is in fine Alcott style. It features a host of boys and girls busy pursuing their dreams, getting up (to us) old-fashioned entertainment, and even beginning to feel the first whispers of love. I enjoy that, though the title focuses on two characters, their friends receive chapters of their own, making everyone feel chummy and sociable. (I always thought it odd the March sisters didn’t really seem to have friends, aside from Annie Moffat.) There’s no real plot here, just a year in the life of characters trying to do better and become better people. It feels refreshingly wholesome and fans of Little Women will want to check out this story, as well. (Source: Purchased) Four stars.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
For about half of the book, I could not get into the story because the authors so clearly think they and protagonist Doreen Green are funny–but I was not laughing. Doreen just comes across as weird and awkward, and not always in an endearing sort of way. The worst parts are the end notes, written (strangely) in first person, while the rest of the story is written in third person. Doreen tries to be funny, but just isn’t.
The book is clearly meant to be fun and silly, so even the not-humorous parts are bizarre, with Squirrel Girl fighting a boy-villain and saving babies with the aid of squirrels. Weird stuff happens like squirrels being held as ransom and zucchinis masquerading as the victims of villains. I didn’t mind the weirdness–I assume that’s part of Squirrel Girl’s appeal for most people–but I disliked the forced jokes. The best parts were the texts between Squirrel Girl and other Marvel heroes–these are actually amusing as they poke fun at the characters. The rest of the story was not particularly memorable for me, except that I was pleasantly surprised that Doreen’s parents are present and actually care about her–a rarity in children’s literature. The first in a series. (Source: Library) Three Stars.
Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
I went into this volume believing it was another anthology of short stories featuring the intelligent Jeeves rescuing his employer’s friends from various awkward situations. In fact, this is a novel dedicated to a series of difficulties: Bertie’s aunt needs money, his cousin broke off her engagement, and his friend is too shy to speak to the girl he loves. Bertie is convinced he, and not Jeeves, will solve these crises and so ensues a series of mishaps only Bertie can create. Readers will find themselves greatly entertained by the convoluted schemes and the mishaps they create. This is Bertie and Jeeves in fine style. If you’re looking for a light, comical story, look no farther. (Source: Library) Four Stars.
Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
I enjoyed the humor of the first book in the series, Dealing with Dragons, and the ways in which Wrede plays with fairy tale tropes. Unfortunately, the sequel lacks the magic of the first book. King Mendenbar comes across as whiny, Cimorene as rude, and the magician Telemain as annoying. This is odd as I think they are supposed to come across as delightfully unconventional, spunky, and funny, respectively. The plot is dull and consists mainly of Mendenbar and Cimorene never getting where they want to go and running into random characters who are meant to be amusing but failed to amuse me. I miss the charm and wit of the first book. (Source: Library) Three Stars.