Terry has been reading The Tomato Quest by D.G. Driver
3 out of 5 stars
In an undisclosed historical era and place, this story is about lowly gardener Dash, who wants to marry the daughter of the noble for whom he works. Dismissing his request, Lilian’s father sets him a task: he hands him a box of tomatoes and says that if he can make his fortune before they rot, he may have Lilian’s hand in marriage. Then follows adventure after adventure, as he struggles to complete the seemingly impossible, while Lilian does her best to postpone the engagement to the man her parents want her to marry.
This is a fun idea and a nicely put together story. I admit to being slightly bothered throughout by the incorrect use of titles; for instance, a ‘Sir’ should be referred to by both first and surnames, never as ‘Sir Barrymore’, and a Duke would be known as the Duke of such-and-such a place, not as Duke followed by his surname. This sort of thing is easy to find out; I just checked it in a few minutes on Google, to make sure I wasn’t wrong. Having said that, the story has fantasy elements, so perhaps it doesn’t matter too much! It should appeal to lovers of fairy tale romance and happy endings.
Dash and Lillian are in love, but her wealthy father won’t permit them to be married because Dash is not a suitable match. He is nothing but the son of the family’s gardener. To be rid of the young man, Lillian’s father claims that the only way Dash could ever earn Lillian’s hand in marriage is to find his fortune in the time it takes a basket of fresh tomatoes to rot. Naturally, Sir Barrymore isn’t serious about this challenge, but Dash sees it as his only chance to win the hand of the woman he loves. He leaves immediately on a quest to find a way to complete this impossible task. Meanwhile, Lillian is doing her best to make her parents postpone her engagement to someone else in order to give Dash time to return. It is a whirlwind fairy tale adventure full of danger, cunning, magic, true love, and tomatoes.
Barb has been reading Midnight Sisters by Sarah E Boucher
What is it about fairy tales that keeps us coming back to them, reimagining their details and reinventing their meanings with almost every generation? University of Chicago professor Armando Maggi who studies fairy tales, says:
We cannot live without mythology. It’s the way we reason, the way we survive, the way we make sense of our world. It’s just that the stories we’ve been using—mythic stories, fairy tales, legends—they’re not working anymore. We need something new. What we long for is a remythologization of reality. (—Armando Maggi, University of Chicago Magazine, 11 June, 2012)
But I’m not sure I agree with his thesis that our search will take us away from fairy tales. Indeed, if you follow his research into the earliest versions of familiar tales, one thing that’s clear is that while each generation may change the trappings and socially acceptable details of a story, the basic themes and stories keep reappearing.
Take The Twelve Dancing Princesses, the original fairy tale reimagined by Sarah Boucher in her new release, Midnight Sisters. A relatively recent addition to the fairy tale genre, its first documented versions were collected by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. There were also similar versions, such as Katie Crackernuts and others. But by the next generation, the tale was already being changed to gloss over bits deemed offensive by Victorian readers—such as Andrew Lang’s version where death sentences for the princesses’ prior suitors disappeared.
The tale, as reimagined in Midnight Sisters, is told from the point of view of Jonas, a teenage gardener newly-hired at the estate of the Earl of Bromhurst. Jonas is more worried about pleasing his boss than he is about the strict rules around avoiding the Earl’s twelve beautiful daughters. That’s until he meets Ariela, the eldest sister. The tale jumps forward a decade, and the now mature Jonas is completely (although hopelessly) in love with Ariela. Meanwhile, the sisters—who have grown increasingly frustrated by a restricted lifestyle from which the only escape seems to be into marriages with unappealing suitors—have found a way to escape, if only temporarily. Naturally, the discovery that his daughters have disappeared without (apparently) leaving the castle, has the Earl frantic.
Jonas, who is equally worried about the sisters’ safety, decides to try to spy on them to see where they have been disappearing. In this, he reluctantly accepts the help of Braden, a new young gardener who reminds him of his own younger brothers at their worst and best. Their fears, it turns out, are well-founded, and the two must risk their jobs and their very lives in a desperate rescue.
I enjoyed so many aspects of this retelling. The decidedly working class young gardener, Jonas, makes an engaging narrator. With his unsophisticated country background, he seems unimaginative at times, but his unwavering love and loyalty are endearing. The brash, flashy Braden is hiding secrets of his own, but it’s nice to watch as cautious Jonas is slowly won over.
There were pieces that I would have liked to see developed further. The abrupt gap between Jonas meeting Ariela and the later action in the book meant that we were told about their relationship, but we were never actually shown any of the details of how an aristocrat falls in love with a gardener. That lack made it difficult for me to get invested in the lovers’ plight, and made the first half of the book seem slow. The author glossed over the (somewhat unavoidable) sexism in which the sisters must be saved by the heroes and ‘rescued’ into marriage. And the huge cast meant that most of the sisters could only be portrayed as tropes and stereotypes.
But the second half did turn into a nice mystery thriller, with Jonas and Braden stepping somewhat uncomfortably into the role of heroes. There was even a most unconventional fairy godmother figure. And the ending was tied up with a twist in the very best fairy tale tradition, ensuring that most essential of elements: the happily-ever-after.
Midnight Sisters is an undemanding and entertaining retelling of a favorite fairy tale, and suitable for readers from YA to adult. I would give it 3.5 stars, and recommend it for anyone looking for an enjoyable romantic story.
Do not meddle with the master’s daughters.
The words rattle around Jonas’s head. What is the punishment again? Death? Dismemberment? Jonas, the newest addition to the gardening staff, can’t recall the exact penalty for breaking the rule. What does it matter anyway? He would never dream of meddling with the Earl of Bromhurst’s haughty daughters.
Until he comes face to face with Lady Ariela, the eldest of the Master’s daughters.
Her elusive smile and open manner cause him to question his convictions. In no time, he’s drawn into Lady Ariela’s world of mystery and intrigue, a world where she and her sisters will do anything—including leaving twelve empty beds at midnight—to escape their father’s strict rules.
Only Jonas can uncover the truth and save them from their father’s wrath and their own folly, if he is willing to risk everything he’s ever worked for.
About the author
Meet Sarah Mild-mannered kindergarten teacher by day and self-proclaimed scribbler by night, Sarah’s inner fairytale junkie takes center stage with the release of her novels Becoming Beauty and Midnight Sisters. The discovery of a mystery about pants (penned in the second grade) reveals both her lifelong love of storytelling and cute clothes. With countless stories about makeovers cluttering up her hard drive and a walk-in closet bursting with sassy high heels and handbags, Sarah’s obsession with dressing up is unmatched. That, paired with her interest in fairytales, led to the birth of Bella, the heroine of Becoming Beauty. When she’s not embroiled in either teaching or penning a new tale, cheesy music, movies that cause her to snort while laughing, baking (especially if chocolate is involved), and more British television than anyone this side of the Atlantic has any business watching, keep Sarah entertained. A native Utahn, Sarah graduated from Snow College and Brigham Young University. She currently lives and teaches in northern Utah.
The Forgotten Garden features the most delightful magical garden in a coastal cottage in Cornwall. Spanning generations the garden means different things to the different characters. This book is about finding answers and peace, it spreads across the world and back again in its duration.
The first location is London 1913, we meet a stow-away on a boat and hear about the lady known as The Authoress. Next we go to Brisbane, Australia, 1930 and a birthday celebration for Nell. Her father decides to reveal the truth about her parentage. The information sets Nell on a journey to find her real parents, and it’s one that her grand-daughter Cassandra continues after Nell’s death.
A central character to the book is Eliza Makepeace and her book of Fairy Tales, many of which are included in the story. Her surname could well summarise the book in one word. The story, extends over a century, has many twists and turns, revealing what love and loyalty mean to the different people.
A long book at over 600 pages, but one I really enjoyed.
Meet Mina Grime, a 15 year old school girl who keeps a low profile and is cursed with clumsiness. Her life is about to become a whole lot more exciting when she saves the life of a fellow student during a school trip.
Remember the Grimm Brothers? Mix that with the tales they wrote and a deadly family curse and there is the makings of this story. This book actually made me go and look up The Brother’s Grimm and remind myself about their work.
Mina plays her part in three tales from the Grimm tales during this book and there are promises of more adventures in the next book in the series.
I loved this book, the fairy tale theme worked for me and I liked the fact that Mina could re-write the endings. This book is written for the YA market but if you like fairy tales it’s very readable as an adult.