Tag Archives: memoir

Seven Books to Read to Get Your Cinderella Fix

14 Oct

Cinderella is a recurring character in fairy tales. The 19th century Grimm Brothers story was the earliest popular western version, which consisted of cutting off the stepsister’s heels and toes. The present day Cinderella is dated back to 1950s Disney version of a damsel in distress. Disney neglected to depict Cinderella’s strength of not letting the cruelty of others affect her spirit. Growing up as a bookworm, I had to feed my need for a Cinderella story through books. Plus, I know deep down inside, you are just aching for some Cinderella in your life. Why not through books? The character of Cinderella has evolved through many published works of fiction mainly in Children’s and Young Adult books. Don’t sneer at the fact that children’s literature is part of this list. Remember it is usually in the pages of children’s literature that carries heavier subjects that can tug at the heart strings. J.K. Rowling can attest to this.

In the books selected, like any character, Cinderella had to go through her trials, which usually consisted of abusive relatives. That’s a given. However, she has grown stronger and fiercer in texts. Even Beyonce would bow at her efforts to find herself and her path. By the way, her path isn’t always the prince. There are seven books to keep in mind when you are looking for the perfect Cinderella themed book (you won’t be disappointed).

FICTION

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

a-little-princess

The book A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett is the story of young Sarah Crewe, an enchantingly sweet bookworm. She grows up in India with her father Captain Crewe, a captain in the British army. Mrs. Crewe died when Sarah was young, which created an unrelenting bond between father and daughter. When World War I threatened, Captain Crewe sent Sarah to a boarding school in London. There she meets Miss Minchin, a strict homely woman, who saw Sarah more as a pay day than a person. Even though she felt uninvited, Sarah made friends. On her 11th birthday, she’s given the news that her father had died in action. Miss Minchin seized this opportunity to belittle Sarah in every way possible by making her the maid and selling her things. Miss Minchin forced Sarah to live in the attic next door to another young maid named Becky, whom she befriended. Stricken with grief and abused daily, Sarah vowed to keep her promise to her father that she was a princess.  Although she is starved and sent into the snow in rags, she still finds the strength to give bread to a starving family and a flower to a father mourning his dead son. The only question is if this princess gets saved or saves herself and her friend. This book made me cry and smile. Recommended for ages 10+.

The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott

inheritance

Set in Victorian times, the book is about Edith Adelon, young maiden born of poverty and humble birth. She was ‘discovered’ as a child by the Hamilton family and taken in to live on an English manor under the care of Lady Hamilton. Lady Hamilton was a regal woman that withholds her affection toward Edith. Unlike her children, who come to view her as a sister. Everyone seems to love her except for Cousin Ida. Ida is an older unmarried lady that detests Edith’s gentle spirit. Edith receives a letter that can change the dynamics of the household. Although this information can change Edith’s fate for the better, she reasons that it would be in everyone’s best interest that she doesn’t. When jewelry goes amiss from Lady Hamilton’s room, Cousin Ida frames Edith. Since it is a friend that did it, she doesn’t fight for her innocence. At the break of being disowned, her friend comes out as the wrongdoer and reveals Edith’s startling secret. This was an elegantly written book. Recommended for ages 14+.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

ella-enchanted

On the day of Ella’s birth, her mother, Lady Eleanor and the house cook, Mandy, were very happy until the cocky fairy, Lucinda, stopped by to give Ella a gift. Instead it was a curse, the gift of obedience. Her mother and Mandy were horrified but could not undo the spell. It was dangerous. If someone commanded Ella to hop on one foot until sundown or cut off her head, she had no choice but to obey. One day her mother becomes ill and commands Ella not to tell anyone of her curse on her deathbed. At the funeral, her father was as comforting as a stone. So, she goes off to mourn alone and ends up bumping into the prince, whom she befriends. Like any loving father, he finds it best to send her off to finishing school with two mean girls, Hattie and Olive. Hattie finds out Ella’s secret and takes advantage of her in the worst ways. Ella gets word where Lucinda was and runs away to find her. She instead meets talking birds, tames man-eating ogres, and meets the prince again! Through the prince, she finds her father penniless from a bad business deal. Coincidentally, he marries Dame Olga, Hattie and Olive’s mother, for her money. Things go downhill for Ella from there. Will she get to follow her heart or will her stepmother make that impossible? Levine has never disappointed me in taking me to a land of fantasy. Totally enjoyable for all ages. Recommended for ages 7+.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (lunar chronicles)

cinder

Linh Cinder is a teenage half cyborg girl (yes, cyborg!) in a plague infested world. She was believed to have survived an accident when she was young that left her orphaned and in the care of her stepmother and stepsisters. The stepmother, Adri, is not afraid to show her dislike for Cinder by being cruel and forcing her to be the breadwinner of the family. To Adri’s dismay, it actually comes to Cinders benefit making her become the most successful mechanic in town. Through her success, she meets Prince Kai, the emperor’s son. He flirts with her. Nope, she is not into it or him for that matter. Not long after, her stepsister gets infected with the plague. Adri sends Cinder into a cyborg draft program into the care of Dr. Erland. Through the program she learns that she is not only immune to the plague but part lunar, a race of moon people. The moon queen, Lavena wants to use Cinder as symbol of peace between earth and moon by forcing her to marry Prince Kai, the last man on earth she’d ever marry. Instead, Lavena has a malicious plan behind the marriage. What she does next is a test of a lifetime to save earth or her heart? Recommended for ages 12+.

Adaline Falling Star by Mary Pope Osborne

adaline-falling-star

As a history buff, I have to include this historical fiction. Mary Pope Osborne tells a story of a mixed race girl in the 1840s named Adaline Carson. She grew up a happy child with her mother in the Arapaho tribe. When an illness takes her mother’s life, her father takes her to stay with his relatives in St. Louis to go on an expedition to the west. Before he leaves, he promises to return for her. She accepts her circumstances with resilient silence toward her relatives. In part, they think she is a mute savage not worthy enough to stay in their house. Her relatives make it more than obvious that they are tolerate her presence. Time goes by and her father doesn’t arrive with his partners from the trip, so she assumes he has abandoned her. At the threat of being sent to an asylum, she decides to run away. While lost, she befriends a dog that cares for her when she is sick and saves her life several times. Is it her mother’s spirit guiding her through the dog? Will the dog guide her to her father?  Recommended ages 10+.

NONFICTION

Chinese Cinderella – Abridged Young Adult version, ages 14+

chinese-cinderella

Falling Leaves – Original version, ages 18+

falling-leaves

There are two versions of Adeline Yen Mah’s autobiography of her childhood. Although Adeline is now an accomplished author, physician, and loving mother of two, she had a trying childhood mainly at the hands of her stepmother. Soon after she was born, her mother died of an illness. This caused her family to think of Adaline as bad luck. In Chinese tradition, luck is seen as very valuable. The one that does not give into this thought is her mother’s sister, Aunt Baba. She raised her with the love and care that the rest of her family could not. Aunt Baba had to leave after Adeline’s father remarried.  The wife was a beautiful Eurasian woman named Jean, who the children thereafter referred to as Niang, Chinese term for mother. While Niang treated the children she had with her husband with tender love and care, she made her stepchildren use the servant’s entrance, hand-me-downs, and were not allowed in the living room. Niang was merciless toward her stepchildren, but especially to little Adeline. Adeline tried to win her love by getting top grades in school and being elected class president only to be sent away to boarding school. Her aunt never stopped showing her pride for her niece, affectionately calling Adeline her Chinese Cinderella. Adeline’s father did not recognize her talent until she was an accomplished teenager, he vowed to send her to Oxford University.

-Written by Elbie Love, Young Adult Library Assistant

Staff Picks – British Edition

24 Jun

Greetings! I’m Clay, a part-time library assistant in the Circulation Department of the Hoboken Public Library. I didn’t really intend this staff picks to be a celebration of British pop culture, it just turned out that way. (All items mentioned are available in the BCCLS system.)

Sherlock

sherlock

BBC television series, 2010-continuing

The iconic character Sherlock Holmes is updated to modern-day London, in a world where there is no Arthur Conan Doyle character to emulate–this is an original Sherlock, insufferably arrogant and inarguably brilliant. Creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, who were also behind the successful re-launch of Dr. Who, have created a delightfully sinister London, crawling with evil geniuses a la Holmes’ nemesis Dr. Moriarty (who appears in altered form). The character interplay remains faithful to the original pairing of Holmes and Watson, with every episode making subtle allusion to the Conan Doyle canon without descending into straight homage.

Only nine episodes have appeared–three seasons of three episodes each since 2010–a pace grown all the more leisurely after the show made film stars out of Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock turned dragon) and Martin Freeman (Dr. Watson turned hobbit). Just repeat “quality over quantity” through a British stiff upper lip, while marveling at the mind-blowing end of Series 2 and trust that Gatiss and Moffat can escape from the intriguing corner they painted themselves into at the end of Series 3.

Life on Mars

life-on-mars

BBC television series, 2006-2007

A modern-day cop crashes his car and is thrown back into the 1970s. If that sounds familiar, it’s because this BBC TV series spun off a U.S. version (with a different ending). But this is the superior model.

Chief Inspector Sam Tyler, played by John Simm, is rushing to save his girlfriend from a serial killer when he is hit by a car, as David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” trickles out from his car’s iPod. Coming to, Tyler finds himself sporting a leather jacket and rocking a collar the size of a New York slice–not on Mars but somewhere almost as foreign: the blighted smokestacks and shabby wasteland of industrial Manchester, 33 years in his past. Bowie is still playing, but on an 8-track player in a 1973 model car: He’s been literally knocked into the 1970s.

Stranded without a cell phone or web connection, Tyler must cope with dodgy tape decks and noisy rotary phones. The anachronisms aren’t used as cheap gags, as in the show’s inferior, Tyler-less sequel Ashes to Ashes, but are smoothly incorporated into the gritty action. Besides solving the essential mystery, Tyler must eventually make a wrenching decision–in which world do his true loyalties lie, and what makes for an authentic life, anyway?

It works on many levels: Besides being a conventional good cop-bad cop police procedural, it’s also an ambiguous, sometimes surreal science-fiction mystery and a humorous fish-out-of-water tale with strong, appealing characters. It tells its story in 16 tight episodes over two seasons, topped with perhaps the single most fitting final scene since the dawn of television.

Series 1
Series 2

Watership Down

watership-down

1972 novel

The novel by British author Richard Adams is about a group of bunnies who leave their warren. From that benign description emerges a profound tale that contains everything you could ever want in an adventure story–action, suspense, horror, even a mythos relayed through tales passed generation to generation (and given these are rabbits, that’s a lot of generations), delivered at a thumping pace. Adams’ rabbits could have easily been silly or twee, but the characterizations feel right–like actual rabbits, not humans in fuzzy suits, with their own language and worldview, and a puzzled hatred for a humankind that seems to want to wipe them off the earth. The animated movie is quite impressive too, though definitely not for young children. Hrududu!

Hot Fuzz

hot-fuzz

2007 film

This British comedy throws a control-freak policeman–exiled from London for being too dedicated to his job–into a mercilessly quaint English village that harbors a secret, deadly conspiracy. It’s the middle entry of director Edgar Wright’s thematically connected “Cornetto Trilogy” (named after the cameos made in each of his movies by that British-based frozen treat) alongside Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End.

Your favorite may depend on your favorite genre: Shaun for zombie fans, Hot Fuzz for police procedural/cozy mysteries, The World’s End for a Big Chill type pub-crawl reunion that abruptly turns into….er, something else. They’re all involving, grisly, and hilarious, but while I found Shaun a little short and The World’s End a little long, Hot Fuzz was just right. The director commentaries are well worth the listen, as Wright and his pet actor Simon Pegg (who stars in all three) points out all the little loving, enriching details you took in only subconsciously the first time around.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

clothes-music-boys

2014 autobiography by Viv Albertine

Albertine was guitarist for The Slits, the influential (deep breath) British-reggae-feminist-punk-girl-band, back at a time and place–1970s England–when girls did not play guitars in bands. Albertine escaped an abusive childhood through music, and taught herself to play, albeit crudely. Enthusiasm and energy, not musical virtuosity, was all you needed in the punk era.

The Slits, led by singer Ari Up, still in her teens when the band formed, are a respected obscurity now, best known for their ground-breaking 1979 debut LP Cut. But while never quite making the punk pantheon, Albertine was present during the creation, dating Mick Jones of The Clash and being in a band with Sid Vicious before he joined the Sex Pistols.

Albertine names names in Clothes…Music…Boys, even telling off her (former) manager for insisting she employ a ghostwriter for this autobiography. We’re the beneficiaries: Clothes…Music…Boys is feisty and direct, peppered with earthy, scabrous wit and graphic, brutal self-effacement, and Albertine is blessed with either voluminous diaries or a photographic memory. Sometimes it’s even touching, as when she describes seeing her brutal father, thin and wizened in his coffin, with Albertine and her young daughter the only ones at the funeral: “How sad to be lying there, all dressed up in your Sunday best, and no one wants to come and see you, no one wants to say goodbye.”

Alice in Sunderland

alice-in-sunderland

2007 graphic novel by Brian Talbot

For fans of Lewis Carroll or hard-core Anglo-culture afficionados, this veddy British project makes the case–via an overwhelming collage of fact and opinion delivered by cartoon pastiche, whimsical homage, and historical scrapbook–that it was the industrial Northern town of Sunderland that inspired Carroll’s wondrously nonsensical Wonderland, not the academic atmosphere of Oxford, where he taught and the milieu with which he’s identified. It’s a dizzyingly erudite dose of scattershot history, and if you don’t mind having your brain feel full to bursting, it might be your cup of tea.

Shameless Plug (also British-based):

Death in the Eye, my self-published murder mystery in the cozy Agatha Christie tradition, is available as a Kindle book and a paperback, and through the Hoboken Public Library’s Technology Lending program.

Death in the Eye

From the back of the print edition:

The year is 1924. Gwendolyn Parks, the blind young heiress of Pibble, a grand house outside London, has miraculously regained her eyesight after a tumble down the stairs after a dinner party. But it’s no cause for celebration. For Gwen did not fall — she was pushed, by someone at the party. Yet she tells no one, relying upon the miracle of her reclaimed eyesight to solve the mystery herself.

-Written by Clay Waters, Library Assistant

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