This book is the second in the new American Girl series about Cécile and Marie-Grace, two nine-year-old girls from very different backgrounds who both...moreThis book is the second in the new American Girl series about Cécile and Marie-Grace, two nine-year-old girls from very different backgrounds who both live in New Orleans in 1853. This book takes place at the same time as Meet Marie-Grace, showing the same events from Cécile's perspective. Cécile comes from a wealthy and respected family from New Orleans' vibrant community of free people of color.
When the story begins, Cécile misses her older brother, who has gone to France to study, and can't wait for his return. At her singing lesson with Mademoiselle Océane, an opera singer from France, Cécile meets Marie-Grace, a girl who was born in New Orleans but lived with her American father in the north the past few years. Although the two girls come from very different backgrounds, they quickly become friends and share an exciting adventure at a children's costume ball during Mardi Gras.
I loved the American Girls series growing up and I credit it, along with the Little House and Dear America books, for helping me develop a love for historical fiction. Even though I am an adult now, I was very interested when I saw that the newest American Girl series would be from the perspectives of two girls from very different backgrounds growing up in New Orleans in 1853. The historical setting is very interesting since New Orleans was such a multicultural city and very different from the rest of the United States in the mid 19th century. I think young girls will enjoy this series while hopefully learning a bit about a very unique place and time from American history.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher. (less)
It's May 1912, and twelve-year-old Dorothy Wilton has returned to her home in Halifax after surviving the sinking of the Titanic. She just wants to go...moreIt's May 1912, and twelve-year-old Dorothy Wilton has returned to her home in Halifax after surviving the sinking of the Titanic. She just wants to go back to her normal routine and not talk about what happened, but finds herself expelled from school after hitting another girl who said horrible things about the victims of the disaster. Dorothy's favorite teacher suggests that during her time away from school, she should write a diary about what happened to her, to help her come to terms with her experience.
Dorothy begins the story by writing about her trip to England to meet her grandparents. Her grandparents were very kind and their housekeeper had twelve-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, that Dorothy became close friends with during her stay in England. For her journey home, her father got her a ticket on the grandest ship ever built, the Titanic. Dorothy had fun exploring the ship and made a new friend, but hated her traveling companion, Miss Pugh, who worked for Dorothy's father and had agreed to travel with her since she too was visiting a relative in England. Miss Pugh did not survive the disaster, and Dorothy blames herself for her death.
That Fatal Night is different than most novels for young readers about the Titanic, since it is set after the sinking and is mainly about a survivor struggling to accept what happened. This book is shorter than most other books in the Dear Canada series, and I think it could have been a bit longer with some more description of Dorothy's time on the Titanic. However, I still really enjoyed it, I love almost anything I read about the Titanic and I really liked that this book offered a unique perspective by being set afterwards. I recommend this book to readers interested in the Titanic or who enjoyed other books from the Dear Canada series. (less)
The Wicked and the Just is set in late thirteenth century Wales and is told from the alternating perspectives of two teenage girls, Cecily and Gwenhwy...moreThe Wicked and the Just is set in late thirteenth century Wales and is told from the alternating perspectives of two teenage girls, Cecily and Gwenhwyfar. Cecily is English, and grew up back in England on the family estate, Edgeley, until her uncle returned from the Crusades. Because her father was the younger son, they had to leave after that, and her father decided to move to Wales, which was recently conquered by the English, because it is easy to become a landowner there. To say Cecily was angry at this would be an understatement - she thought her father had completely ruined her life and her chances for a decent marriage. Cecily is a character I both liked and hated at the same time. Her narration and observations were hilarious at times, and I did feel sympathy for her being completely uprooted, but she also acted like a completely spoiled, entitled brat a lot of the time.
The other main character is Gwenhwyfar, who I will refer to by Gwinny, Cecily's nickname for her, because her full name is quite difficult to type and read. Gwinny is Welsh and her life is awful because of the English occupation. Her father was killed, and her family lost their home and now must live in a tiny, dirty cottage. Her mother is slowly dying, and Gwinny and her brother must care for her and keep themselves from starving. As a result of the English occupation, the Welsh must now pay unfair taxes and many laws restrict what they can do. So naturally, Gwinny hates all English, including Cecily, but she must work as a maid at Cecily's home so her family doesn't starve. As with Cecily, my thoughts about Gwinny are complicated. I felt more sympathy for her, because what her life had become was just awful, but she was so angry and bitter. These feelings were completely justified, but hard to read about sometimes.
The Wicked and the Just is a very character-driven story - you may notice that unlike most of my reviews, I haven't written very much about the plot. That is because the characters (and their struggles) basically are the plot. There's a backdrop of growing unease in their city, Caernarvon, which culminates in a violent rebellion near the end of the book. This definitely isn't the book for everyone - if you don't love historical fiction with complicated characters that are neither good nor evil, you probably won't get very much out of this book. But if you love history and books with complex characters and situations that really make you think, I definitely recommend trying The Wicked and the Just.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher. (less)
Gilt, the debut novel by author Katherine Longshore, tells the story the rise and fall of Catherine "Cat" Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII, f...moreGilt, the debut novel by author Katherine Longshore, tells the story the rise and fall of Catherine "Cat" Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII, from the point of view of her friend, Kitty Tylney. Kitty was a real person who grew up with Cat and accompanied her to court when she became queen, but not much is known about her, so the author imagines what her life might have been like. The two girls were raised together from the age of six in the household of the Duchess of Norfolk. Cat was always the beautiful, popular one, who ruled over all the girls in the household. Kitty was pretty much dependent on Cat and very passive, which was frustrating to read at times. I hated seeing Cat use her and wanted to yell at her to grow a backbone.
Cat, who had always loved attention and beautiful gowns and jewels, and wanted to marry a rich man who could give her everything she wanted, is thrilled to catch the attention of King Henry VIII, who soon marries her. But being Queen is not all that Cat hoped it would be. She's stuck with an old, overweight, smelly husband. Kitty can only watch as Cat destroys her life, and risks the lives of everyone in her household, by having an affair. Meanwhile, Kitty herself is in love with a man she isn't sure will ever love her back, while Cat tries to push her towards an affair with a man who is attractive but whom Kitty doesn't love. Cat was quite cruel to Kitty about this, and it was again hard to read. The rather one-sided friendship between Kitty and Cat is quite similar to the popular girls in high school today, who often use the less popular girls who are desperate to be friends with them. Cat's cruel personality and thoughtless actions made it extremely difficult to feel any sympathy for her, even thought she had been pushed into an unfair situation by her family and never should have been expected to marry a man so much older than her, who had her cousin Anne Boleyn, one of his previous wives, executed. Cat willfully made one bad choice after another without considering the consequences her actions could have, not just for herself but for others. Ultimately, I liked Kitty, I just wish she had taken charge of her own life much sooner and not allowed Cat to use her so much.
Despite my frustration with Cat's character (which may have been intended by the author) and the fact that some of the word choices in the dialogue were extremely modern, overall I thought Gilt was a solid debut novel and I would definitely read more by Katherine Longshore. I believe she is planning to continue this series with novels about other characters at the Tudor court and I definitely plan to try them. I think other readers who like me are fascinated by anything set in the Tudor era would enjoy this book, and because there's a lot of parallels to contemporary society in the story, readers who don't normally read a lot of historical fiction might enjoy the book as well. (less)
Sixteen-year-old Katerina Alexandrovna, who lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1888, wants nothing more than to become a doctor - which is completely...moreSixteen-year-old Katerina Alexandrovna, who lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1888, wants nothing more than to become a doctor - which is completely unsuitable for a young woman in her position. Katerina is a duchess, related to the royal family of Russia, and so she must marry well, and can never have a career. Katerina also has a dark secret - she is a necromancer, and can raise the dead. She hates her secret power, and considers it a curse.
Katerina is forced to attend countless balls and social events by her mother, who wants her to marry well. Katerina's evil classmate at her finishing school, Princess Elena, wants Katerina to marry her older brother, Crown Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro. Elena is a witch, and Katerina suspects that she tried to kill several girls at their school. Against her will, because of her unwanted powers, Katerina is drawn into a war involving dark supernatural forces that threaten Russia.
The Gathering Storm is a book that I have mixed feelings about. There are several things that I absolutely loved about this book, and others that I wasn't that impressed with. First off, I absolutely *loved* the setting of Tsarist Russia in the late nineteenth century. The setting was very original for a young adult novel and described really well by the author. It's obvious she did her research. I also loved the premise of the story, it's very different from any other young adult paranormal book out there. Now, onto the things I didn't like as much. This book seemed over the top with the many different kinds of supernatural creatures featured in the story. There's necromancers, fairies, vampires, witches and wizards, zombies, and werewolves. I think that's all of them! It's a bit much all for one book. Second, Katerina's character frustrated me at times. I loved that she wanted to be a doctor despite the fact that it wasn't proper for a girl of her position. However, sometimes she acted rather stupid. I wish she had asked for help rather than giving in to the bad guys because they threatened her family and friends, and she assumed that even with help she could not protect them. With all that said, I would still recommend this book to readers who are looking for something different in the young adult paranormal genre, and I still plan to read the rest of the books in the trilogy when they are published, as I want to see where the story goes.(less)
Ismae's life in fifteenth century Brittany (now a part of France) has been difficult and painful from the day she was born. Her true father was said t...moreIsmae's life in fifteenth century Brittany (now a part of France) has been difficult and painful from the day she was born. Her true father was said to be the god of death. Her mother later died, and the father who raised her was physically abusive. At age fourteen, he sold her to a cruel man who wants to marry her, but her new husband rejected her when he saw the scars on her back, left by the poison her mother took to try and induce a miscarriage. Ismae is able to escape and is taken to the convent of St. Mortain, the old god of death. There, she is told she can be trained to be a powerful assassin and serve her true father, Mortain. And the skills she is taught will mean she never needs to fear a man again.
Three years later, Ismae has almost finished her training. She completes two successful missions, and soon will be ready to take her final vows. But then Ismae is chosen for a mission that is far more complicated. Brittany is struggling to mantain its indepdence from France. The duke recently died, and his heir - his daughter Anne - is only twelve years old. Many powerful men want to marry the young duchess, and most have ulterior motives. Ismae is told her mission is to protect Anne - particularly from those who would threaten their country's indepdendence - and kill anyone at court that has been marked for death by Mortain. But at court, it's hard to know who to trust. And soon Ismae finds herself, against her will, falling in love with a man, something she vowed never to do.
Grave Mercy is one of my favorite recent young adult novels. I loved everything about it! The concept was great and very original, like nothing else I've ever read from the young adult genre. There's lots of history, romance, magic, mystery, and intrigue. I particularly loved the romance between Ismae and Duval, her love interest. Unlike the instant love found in many young adult novels, the romance develops gradually, since Ismae fights her feelings at first. I loved Duval's character too - he was so caring, noble, and protective. All the court intrigue reminded me a bit of Game of Thrones (the TV series, haven't read the books) - there's lots of evil plots, backstabbings, traitors, and not knowing who to trust and who is on which side. This book is on the long side for a young adult novel and the plot is quite complicated, so I think this would appeal more to older teens and adults, including adults who don't normally read young adult - it's a great crossover read. I can't say enough good things about this book, and I can't wait to read book two, which sadly won't be published until spring 2013.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher. (less)
In just one night, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright's life in Victorian London changed forever. Her parents were murdered and her house was burned to...moreIn just one night, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright's life in Victorian London changed forever. Her parents were murdered and her house was burned to the ground, and the people responsible were after Helen. Now, all alone in the world, Helen must follow her parents' final instructions, which tell her to find and join with two brothers, Griffin and Darius Channing, who are not much older than Helen and who lost their parents in the same way.
Helen then learns that she is descended from angels and will soon come into her powers. Suddenly, many strange things from her childhood, including the unusual education her parents gave her, make perfect sense. She is thrust into a world of angels and demons, into a struggle between the forces of light and darkness. As Helen and the two brothers search for their parents' killers, she is reunited with a childhood friend, but she's not sure she can trust him.
A Temptatation of Angels is a book that stands out from all the other young adult paranormal romances due to the setting of Victorian London. Although the exact year the story takes place is not mentioned, it definitely has a very nice historical feel to it. I loved this setting and I think it was a perfect backdrop for the story. Also, while the ending does leave open the possibility of more stories set in this world, this book definitely functions well as a stand alone, which is very refreshing since I am tired of everything being a series. The one thing I didn't love so much was that there was a bit of a love triangle (I am tired of love triangles!), but at least it was resolved the way I hoped. If you love historical fantasy, or if you love paranormal romance but want to read something that's different and unique, I highly recommend this book.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by author. (less)
Fifteen-year-old Catherine is the daughter of a pirate captain in the eighteenth century. He tried to keep his true occupation secret from his family,...moreFifteen-year-old Catherine is the daughter of a pirate captain in the eighteenth century. He tried to keep his true occupation secret from his family, but Catherine learned the truth by eavesdropping. Since then, Catherine has longed to become a pirate, having developed a very romanticized view of pirates and life at sea. When Catherine's mother dies, she begs her father to let her join him on his pirate ship. She doesn't want to live in their house alone, especially when someone tried to rob them right before her mother died, and she finally sees a chance to make her dream of being a pirate come true. Catherine's father reluctantly agrees, as long as she disguises herself as a boy.
Catherine realizes right away that pirates and sailing ships are nothing like she imagined. The ship is dirty, the crew is rough, and some of them are cruel and violent as well. It is difficult for Catherine to keep her secret, especially when she begins to develop feelings for William, the young cabin boy who is one of the few kind pirates. Also, she realizes that he man who tried to rob her house is part of the crew. He wants something valuable from Catherine's father, and he is willing to do anything in oder to have it.
The Pirate Captain's Daughter is a quick, enjoyable read but there are a few flaws. It seemed rather improbable that Catherine's father would willingly allow her to join his ship's crew, knowing what some of the men were like. The story might have seemed more believable if it began with Catherine stowing away on the ship rather than being allowed to go. Also, the reading level seems more suited to a middle grade novel, but the content is definitely more appropriate for young adult readers. The ending is extremely abrupt, but I will forgive that since there will be a sequel published in February 2012, called Voyage of the Sea Wolf. I did enjoy the story, romance, and historical setting, so I recommend this book to readers who are interested in the topic and looking for a quick read, and I definitely will read the sequel to find out what happens next to Catherine. (less)