'Front Lines' has such an innovative storyline. Michael Grant has imagined an alternative history where girls enlisted and fought on the front line du'Front Lines' has such an innovative storyline. Michael Grant has imagined an alternative history where girls enlisted and fought on the front line during World War Two. Joining their male counterparts, they protect their country against attack. Uniquely different, this made for a plot which piqued my interest as soon as I read it. I couldn't wait to see how Grant's spin was going to unravel.
Set in 1942, the story follows three girls as they go to war. We initially see them at home with their families, understanding their motives for enlisting, before following them through rigorous training and all the way to the front line. They have a lot to contend with along the way as they try to prove their worth.
I enjoyed 'Front Lines' and I think YA readers will too. Although the subject matter might initially seem male orientated, because the central characters are all girls, I think this will appeal equally to female readers. If you are a history buff then you need to get your hands on this title which provides such a unique and different spin on events. Who would ever have thought of imagining girls as soldiers? Michael Grant, that's who.
I still haven't found any of his books quite as gripping and addictive as the Gone series, but this is still a great read and as the first in a new trilogy, it will be interesting to see what is in store for readers next. ...more
'These Shallow Graves' is a Victorian murder mystery, featuring feisty young heroine Josephine Montfort, or Jo as she likes to be known. Jo's father d'These Shallow Graves' is a Victorian murder mystery, featuring feisty young heroine Josephine Montfort, or Jo as she likes to be known. Jo's father dies at the beginning of the story and she takes it into her own hands to find out the truth about his death, helped along the way by handsome journalist Eddie.
The setting for the story is New York, 1890. I thought that Jennifer Donnelly did a really good job of incorporating a sense of the atmosphere of the period. Women did not have many rights beyond working if they were poor and marrying if they were rich. Jo subverts the line between the two by coming from a wealthy and privileged background, but she also wants to pursue her own dreams which are far greater than simply being a wife. She is an interesting heroine because she is incredibly ambitious for the time and refuses to stop throwing herself into the path of danger if it means she will discover answers to the elusive questions the story poses.
I enjoyed the way that Jo peeled away the layers of mystery and intrigue to gradually piece together the truth about her father and what really happened to him. I love a good murder mystery and this one kept me on my toes.
This was quite a long book at nearly 500 pages. I found it quite slow in places at the beginning and I'll admit that I nearly gave up on reading it at one point but it picked up considerably as the pieces of the mystery began to come together. I do think that the plot could have been tighter and there were some elements which didn't altogether work for me but there was a lot I liked to. I don't feel that this was a very memorable read but if you enjoy historical murder mysteries then it's definitely worth a try. ...more
I love the story 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott. It's a childhood favourite which I still enjoy re-reading now. There's something utterly captivaI love the story 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott. It's a childhood favourite which I still enjoy re-reading now. There's something utterly captivating about the March sisters which never fails to delight me. When I heard about Michaela MacColl's new book, I knew immediately that I wanted to read it because it weaves fact and fiction to present a portrait of the life of the famous author. I loved the little quotes from 'Little Women' which are at the start of every chapter.
Set in 1846, Louisa May Alcott's early life unfurls on the page. There's Louisa herself, along with younger sisters Beth and May, plus beloved Marmee and the elusive figure of their father Bronson. At the beginning of the book Marmee is getting set to temporarily leave the family to find work elsewhere and it's up to a young Louisa to step into her shoes and keep her sister and father looked after.
The Alcott family are vocal abolitionists and this plays a huge part in the plot of the book. It incorporates aspects of the slave trade and highlights the way in which the Alcotts helped to shelter slaves who had escaped and were looking for a new future. I found this aspect of the story really interesting, as Louisa and co place themselves in real danger to try to help those who desperately need their assistance.
The story features some other real life figures too. Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson are philosophers who play a big part in Louisa's outlook on life. I didn't know a huge amount about them beforehand, so I enjoyed discovering more about their beliefs and morals and the way in which their lives intersected with Louisa's.
There were some good plot twists near the end and some quite unexpected surprises which kept me on my toes. I loved the combining of historical and biographical details which made this a brilliant read which I would recommend to anyone wanting to know more about the famous author of a well loved classic. ...more
This was an enjoyable read but not one which captivated me in the same way as Sara Gruen's bestselling 'Water For Elephants'. The latter had a magicalThis was an enjoyable read but not one which captivated me in the same way as Sara Gruen's bestselling 'Water For Elephants'. The latter had a magical aura about it which stayed with me long after finishing the book. 'At the Water's Edge' just wasn't in the same league. It was very good but didn't have the same sparkling brilliance and originality about it. Maybe it's because I loved Gruen's first book so much that my expectations were sky high and almost impossible to match.
That is not to say that I didn't enjoy the book because I did but it's one that I could happily dip in and out of without any sense of urgency to finishing it. It also meant that when I'd finished it, I wasn't left with that urge to immediately add it to my re-read pile.
I expect in part my feelings about the book were down to the characters themselves who were thoroughly dislikeable for a good part of the story. Maddie, her husband Ellis and their friend Hank end up on an expedition to Scotland to try and catch sight of the Loch Ness Monster. With World War II raging around them, their affairs are more complicated as the bonds between them begin to splinter. I did eventually grow to like Maddie but not until at least half-way through. She matures a lot, learns some important lessons about herself and her desires and begins to separate herself from her volatile husband. The second-half of the story was much better as Maddie begins to find her place and gains acceptance from the people she is now sharing her life with.
A slow paced, historical novel, Sara Gruen fans will want to pick this one up. However if you haven't read any of her work before, then I would definitely recommend starting with the far superior 'Water For Elephants'. ...more
'Shadow of the Wolf' is an astounding new interpretation of the traditional tale of Robin Hood by debut author Tim Hall. I was very excited to read th'Shadow of the Wolf' is an astounding new interpretation of the traditional tale of Robin Hood by debut author Tim Hall. I was very excited to read this book because I'm a huge fan of the original story and I couldn't wait to see which direction Hall was going to take with the plot and characters.
The story follows a young Robin who at the beginning of the book finds that his family have abandoned him. Left to survive on his own, he uses his independence as a shield to protect himself against further hurt. His solitary life begins to change however when he meets Marian in the forest and discovers his true soulmate. The two seem destined to be together but when Marian is taken from him, he determines to do whatever it takes to get her back.
My favourite part of the story was the very beginning when Robin and Marian are young and roaming free together. They are living an idyllic life which they both know won't last forever but which they cherish for the simple fact that they are with each other. They embrace the beauty of the forest which is all around them and revel in having nobody to answer to but themselves. Although deep down they realise they are playing at living a fantasy, nothing else matters to them except for being together.
Throw out all of your preconceptions about Robin and Marian because these two characters are unlike anything you could have anticipated. Marian is not the helpless heroine you may have been used to seeing her as. She is headstrong, fiery, determined, intelligent and above all resilient. She endures terrible things in the book but I had absolute faith in her that she would always manage see things through. Although there were times when I found her less that likeable, mainly due to her spiky temperament, I never stopped admiring her strength and endurance. Robin too has to face unspeakable horrors and is far from the merry figure with his bow and arrow that we are used to seeing. I felt great pity for him throughout the book and I kept desperately hoping for something good to happen to him.
Some other familiar faces crop up in the story with Will Scarlett, Much, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Bors all making appearances. It was great to see Tim Hall interweaving all of these secondary characters, although again don't expect them to act like you would have imagined. The Forest too is like a character in itself. It is dangerous and mysterious and conceals many secrets which slowly begin to unravel.
'Shadow of the Wolf' is an unusual combination of history and fantasy which took a little bit of getting used to. The plot took an unusual and unexpected turn about half-way through which turned everything on it's head and made me think about the book in a totally different way. It is incredibly rich in detail, wonderfully written and so unique that this truly is a Robin Hood tale unlike anything you could ever have dreamt of. I was still left with so many questions at the end however, that I am looking forward immensely to the next instalment in the series. ...more
This book reminded me why I love the Bronte sisters so much. Their lives are absolutely fascinating and Michaela MacColl has done a superb job of incoThis book reminded me why I love the Bronte sisters so much. Their lives are absolutely fascinating and Michaela MacColl has done a superb job of incorporating biographical facts with fictional events to create a story which provides both mystery and romance.
The story focuses mainly on Charlotte and Emily Bronte, the two older sisters, although their brother Branwell and their father both feature. Charlotte is definitely my favourite Bronte. She is torn between her practical and artistic sides and feels a great sense of responsibility to look after her siblings. The book opens with her elder sister being buried and this has a huge impact on the decisions she takes in her own life. She assumes her position because she has to and you definitely get a sense of the worry that hangs over her about her father's precarious financial standing. Emily is more of a wild spirit, drawing inspiration from the beauty of the moors which surround her. She is headstrong and impetuous and often disappears for hours at a time while she explores the rugged hills and moors.
The setting of the book makes it easy to understand where the sisters draw their inspiration for their own stories, which at this point they haven't started writing yet. Certain events that transpire could almost have come from the pages of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. 'Always Emily' definitely made me want to pick up the latter two books for a re-read as they are big favourites of mine.
Well researched and with an intriguing plot, MacColl has captured the spirit of the Bronte sisters. This title will appeal to YA readers who are looking for something different to all the dystopian and paranormal books out there at the moment. ...more
This is the first book I've read by Alison Rattle and I found it a superb example of historical fiction which brilliantly conjures up a sense of the pThis is the first book I've read by Alison Rattle and I found it a superb example of historical fiction which brilliantly conjures up a sense of the place and time of the story. It's set in the year 1868 in the seaside town of Clevedon. I love reading about the Victorian era and it was a nice change of pace from a lot of the more contemporary books I've read lately.
The main character Marnie has been crippled by polio and walks with the aid of a stick. She has been taught by her Ma to love the sea and she feels most at home and in her own skin when she's slipping between the waves, free and alone. Her Ma is a dipper which was fascinating to read about. Well to do ladies come to be dipped into the sea to improve their health at the recommendations of their doctors and it's Marnie's mother who runs a fairly successful business doing exactly this.
Marnie's story is interspersed with journal entries from Noah de Clevedon, who is temporarily staying in Clevedon, so that his mother can be near the sea and improve her health. Marnie soon becomes infatuated with Noah but his journal reveals that he sees Marnie as nothing more than a way to have some fun and pass the time. She is an amusement to him but her feelings for Noah run far deeper.
I felt sorry for Marnie but I have to admit that I never really liked her. She's involved in a tragic event at the start of the book and almost from this point onwards I found that I couldn't give her my complete sympathy. She begins to spiral out of control when her fixation with Noah takes over her life. I thought Alison Rattle did a brilliant job of depicting the gradual deterioration of Marnie's senses but I still wasn't sure about the extent to which she was willing to go in her pursuit of Noah.
'The Madness' was an interesting read with lots of lovely details of the period. This will appear to readers who like psychological dramas, as well as historical fiction. ...more
I'd heard so much about this book and read so many positive reviews that I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. When it arrived I'll admit that II'd heard so much about this book and read so many positive reviews that I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. When it arrived I'll admit that I spent a good long while just marvelling over the absolutely beautiful cover art before I even cracked it open. It's so pretty and looks so nice on my bookshelves!
The story itself is a blend of fantasy and historical fiction. The main character Kestral, is the daughter of a general. At the beginning of the book she bids successfully on a slave for her father's household. The winner's curse is the hugely inflated price that she pays for him. Arin, the new slave, will change everything. I really wasn't too sure about Kestral at the start. She came across as quite snobby and superior but as her personality began to shine through, I liked her more and more and I began to understand her motives and reasons.
There is quite a lot in the first half of the book about the history of the country. It focuses on the divide between the ruling Valorians and the suppressed Herrani, who they conquered and turned into slaves. This is quite detailed and complex and I had to really concentrate to make sure that I understood everything but it added such a rich layer to the story and helped when trying to appreciate the different standpoints of many of the characters.
Although I found the beginning of 'The Winner's Curse' a little slow at times, as the plot progressed I became more and more absorbed. I thought the scenes between Kestral and Arin were wonderfully written and I enjoyed the push-pull nature of their relationship, as the dynamics gradually start to shift. The ending left me on tenterhooks and desperate to know what would happen next.
This is the first book in a trilogy which I will definitely be sticking with. I'm eager for the story to continue and will be rushing out to get my hands on a copy when the sequel is published. ...more
The second book in Cora Harrison's Debutantes series focuses on the two middle Derrington sisters, Poppy and Daisy, as they arrive in London for theirThe second book in Cora Harrison's Debutantes series focuses on the two middle Derrington sisters, Poppy and Daisy, as they arrive in London for their debutante season. I was a big fan of the first book about the Derringtons and their home Beech Grove Manor, as it reminded me of some of my favourite books when I was growing-up by Noel Streatfield. It had the same charm and easy manner about it which always appealed to me, plus I adore books about large families and sisters in particular.
The story is set in 1924 and so we get the era of the roaring twenties. Life and society are changing rapidly, with art, music and literature coming to the fore. The book touches on the divide between duty and passion and between following the same well trodden path or carving out a new future, outside of the rigid confines of society.
Beech Grove Manor is left behind as much of the action takes place in London. It was interesting to see how Daisy and Poppy functioned away from their more familiar surroundings and how they strived to build lives for themselves, while at the same time attempting to follow their dreams. The focus is on affairs of the heart and while Poppy and her childhood friend Baz begin to explore a new dynamic to their friendship, Daisy worries that she must marry well to ensure the Derrington future. Daisy has always been and continues to be my favourite character. I love her passion for her film-making, as well as her dedication to her family and her struggle to balance both is at the heart of the book.
Cora Harrison is on to a winner with this lovely series. The books are attractive on the outside and in and I'm wholeheartedly looking forward to the next instalment about the Derrington sisters. I wonder if the time is approaching for Rose, the youngest of the siblings, to get her own story. ...more
I picked up 'Ghost Hawk' when I was looking for something a little different to read. I love historical fiction but I hadn't really read anything setI picked up 'Ghost Hawk' when I was looking for something a little different to read. I love historical fiction but I hadn't really read anything set in this particular period before. Susan Cooper has woven an intricately plotted and fascinating account of the establishment of New England, charting the evolution of the Native American tribes who were living there at the time and the rise of the settlers who arrived to claim the land as their own.
The book is divided into four main parts. It started extremely strongly with the story of Little Hawk who leaves his family to endure a solitary three months alone in the wilderness, learning how to survive with only a bow, axe and knife. His courage and tenacity shine through as he begins the transition to manhood. Huge challenges face him but Little Hawk always stays true to the principles that he was taught by his family.
Little Hawk's people treat the land with great respect. Their way of life has existed for hundreds of years but everything starts to change when settlers from England begin to arrive, including John, a young English boy.
The end of part one was shocking and left me wondering how Susan Cooper was going to continue the story. I think she made an extremely brave and unusual choice but one which elevated the plot to another level entirely. The second half of the book deals more with the growing unease between the tribes and the English people who are unable to communicate properly with each other. Their lives are also built on different foundations and the values they hold often mean that they come into conflict with each other.
The whole book was entrancing and the authenticity of detail shone through from the start. Susan Cooper's writing was captivating and I thoroughly enjoyed 'Ghost Hawk'. This is a book which I would wholeheartedly recommend to other readers. ...more
'The Burning Shadow' is the second book in Michelle Paver's Gods and Warriors series. When I read the opening instalment last year I was extremely imp'The Burning Shadow' is the second book in Michelle Paver's Gods and Warriors series. When I read the opening instalment last year I was extremely impressed so I was excited to pick up the threads of the main character Hylas's story and see what lay in store for him next.
The plot again follows Hylas the Outsider and Pirra, who is on the run from her life as daughter of the High Priestess. The two have been separated but they are never far from each other's thoughts and their paths seem destined to collide again in the future. The adversity that both characters face is shown but their strength lies in their determination to overcome all the obstacles put in their way.
I absolutely adored the chapters told from the viewpoint of Havoc the lion cub. Michelle Paver writes beautifully through the eyes of Havoc, conjuring a real sense of the animal's thoughts and feelings. She also shows wonderfully the cruelty and beauty of nature working in tandem together. Havoc and Hylas develop an amazing bond and it's this which for me is one of the main strengths of the whole book. I've yet to come across another author who writes about animals in the way that Paver does.
An incredible sense of history is conveyed throughout the story. I knew very little about the Bronze Age before I started reading this series but I feel like I've gained a real understanding of this particular period of history and I'm eager to find out more about the way of life of the people that lived during this time.
Overall, this was a tale of exciting adventure which hooked me from the very first page. The third book in the series is set to be published in 2014 and with the ending of 'The Burning Shadow' leaving the reader in great anticipation of what will come next, I for one am going to be counting down the days until it hits bookshop shelves. ...more
Elizabeth Ross was inspired to write 'Belle Epoque' after reading Emile Zola's short story Les Repoussoirs. I found this fascinating because not onlyElizabeth Ross was inspired to write 'Belle Epoque' after reading Emile Zola's short story Les Repoussoirs. I found this fascinating because not only am I a huge fan of Zola's work but also the idea of young women being used as beauty foils was a really interesting concept. I was looking forward to seeing how Ross was going to treat this unusual subject.
'Belle Epoque' is set in Paris, France in 1888. The Eiffel Tower is currently being constructed and has divided the opinion of the French people, some of whom admire the ambition and architecture and others who abhor it. This nicely mirrors one of the themes of the book - beauty and the fact that beauty is often subjective and in the eye of the beholder.
The main character Maude is a repoussoir. She is hired by Countess Dubern to make her daughter Isabelle look more beautiful and attractive to prospective suitors. Maude plays her part reluctantly and dreams of something more for herself. She struggles with the idea that she is a mere accessory to Isabelle, someone who will constantly be overlooked and strives to carve out a real future for herself. She is often torn between her duty to her employer and her growing friendship with Isabelle who does not know the truth about her. I enjoyed Maude's development throughout the novel and how she grew as an individual. She has to face adversity but she always attempts to hold her head up high and do what she believes in, even when it often makes things harder for herself.
My only real criticism of the book is that I thought the sub-plot involving Paul the musician, was almost a distraction to the main story. I can see why the author incorporated it but personally, I preferred it when the focus was on Maude's relationships with some of the other female figures in the plot.
Ross's debut novel is a treat to read. Her writing is sophisticated and her characters beautifully crafted. I enjoyed the way she explored the concept of beauty and what it really is and I was pleasantly surprised by just how mush I enjoyed this excellent book. ...more
A few weeks ago I read 'Gilt' by Katherine Longshore which focused on Catherine Howard's marriage to Henry VIII. Not having read much historical fictiA few weeks ago I read 'Gilt' by Katherine Longshore which focused on Catherine Howard's marriage to Henry VIII. Not having read much historical fiction lately, it was a refreshing change which I really enjoyed and I immediately decided that I had to read 'Tarnish' too.
This book is about Anne Boleyn but provides a fresh take on her life by looking mainly at the period where she is a teenager and not yet married to Henry. Instead the focus is mainly on the relationship between Anne and the poet Thomas Wyatt. She is trying to secure a place at court and he believes that he can help her to do so. They have a wager which means that if he helps her and does what he says he can, then she must follow through with his advances but if he loses then he will leave her alone once and for all. Although already married, he is deeply infatuated with Anne and although she won't always admit it, she in return has feelings for him too.
The crux of it is that Anne does not want to become anyone's mistress. She wants to be legitimately married and we all know what that desire led to. It's interesting to see a teenage Anne with all her insecurities and weaknesses, rather than a confident and scheming woman who sets out to snare the King.
The story also looks at her difficult relationship with her family, her sister Mary, brother George and her father who she feels abandoned by. I enjoyed seeing this angle explored as I didn't know a huge amount about her own family background prior to reading 'Tarnish'.
Most readers will obviously have some knowledge of what happened to Anne in the end but this is still a fresh and new interpretation, aimed at fans of YA historical fiction. Katherine Longshore has definitely breathed new life into the Tudors and I hope in the future she goes on to write about some of the other English Kings and Queens as well. ...more