Every year in the towns of Barlow and Bear Creek Ridge, a softball game takes place between two sixth grade teams. In 1949, each team is convinced tha...moreEvery year in the towns of Barlow and Bear Creek Ridge, a softball game takes place between two sixth grade teams. In 1949, each team is convinced that they are going to win. Bear Ridge Creek believes they are going to win because of Aki, an incredibly talented Japanese-American who has spent a years in an Interment Camp during World War II. Barlow believes they are going to win because of Shazam, a phenomenal player with a horrible secret. No one could have predicted what ended up happening at the Bat 6 baseball game in 1949.
Bat 6 is a work of historical fiction about racism and living in post World War II America. The author skillfully paints the time period, and religious and political beliefs of the people during that time. The issue of racism is dealt with in a head on manner that some people may not seen as appropriate for young readers, but the overall message, being that racism is bad and has consequences, is well played out. The story is told through the alternate points of view of the twenty-one girls in in the Bat 6 softball game. The use of so many narrators is interesting, as if gives the reader many different reactions and opinions, but at times feels overwhelming. It can be difficult to keep the names and stories of the twenty-one narrators straight for an adult reader, never mind a child. There are a few characters who feel very well established. It is impressive that the author takes so much time to develop Shazam, who's dislike of Japanese may seem shocking. Still, one leaves the book believing that Shazam is not necessarily a bad child, but someone who has had such beliefs pounded into her, and struggles with letting them go. Bat 6 may start off slow, but once the story gets to the softball game, the readers patience will pay off as they are treated to an interesting story about softball, racism, and small town life in the 1940s. Recommended Grade level- 4-6(less)
After hearing that her finace has been unfaithful to her, Sovay masquerades as a highwayman to see if he will willingly give up the ring that symboliz...moreAfter hearing that her finace has been unfaithful to her, Sovay masquerades as a highwayman to see if he will willingly give up the ring that symbolizes their love for each other. When she discovers her father is under suspicion for seditious activities, her midnight rides take a more serious turn. When she comes across a wallet which is filled with paperwork about possible traitors to the crown, Sovay gains access to a much bigger problem, involving secret societies and wicked men.
Sovay is the fourth book I've read by Celia Rees (the other three being Witch Child, Sorceress, and Pirates!), and it's the only one that I haven't enjoyed. Admittedly, some of the reasons I did not enjoy this book is not necessarily Rees's fault. First off, I really didn't do my homework well before picking Sovay up. After skimming the summaries online, I thought I was going to read a Robin-Hood like book about a female highwayman. The tagline on the cover “She Fought for Life, She Robbed for Love” seemed to confirm that. Ultimately, Sovay is not a story of a female highwayman, and that aspect is just a small part of the book. Instead it's a story of life in England during the French Revolution, with an emphasis on secret societies, neither which interest me that much. If I had read some of the reviews online, I would have been a little more prepared for this.
At the same time, there are more problems in Sovay than just my bad research. It's not poorly written. One thing that Rees has not abandoned is her ability to transport the reader back in time. She has a knack for providing little details, whether they be of dress, architecture, or the natural world, that really enhance the feeling of authenticity, a must in any work of historical fiction. The dialogue is for the most part, okay, although a few of the lines are eye roll worthy. The main problem (which, I would have known if I had bothered to read any of the reviews online beforehand) is that there's just too much going on. At first, it's a retelling of Alfred Noyes's "The Highwayman." Then it's a story of political intrigue in London. Then it's a Gothic horror story at Thursley. Then, they travel to France, and it's a story of the horrors of French Revolution. There's enough material here for three or four books, which results in the four hundred page tome feeling quite overstuffed. Ultimately, certain parts of the book read better than others. I liked the horror section, but I wasn't really fond of the revolution section at all.
One result of overstuffed plot is that little time is spent developing characters, resulting in them feeling shallow. I had a hard time figuring out why characters did certain things. Like why did Sovay continue her masquerade after finding out her fiance was unfaithful. We're given some explanation about fighting for her family's name, but I don't see how disguising herself as stealing from people that pass her lands is doing much for anyone's name. It's certainly convenient to the plot though. This shallow characterization doesn't help the fact that the beautiful, spirited, self-sacrificing Sovay with her three love interests is a difficult narrator to relate to from the start. It doesn'r help that people are always talking about how amazing she is, which gets old after a while. To be honest, I was much more interested in some of the secondary characters, such as the American spy Virgil, or the charming rogue Captain Greenwood, and would have liked to hear their stories even more.
There are things to enjoy about Sovay. The author does the great job of describing England and France in the late 18th century, and some of the side characters caught my attention. Unfortunately, the book is over-ambitious. The many different genres result in a book that feels simultaneously overstuffed and underdeveloped, and the protagonist, Sovay, was difficult to relate to. This doesn't mean that I will never read another book by Celia Rees again, but I may be a little more discerning when it comes to selecting one.(less)
After Jacky Faber is discovered as being a girl, she is kicked off of her ship and sent to an upper-class school for girls in Boston. Only Jacky isn’t...moreAfter Jacky Faber is discovered as being a girl, she is kicked off of her ship and sent to an upper-class school for girls in Boston. Only Jacky isn’t too good at being a lady, or upper class. She struggles with her embroidery, and quickly makes an enemy in the wealthy Clarissa Worthington. It doesn’t take that much time for her to start getting into trouble either. Before she knows it, Jacky finds herself bumped down from high-class lady in to serving girl. How will she manage to survive her new life in Boston?
I was a little nervous about picking up Curse of the Blue Tattoo, the second Bloody Jack book, as it’s been well over a year since I’ve read the first. Luckily, I found that the book was very easy to pick up after so much time away. Jacky remains an incredibly likeable narrator, passionate and fearless, even though she can have appalling bad judgment at times. Although the nautical flare from the first story is mostly absent here, as someone that grew up pretty close to Boston, I found that I connected to this story very well. I really enjoyed picking up on the street names or landmarks that I have visited.
I have to admire L.A. Meyer for this one. Not only does he accurately capture a female voice, but does a great job commenting on women’s issues in the early 1800s. Throughout the book, we see Jacky, who has spent the last year masquerading as a boy, really struggle with the concept of being a lady. Sure, she takes to her studies well enough, but when it comes to issues like decorum, no matter how much she tries, it’s impossible to fit her into the mold that society expects of her. We see this struggle on a smaller scale with her friend Amy, who on the surface, appears to be the model of a fine young lady, but has a deep desire to learn on an academic level, publish her writing, and teach. I found Amy to be a very likable character, and really enjoyed watching her friendship with Jacky. In fact, I enjoyed all of the female friendships displayed in this book. I often feel as if novels often lack strong female friendships, discarding them for romantic plotlines or, my least favorite type of story, the two close friends that are torn apart by their love for one man. This is not a problem here at all. I was surprised to see that Curse of the Blue Tattoo is not completely free of romance, as Jacky spends the entire book separated from her Jaimy, but it makes sense that as she picks up male friends, and female friends, that eventually they would start to pair off. This is another aspect of the book I enjoyed.
Curse of the Blue Tattoo is a really fun book. It’s only drawback is that the ending feels a bit rushed, almost as if there were supposed to be one more chapter that we’re missing. This flaw feels trivial compared to the fun that is the rest of the book. Jacky provides a real unique viewpoint on Boston, not just due to her background as an orphan and Ship’s Boy, but even due to the fact that she’s English, as has entered a country that has recently freed itself from English law. I will be picking up the rest of the books in this series. Only this time I won’t wait as long to pick up the next volume! (less)