(Disclaimer: I don't normally read Romance. I'm in a Reader's Advisory class in grad school and we have an assignment where we have to read books in a...more(Disclaimer: I don't normally read Romance. I'm in a Reader's Advisory class in grad school and we have an assignment where we have to read books in a genre that is outside our comfort zone. For me, that's Romance and it's definitely impacted my reading of this novel.)
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but Romance is seriously just not for me. This was good, fluffy fun (which I am certainly NOT opposed to), but MacLean liked to use the same words/expressions over and over again (I swear, if I had to read about "turgid nipples" or "lips of her sex" or "plundering of the mouth" one more time...) I was also frustrated by Gabriel's anger at Callie's exploits because if she were caught it would ruin her reputation (and thus his sister's), yet in the next moment he would be sexing her which I would imagine would be ruin her reputation far more thoroughly than being caught drinking scotch in a tavern.
What I did really like were the relationships between the women, especially between Callie, her sister Marianna and Gabriel's sister Julianna. I also appreciated that Gabriel's ex-mistress Nastasia defied expectations (she could so easily have fallen into a sort of "mean girl" trope and she doesn't.)
The sexy bits were good, but as I mentioned above, I found they began to feel repetitive. I was lukewarm about the central romance though I enjoyed the characters separately, and even together (their banter is quite fun at times.) This book isn't reinventing the wheel, but MacLean pulls off the tropes she's utilizing quite well -- they just happen to be tropes that I'm not into reading which obviously is no fault of hers.
Would I recommend it? To Historical Romance fans, most definitely. It has fun characters and I felt transported to 1800s England. (less)
Why I Read It: This book was originally released in the UK in January and since then it has received almost nothing but...more Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: This book was originally released in the UK in January and since then it has received almost nothing but praise from bloggers everywhere. What really clinched it for me though was that people were claiming this was a book that focused on a female-oriented friendship and it seemed like everyone was crying because the end of the book was so sad. I don't know why, but I LOVE books that made me cry (my top two reads last year were books that made me BAWL); to rip such a visceral and emotional response from me usually means that the book resonated with me in some kind of way. So, anyway, upon hearing all that, I decided that I *needed* to read this and bought it as soon as it arrived at work. Review ahead contains no spoilers; I don't want to ruin this for anybody because it really is better to jump in fresh.
I have to admit, when I first started this book I was a little... underwhelmed. The writing was fantastic, but because of the nature of the story being told (Verity being held prisoner by the Nazis and being forced to confess British secrets) there is a LOT of detail and explaining and it feels like not a whole lot is happening. The very few negative reviews I've read for this book talk about this and it seems to be the biggest deterrent for readers and I can see why. It wasn't nearly enough to make me want to put it down though; like I said, the writing was really good, and I did find it all really fascinating (and I am in awe at the amount of research that must have gone into this), but I wanted to become more emotionally invested.
Thankfully once Verity gets to the meeting between her and Maddie, things start to pick up. I wouldn't say that there's a significant lack of female friendships in YA, but I would claim that these friendships are usually overshadowed and put to the side in favour of romantic relationships. That is NOT the case here; Verity and Maddie are front-and-center from beginning to end and I loved this book for that. These two were awesome together and have so many moments that were touching and made me yearn to have a friendship like these two do.
The second-half of the novel was definitely more readable in my opinion. It brings together everything from the first half of the novel and compacts into one giant emotional punch. I was slightly disappointed that I didn't cry big fat heaping sobs like I was expecting to, but I *did* cry. And even when I wasn't crying, there were still so many moments that just GOT to me and made Feel All the Things. The second half completely redeemed any misgivings I had with the sometimes descriptive first-half and made me fall in love.
Final Verdict: If the plot feels slow-moving and overly descriptive at first, I beg you to persevere and keep reading. I was underwhelmed with the first quarter of this book, but when things pick up, they REALLY pick up; especially the second-half of the novel. The ending couldn't have been more perfect, and while I didn't have a big fat cry like I was expecting to, it was all still really gut-wrenching and packed an emotional punch. It brought everything together in an amazing way and redeemed any misgivings I initially had. I also have to commend the amount of research that went into this novel; the author's note at the end of the book was also fantastic in explaining what details were historically accurate or exaggerated for the sake of the story, but overall, it was so well done. This is guaranteed to end up on my list of favourite books for this year and I highly recommend it. (less)
Review originally posted on my livejournal account here. :)
Why I Read It: As I mentioned in my review of Bigger Than a Breadbox, I sometimes get my ha...moreReview originally posted on my livejournal account here. :)
Why I Read It: As I mentioned in my review of Bigger Than a Breadbox, I sometimes get my hands on ARCs of books when Random House sends them my way, but I get them because I'm a bookseller, not a book blogger. Other employees at Chapters also get ARCs of course, but sometimes they resign and Random House is unaware, so they send them a package to the store anyway, and the ARC is rendered homeless. The Mighty Miss Malone was such an ARC and after seeing such a good review of it on The Book Smugglers I decided to bring it home with me and read it ASAP.
In this novel, readers follow Deza, the youngest of two kids in a African-American family during the Great Depression. Deza is an incredibly smart and verbose child with a good head on her shoulders. She loves her family above all else and they're tight-knit and are always looking out for one another.
Despite the sad subject matter of this book, it was still very uplifting and optimistic. The motto for the Malone family is "We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful" (which I love love love that quote) for a reason. That journey however is clouded by many hardships, such as being separated from one another due to financial strains, having to be homeless, and of course, being discriminated against for being African-American. In this regard, reading The Mighty Miss Malone was heart-breaking at times and I wanted nothing more than to see them get through out it all and come out okay, and this is because Curtis paints a very vivid picture of this family that is at once ordinary and extraordinary.
First we have Deza, who is the narrator of the story. Like I mentioned above, Deza is very smart and has a thirst for knowledge as well as verboseness when she writes. One small aspect of the story I really liked was that while Curtis succeeds at characterizing Deza as intelligent, she still gets chastised for her liberal use of the thesaurus in her writing by her teacher; Deza's not smart just because she can use big words -- she's smart because of just how much LOVES learning, and using the dictionary and thesaurus is a way for her to sate that thirst. I also loved Deza's journey of awareness that she experiences: how she realizes that she likes fighting and being in control, and how she struggles with the other voice she hears in her head which tries to persuade her to do bad things LIKE fight other kids.
The rest of the family is equally well characterized: Deza's brother Jimmy who has a knack for singing and wants nothing more than to help provide for his family in the absence of his father; Deza's mother Peggy who loves her husband more than anything and will DO anything to find him and be with him; and Roscoe, who will do anything to supply his family with the care they need even at the cost of being separated from them. My heart ached for this family and those measly sentences I provided do not do them justice; they are rounded and full characters who came to life and felt like they could have been very real people.
Curtis also achieved making this an Important Book without being didactic or heavy-handed. There's racism in this book yes, and it's pointed out and noted that it's bad (because duh, it is) but it's like LOOK AT THE RACISM GUYS ISN'T IT BAD!? LOOK LOOK LOOK. It's much more subtle, and at times even unnoticeable to the characters in the book. For example, a friendly white librarian points out to Deza that a prominent African-American boxer is a "credit to her race". At first, Deza takes it as the compliment that the librarian intended it to be, but when she later tells her parents about it, she realizes that isn't quite as nice as either she or the librarian thought it was. This subtlety is perfect for the middle grade audience who is reading this book, as it doesn't dismiss children's intelligence, but it also points out very important issues that should be brought to their intention without painting white people with a very broad brush: racism was (and is) so imbued in society that is comes about even when not intended. I just think it was all handled wonderfully.
Final Verdict: This novel, while at times hopeful and fun, was also very sad and made my heart ache for the Malone family that is the heart and soul of this book. And they have SO MUCH heart and soul -- I loved them all to death, faults and all, and they do all make mistakes and pay for them. But they felt so real to me, so well realized and so likable, that I wanted nothing more than for them to just be okay. This is a wonderful historical fiction novel that I think the middle grade audience will still be able to relate to, as the historical aspects of the novel are surprisingly relevant to today as well. The main character Deza Malone has a wonderful voice, and reading about her love for her family and watching them stick together through such horrible times was (as I mentioned above) uplifting in its sadness. I'd love to check out other novels by Curtis, especially Bud Not Buddy (which this novel is a loose spin-off of). (less)
Why I Read It: This was required reading for Religious Themes in Literature II class (which has emphasis on Buddhism, as opposed to Judeo-Christian themes, which was last semester).
Like Bow Grip (which I reviewed yesterday), this is another Canadian novel that is not at all well-known. This book DID cause a bit of a stir when it was published in 1930 though, mostly because of its very blatant anti-war sentiment and his less than flattering depiction of Canadian generals.
One of the most striking things about this novel, and this isn't wholly original or anything, is its depiction of war as a totally futile endeavour. The novel largely takes place in the trenches of the First World War and are based off Harrison's personal experience with the war (though he didn't actually participate in the war relatively long due to a foot injury) and they show how pointless trench warfare is. There's no actual honour in fighting in the war, at least from the narrator's point-of-view, and this is part of what caused controversy when they novel was first released -- people wanted to believe that war was a noble endeavour, and people who didn't concur with that were obviously not "real" men. Harrison challenged this and did so in a way that wasn't preachy, nor like he was trying to push a personal agenda (though it was something he most likely believed himself).
What was equally striking, and also not groundbreaking (by today's standards anyway) in terms of originality, was how the "enemy" in the novel was depicted. It's WWI, so the obvious enemy is the Germans, but not in the eyes of the narrator. There's this amazing scene in the novel where the narrator has to run through No Man's Land and attack the German trenches and try to take soldiers if possible. The narrator ends up brutally murdering a German soldier and taking two other young German soldiers as his prisoners. But when he's running his two prisoners back to his trenches, there's an obvious sense of solidarity, and he comes to the realization that he's JUST like them: a young kid going to war for glory and finding himself in a pointless war of attrition and mindlessly following orders. Again, it's not incredibly original, but the way it's written is powerful and just.. I don't even know. Maybe it's Harrison's personal experience with the war that's shining through here (even though this is by no means an autobiography) or what, but it's powerful stuff.
Another element of the novel I really want to discuss is how the novel utilizes the grotesque. Being set in the trenches, the narrator is very obviously surrounded by death and there are some VERY gruesome descriptions to be found within the covers of this book. But it never felt like these graphic descriptions were put in the novel to be exploitative, or solely shocking -- it feels much more honest and candid than that. Instead, the revelation of this violence feels like it's just trying to give more insight into what was actually going on in the war (which is a lot of obvious stuff to us, but back then was largely undocumented).
I'm kind of curious why this book hasn't passed the test of time -- it really is quite good, though I can't say how it compared to other war novels as I haven't read a whole lot of them. Either way, I enjoyed this book on its own merits, which I think are many.
Final Judgment: This is a strong emotionally powerful novel about a young man's experience in the trenches and it is so bare and honest that it hurts. This book has a blatant anti-war sentiment without being preachy and I feel like I've gained some kind of insight into the First World War that I didn't have before (which I believe was Harrison's intent when he originally published this.) It has a lot of moments that really resonated with me because of how REAL it felt. I highly recommend this, especially if you're at all interested in war novels.(less)
Why I Read It: Waayyy back in grade 11(5-6 years ago), I read Lowry's The Giver and fell absolutely in LOVE with it. Since then, I've only read her other Newberry Award winner Number the Stars (which I also enjoyed, but not with the fervor that I loved The Giver). Since then, I have been interested in reading more of her work, but I was convinced that nothing would ever impress me as much as The Giver so I didn't really go seeking it out. Jump to this past summer; I went to visit a friend in Ottawa and before she offered to lend me The Silent Boy, telling me it was one of her favorite books by Lowry. I needed a back-up plan for reading material for my ride home, and since it was Lowry, I accepted. I ended up having enough books to last me most of my trip home, so I didn't read it then. Jump to the beginning - mid November: I'm swamped with homework and essays and all kinds of other stuff and I wanted to read short stuff. This fit the bill perfectly, billing in at just over 200 pages.
All right, so our story is told from a first-person POV from an old lady named Katy Thatcher. She starts off the story by claiming that she's told her grandchildren all kinds of stories but never this one -- this one is too sad and too real and she doesn't think they're quite ready for it yet. But she's going to tell us. So begins her story about The Silent Boy.
Having the story told to us from AFTER they've happened was effective in that you know Something Bad is going to happen. On the flip side though, you are constantly waiting for the Thing, and The Silent Boy takes its sweet time in getting to that point. For the first 9/10 of this novel it feels like we're meandering and watching young Katy's privileged life. It's not that bad or anything, but it honestly all felt pretty aimless and I honestly didn't see where the plot was going, or what the Bad Thing was going to be. I knew it was obviously going to involve Jacob (the titular character -- he's a mute who's affected by some kind of mild mental disorder and loves animals) but I wasn't sure HOW, though I was positive it would be because of his condition.
Once at the end of the novel however, and the Thing happens, almost everything else that came before it makes perfect sense, and all kinds of little pieces of the puzzle that seemed trivial when they were presented suddenly come together to paint a very sad picture. It was definitely a punch to the gut and because I didn't see it coming it made it feel all the more gut-wrenching. So the story? Really good. It felt slow despite its length, but I realized by the end that it was deliberate and Lowry had actually supplied me with everything I needed to piece the story and the outcome together -- the pieces were just so well and subtly placed that I missed them, which to me indicates a job well done, especially with this kind of story.
I unfortunately didn't feel so impressed about anything else though. I feel bad phrasing it that way because nothing was BAD, I just wasn't blown away. The writing was fine and seemed to adequately reflect the mind of someone Katy's age, but I found a bit of a discrepancy when it came to the narration. It's supposed to be Katy's older self telling us the story decades after the events took place, yet when reading from young Katy's perspective it's like you're in the mind of a 7-9 year old (I forget how many years the novel spans, but it was somewhere around there I think). But then sometimes, it would go from this 7-9 perspective and say something like "And that was the last time we were all happy together" like we've jumped back into 90+ year old Katy's mind. There needed to be a clearer indication of when we were in Young Katy's mind and Old Katy's mind. I guess you could argue that that's how Katy would tell the story regardless -- she tells it to us like she might've when she was younger -- but I don't know.. it felt off to me.
As for the characters, I wish I could have felt a little more attached to them. Again, it's not that anything was BAD, but I didn't fall in love with anyone. Katy was cute and could be a brat, but just as much as was normal for someone her age, her parents were good people (especially liked the relationship between Katy and her father) and I liked the poorer girl who worked as a maid for them (can't remember her name); she was very sweet and likable and was probably my favorite of the bunch. I do also wish I could have become more attached to Jacob, but I found there wasn't enough of him throughout the novel to really cement any kind of connection with him. I did however get a touch of the fuzzy wuzzies when he gave Katy the little kitten as a sign of friendship -- there were some little moments like that between them that I really liked and really wish there could have been more of.
Final Judgment: So, The Giver still remains victor in regards to being my favorite Lois Lowry novel (and honestly one of my favorite books ever), but this book is still worth checking out. Despite having a slow-moving story that appears aimless, it drops hints and clues about the Big Reveal at the end of the story seamlessly into the plot which makes said Reveal even more shocking. And it really is a tragic and sad ending, so if you want something uplifting, you might want to look elsewhere. While I liked the story (especially the ending), I found the novel a bit lacking in other areas: I was a little confused about the narrative voice and I wasn't as attached to the characters as I might've had liked (though there were some pretty touching moments in this book, especially between Katy and her dad, and Katy and Jacob).(less)
I actually didn't hear about this book until I read a review for it over at The Book Smugglers. Both Thea and Ana gave the book great reviews, and they're reviewers I trust, so when this book came out on the shelves September 13, I was really excited. It also helped that I had come across more reviews since then that vouched for this book's awesomeness. I wasn't able to get around to actually borrowing it from work until the beginning of October, but that only made me crave the book more.
Alas, I wish I could have been one of those people that absolutely LOVED this book, but I wasn't. I liked it enough, but definitely not love.
I think part of what made this book a bit of a let-down was that the first 100 pages had me completely enthralled. I absolutely loved the descriptions of the magical Night Circus, and the set-up of pitting Marco and Claire against each other had me intrigued and excited (reminded me of The Prestige, but it ended up being a lot less intense.)
My hugest misgiving with The Night Circus was its lack of character development. The character that probable gets the most development is the Night Circus itself; its lush and fantastical descriptions really made it come alive, and it was a place that I wished very fervently to be real. But other than that, the main characters Marca and Clair were very lacking. They're kind of just there; we learn very little of their past, their motivations, their star-crossed love (which I'll get to in a bit).. anything! I constantly wanted more from them and it wasn't delivered. I know the circus was supposed to be the star of this novel, and that was executed wonderfully, but I don't want that at the expense of development from the human characters.
Actually, now that I think about it, the secondary characters were even more developed than Clair and Marco, though they also suffered from being given only surface details and not much else. I think my favorite of all the secondary characters was the enigmatic Tsukiko. Finding out about HER past was a bit of a shocking revelation, but I wish I could have been given more on that front as well. The twins were a second favorite, as they probably had the most life and spirit to them.
My second misgiving with The Night Circus was Marco and Claire's love. The odd thing is, I wasn't even that turned off by the semi insta-love that happened. Given the bond that was forced on them at a young age, I wasn't at all surprised that they would be drawn to one another. Also, the revelation that Tsukiko was a magician and was reciprocally in love with her challenger made me wonder if Claire and Marco were doomed to love one another from the start. No, what bothered me about their romance was that I didn't care about them, which made it difficult for me to be invested in their relationship. It didn't help that I thought Marco was a bit of a dick; he leaves poor Isabelle hanging and takes his sweet time telling her that he was pursuing a relationship with another woman. Just, ugh, NOT COOL.
My third misgiving with The Night Circus was whole idea of The Game. Claire and Marco are pitted against each other when they're children because their tutors/masters want to play some kind of game, where they keep tally of their scores by pitting their pupils against one another. They decide to use The Night Circus as the arena for their game. That's pretty much all you know about it all. I could never figure out the end game of The Game; we're Claire and Marco supposed to eventually end up in some kind of epic Last Battle? It was mentioned several times that it was a test of endurance. What were they supposed to endure exactly? Claire was the driving force behind the fire at the Circus, which powered it in the first place. Is that what they meant? As you can see, I have a lot of questions, but I wasn't given very many answers, and while some people might find the enigma charming, I find it mostly annoying.
All this makes it seem like I really didn't like this book at all. This wasn't really the case. While I had some hefty misgivings with plot and characterization, I was very happy with the writing itself. Like I've mentioned before, I loved the descriptions of the Night Circus itself. Morgenstern really brought the place to life. The writing throughout the rest of the novel had that dash of whimsy and magic that gave it an edge and gave it all a little je ne sais quoi. I know good writing isn't enough to make a good novel, but it did save this novel from being a complete flop and made me a little more forgiving towards the bigger misgivings I had.
Final Verdict: I wish I could have fallen in love with this novel, but alas, it wasn't meant to be. While I absolutely loved the writing and the character of the Night Circus itself (despite being a place, it really does come to life and feel like a character in and of itself) the lack of characterization and the vague plot had me constantly wanting more. Because of my detachment with the two main characters, I wasn't able to get on board with their star-crossed romance, which was a huge aspect of the plot along with The Game. The constant sense of wanting more is what kept this book in the "Like" zone as opposed to "Love", which is a shame.(less)
Why I Read It: I've been meaning to read this book since it was released back in 2009. I couldn't ignor...more(Original review posted on livejournal account)
Why I Read It: I've been meaning to read this book since it was released back in 2009. I couldn't ignore the eye-catching cover, nor its unique premise. I never did get around to buying it, then the TBR grew and I put it off even longer. Finally, while I was visiting Toronto during my reading week at the end of February, I went to World's Biggest Book Store, found it in stock, said screw it and just bought it. I ran out of books to read while visiting Toronto so I started pulling books off of my pile that I had just bought at WBBS and decided to tackle this one (after I devoured Feeling Sorry For Celia) because I a) had been waiting so damn long to read it and b) it's relatively short.
One of the greatest things about A. S. King is that her books can't really be boxed into any one genre. With Please Ignore Vera Dietz, it was definitely contemporary fiction, but this line was blurred by the presence of first-person POVs from a dead person as well as a PAGODA of all things. In this novel, there is a similar blurring of the genre lines: it's definitely contemporary fiction in that Saffron has to deal with very real problems (not wanting to conform to your parents expectations), but this is under the film of the paranormal, as Saffron is actually the reincarnation of a young pirate named Emer. But before she even reincarnated as Saffron, she first had to live 100 lives as a dog. So what we end up with is a hodgepodge of contemporary fiction, historical fiction (Emer's chapters), and paranormal/fantasy elements.
So does King pull this all off? For the most part, I would say yes. I thought this novel was a lot of fun, and proved to be more than just a cool concept. The story is told in alternating chapters between Emer and Saffron (Saffron's being first-person present tense, Emer's being third-person past tense, which not only helped to distinguish between the two, but also just made a lot of sense), as well as having some chapters told from the eyes of a weird pervert living in Jamaica (who's inclusion in the story becomes clear by the end of the story).
I was largely more interested in Emer's chapters, but that's because a lot more happens in her story. We watch her go from being a young girl living a normal and happy life, to suffering at the hands of her uncle, to escaping and making a life for herself as a pirate. Lots of exciting stuff going on there. Emer's story on the other hand was much more internal, as she relays to us how she struggles living in a family she doesn't even feel like she belongs in (because of the whole reincarnation stuff -- and because they're assholes). We also watch her as she escapes to Jamaica to find her buried treasure. Saffron's story is still compelling because she does live in very curious and unique circumstances, and I liked how King blended in these contemporary elements in to a story that is in so many ways not contemporary (similarly to how Leanne Hall this off in This is Shyness).
While we're talking about the story, I do want to point out (without being spoilery) that the ended really did catch me by surprise. I caught on before the big reveal, but only JUST before and I loved loved loved how that played out.
The novel isn't without its flaws though. Because there's so much going on, I felt some aspects of the story were underdeveloped. The most prominent of these was the romance between Emer and Seanie. We only get glimpses of them falling in love as young teenagers and then they're separated for a huge chunk of the novel and only reunited near the end. This did lend a lot of bitterness to Emer's demise though. I really was bummed out by it, especially since she had JUST been reunited with Seanie, but this was really dulled due to the fact that I wasn't totally invested in their undying love for one another. The romance WAS necessary to the plot in many ways, so I really wish that I could have been better developed and allowed me to really get to know the two together as a couple.
Another little issue I had was how willing so many men were in letting Emer be their captain and order them about. I understand that she was a strong-willed women and clearly had no trouble killing and plundering ships and doing all things piratey, but there is no way in hell that men would have followed orders from a young woman in that day and age. This requires a suspension that I wasn't always able to maintain and did damper my reading a wee bit.
Final Verdict: A. S. King is clearly skillful when it comes to writing stories that defy genre conventions and The Dust of 100 Dogs is indicative of that. This is story that is very clearly contemporary in many ways, historical fiction in others, with a sprinkling of fantasy/paranormal for good measure, and King somehow makes this hodgepodge work. It's a fun story in many ways, but there's a sadness that clearly permeates it as well. I do wish that the romantic aspect of the story had been better developed, and there was a suspension of disbelief required for some parts as well, but overall? I enjoyed this novel quite a bit.(less)
Why I Read It: I've heard great things about this series around the YA blogosphere and it sounds kind of fun: Victorian England, mystery, teenaged spies!! So when I found it in the kobo store for $2.99, I couldn't resist picking it up. It sat unread in my kobo for awhile, but I had plenty of time to read while on vacation, so read it I did. :)
You know when you read a book and you feel completely and totally ambivalent about it and then you go to write a review and you really don't know what to write? That's how I feel right now. Now, I didn't DISLIKE the book, but this was definitely a case of Like Not Love, so I apologize in advance if this review is really vague.
I think I'll go over each aspect of the book individually: characters, plot, and writing and just make some general comments.
So, the characters. Mary Quinn is definitely a strong and able heroine, though she's not without her flaws. While she's incredibly intelligent, she's also a little too quick to action and takes matters into her own hands when they should left in more able ones. I mostly liked Mary. She's fairly well-rounded and she's never completely UNlikable. She has some moments with James when I kind of wanted to shake her, but they were few and far between. The romance between her and James was above par, and there were some moments that had me chuckling a bit (like when she punches him in the face -- that was funny), but the two drove me nuts sometimes. I'm also glad these two didn't have a Happily Ever After, but it wasn't a tragic affair either when they kind of had to end things. The one thing that was kind of disappointing about Mary (for me), was that I already knew a pretty important detail about her that's kept secret for a good chunk of the book so that when it was finally revealed, I was surprised that I wasn't supposed to know that already. But that's obviously by no fault of the author.
As for side-characters, we have the family that Mary is assigned to spy on. Angela, coming from a rich family and all, was obviously a brat and she treats Mary pretty horribly at some points (though there's a bit of a bigger reason behind WHY she's mean to her that you don't find out about until later), and while they don't dislike each other by the end of the novel, they're not BFFs either, which I kind of liked -- it felt more realistic. There are a few other supporting characters, but I don't want to say too much about them at the risk of giving too much away.
The plot of the story is I think where the Like (as opposed to Love) really comes in. It's a mystery, which is nice to see in YA because there's not a whole lot of it, but it's kind of slow moving. Mary has a bit of a hard time finding out clues in regards to assignment, and while she IS finding things throughout the course of the plot that later become important, they don't feel important at the time, thus they feel trivial, thus the plot itself feels kind of trivial and tedious. It WAS kind of neat how a lot of things came together in the end though -- I just wish it had been slightly more exciting getting to that point. Thankfully though, the mystery was not ridiculously easy to solve. Like I said, there are clues peppered here and there that get to cranks turning, but it never felt obvious to me.
One of my other niggles at the plot was the issue of suspending my disbelief, mostly in regards to The Academy. See, it's run by two principals who also run an all-girls school where they foster these women to be independent and educated. While all this is well and good, it's also just a vehicle and kind of cheap plot device to make it plausible to have a character like Mary Quinn: a girl who goes against societal expectations of what women are expected to do and be capable of. BUT, it does make for fun and light reading, and I'm all for girls wanting to be independent and to NOT want to be housewives or teachers or whatever.
As for the writing, it's nothing spectacular, but it gets the job done. It's very transparent and to the point which is perfectly fine for this kind of story, so overall, no complaints.
Final Judgment: I'm not exactly sure why, but this book was a Like Not Love reading affair. However, don't let that deter you from reading this, because it really is a fun and fairly breezy read. It's got a pretty cool heroine and she has a pretty cool love interest, and their romance was mostly cute and fun to watch even if I wanted to shake the two of them sometimes. The plot itself is a fun mystery that never felt super obvious to me, but I found it a little slow-moving in the beginning. However, all the small little details that felt trivial at first DO become important later on, so it wasn't all for nothing. While I found the idea of The Academy fun, it also felt kind of like a cheap plot device to make Mary more forward thinking than people from her time would typically be, but it didn't ruin my enjoyment of the book either. I recommend this to those are looking for a fun historical fiction YA.(less)