Friday, September 3, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Diamond of Drury Lane (Cat Royal Adventure Book 1) by Julia Golding -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

In 1790 London young Cat Royal is the ward of Theatre Royal Drury Lane; the best theatre in all of London. Cat loves the excitement of the theatre and the people she meets there, especially the former slave boy Pedro, who is now apprenticed to the maestro and the new prompt, Johnny Smith. Cat accidentally overhears the theatre owner Mr. Sheridan and another man discussing hiding a diamond in the theatre. When she is discovered, Cat promises to keep the diamond safe. She begins to suspect that Johnny has a secret and she also takes on the responsibility of keeping that secret safe. Together, with Pedro and Lord Francis, the exuberant young son of the Duke of Avon, Cat heads out into the mean streets of London for adventure. When her secrets are discovered and her life threatened, she learns the meaning of loyalty and discovers her true friends will help her protect the diamond of Drury Lane. Cat is a great heroine: funny, feisty, loyal and curious, she will appeal to modern preteen girls and boys. The secondary characters are also a bit unrealistic at times but they help populate Cat's world of 18th century London. The plot is less a mystery than I thought it would be and more adventure, which I liked. The story is chock full of nitty, gritty historical details that set the scene and teach the reader while being entertaining. A glossary at the back of the book defines 18th century slang terms. I love the way the book is presented from the "reviews" by real life notable figures of the time to the chapters being labeled acts and scenes and especially the period maps. This is a great read for preteens 11-13 and those who love Jacky Faber and other stories of lower class life in the 18th/early 19th centuries. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

The Body at the Tower (The Agency Book 2) by Y.S. Lee -- Young Adult Historical Fiction
Mary Quinn is now a full-fledged member of The Agency, an all-female spy agency, after only fourteen months. Her latest assignment has her disguised as a boy to infiltrate the construction site of the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament in order to investigate the mysterious death of one of the brickworkers. A tabloid paper writes about ghosts but The Agency believes that safety is a more valid concern and hope to expose any wrong-doings at the work site. Mary underestimates how hard the job will be. First she has to return to her old life and face down her memories and fears of life on the streets. She also runs the risk of being recognized as half-Chinese, something she is trying hard to deny. Then, her investigation becomes more complicated when someone from her past returns on an investigation of his own and heats up the adventure. Mary has to learn to trust and share information if she wants to solve the mystery. It's not easy to do with an infuriating (and handsome) gentleman stirring her heart and complicating matters. The adventure continues in this second book about Mary Quinn. As in the first book, this one contains excellent descriptions of the sights and smells of working class Victorian London. The feisty Mary continues her journey of self-discovery and growing up the best she can given her time period. She does not find any more answers about her father's death, though, which is something I was hoping for. She does find more romance than she had in Spy in the House and the romance starts to heat up but not too fast or too far, after all Mary is a young lady! I enjoyed this book a lot but I felt the mystery wasn't as interesting as the first one. It did keep me up way too late reading until the last page. I would recommend this one just as much as the first and I hoping the third will be published soon!

Faithful by Janet S. Fox -- Young Adult Historical Fiction
Margaret Bennet looks forward to the summer of 1904 with anticipation and excitement for her upcoming debut into Newport society until her mother's shocking disappearance changes Maggie's world forever. Her mother was always prone to "madness" and was never like other Newport ladies of their class and Maggie has always resented her mother's odd behavior. When Maggie's father drags her off out west to Yellowstone National Park to look for her mother, Yellowstone is both beautiful and frightening for Maggie and she is anxious to find her mother and return to the life she's always known. New friends, including the geologist's handsome son Tom, and long withheld family secrets cause Maggie to question her beliefs and help her grow from a girl into a young woman. Maggie has many of the same feelings that teenage girls do today: she wants to be normal and fit in. She wants to have a good time with her friends and find a young man who loves her. Maggie whines, complains and acts spoiled and selfish for much of the book, but what makes her a sympathetic character is that she grows as a result of her experiences. The secondary characters are mostly stereotypical but I especially liked the lady photographer. This book is well-researched and the descriptions of Yellowstone are incredible and make the reader feel like they are right there in the park. The plot kept me breathless, wondering what would happen next and Maggie's journey of self-discovery is mostly good. The plot is a bit forced in places, especially when Maggie is prodded into having moments of self-discovery and the big mystery is a little hard to believe. The book is good for young teen girls but older readers may find Maggie annoying and the message a little too obvious. I liked the book though and hope Fox writes more historical fiction.

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