Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Cat Royal Adventures
by Julia Golding -- Middle Grades/Young Adult Historical Fiction 

The Diamond of Drury Lane (Cat Royal Adventure Book 1)

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.

Cat Among the Pigeons (A Cat Royal Adventure)
Cat Royal's second adventure begins with her friend Pedro about to become the darling of London with his performance as Ariel in Shakespeare's The Tempest. Pedro's owner arrives to claim Pedro as his slave and return the boy to the plantation in Jamaica. Cat must call upon her friends, Lord Francis and Lizzie and their mother's abolitionist friends for help. Cat manages to run afoul of Master Hawkins and has to flee the only home she's ever known. Cat needs the assistance of her friends more than ever, especially her street friends to help keep her safe. Her adventure takes her to unexpected places, including a boys' school. This is another fun adventure featuring Cat Royal. The suspense and tension begins early and doesn't let up until the end. There's nothing predictable about this plot. As in the first book, Cat is spunky and brave and her eccentric friends showcase the different types of people who inhabited 18th century London. This adventure is more frightening than the first and contains more detailed and accurate descriptions of London. I enjoyed this book even more than the first!

Den of Thieves (A Cat Royal Adventure) by Julia Golding
Cat Royal has grown up as ward of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Now she's growing up and a parting of the ways is necessary, at least temporarily, for Mr. Sheridan has plans to build a bigger and better Theatre Royal. Cat doesn't seem to figure into the plans for the new theater. Too proud to admit she needs help, Cat strikes out on her own. Not quite ready yet to be totally independent, she finds it difficult and nearly falls into the clutches of Billy Shepherd. Then she's sent on a secret spying mission to France, to discover what the French people think of the Revolution and their king. Upon arrival, Cat and her escort get lost, discover the king has fled Paris and nearly lose their heads! Cat discovers that Paris is truly run by a network of thieves and she has to determine whom she can trust to help her and help her friends return to England. This adventure is nearly as breathlessly exciting as the last but for some reason I didn't find it as enchanting as the previous two. There's lots of vulgar language which is amusing but some of the charm of Cat's earlier adventures is missing now that she's on her own and growing up. There's also heavy handed morals and lessons learned spelled out too plainly and I don't care for books that do that. I still liked the book a lot, just not as much as the first two. I look forward to seeing what she gets up to next.

Cat O'Nine Tails (A Cat Royal Adventure) by Julia Golding
Cat Royal is visiting Boxton, the Duke of Avon's estate and she's dreadfully bored! With Lizzie in America and Frank and Pedro off with the men, Cat's left alone and expected to be happy doing womanly things. Only Frank's gallant cousin, Mr. Dixon pays notice to Cat. Since Cat is Cat and trouble always finds her, she is soon involved in more adventures. First she runs up against and old adversary who won't leave her alone, then she discovers that Syd Fletcher is missing. Cat and friends set out to find Syd and instead find themselves kidnapped and pressed into His Majesty's Navy where a cruel and sadistic master uses Cat to keep her friends in line. Cat has to summon the courage to leave behind her friends and everything she's ever known in order to save her friends. On shore, she encounters a band of Creek Indians who may or may not be allies. Cat just wants to go back to the life she's always known but this adventure may be her last. This story takes Cat from the English countryside to the high seas to the wilds of America. It's a lot like a Bloody Jack (Jacky Faber) adventure, but the writing isn't as sharp or descriptive. The story is slow in parts and too fast in others. The ending is too neat and quick but perhaps there will be more from the villains later. The characters on board the ship are all very stereotypical but the Indians are portrayed well. I like this book least of all Cat's adventures so far. I like Cat best when she's in London and think she should have stayed there.

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