Sunday, October 30, 2011

What I've Read This Week Part II

What I've Read This Week Part II . . .

My Lady Pocahontas by Kathleen V. Kudlinski -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

We all know some version of the story of Pocahontas saving John Smith, but the true story of the daughter of the Powhatan chieftan is lost to history. This novel aimed at older teens and adults imagines the gaps in the story of Pocahontas. When the reader first meets Pocahontas, she's a mischievous woman-child of about 12. She enlists the aid of Nuttagwon, a girl from another tribe to help her spy on the strangers that have come to the shores of Virginia. The two girls become heroes to the Powhatan for the knowledge they bring of the strangers. Nuttagwon is adopted into the royal family and given a new name, Neetah, meaning friend. Pocahontas believes that she has been given a vision to bring about peace between her people and the pale strangers and tries her hardest to get her father to trade with them. Neetah is more suspicious, thinking the strangers are smelly and rude, but she's a loyal friend to Pochontas and will remain by her friend's side as long as Pocahontas needs her. Neetah's loyalty will be tested time and time again as the relationship between the English and the Powhatan progresses and then degenerates. This is an emotional story that provides a vivid portrait of a real life historical figure through the eyes of a fictional friend. The author's extensive, hands-on research provides the rich details of this story (a far cry from Disney). The reader is taken into a world that's long gone and becomes a part of the Powhatan Confederacy along with Neetah. The author holds nothing back about life in the 17th century. Her strength is in the details about the largely unknown Powhatan culture, which she has based on modern scholarship and the traditions of Virginia Indians and other eastern Algonquin speaking people. Pochontas is a well-rounded character that the reader empathizes with as she is troubled by her visions and tries to do what she thinks is right, sometimes in spite of her father's wishes. The reader also comes to know and care about Neetah, the narrator of the story, as she struggles with her decisions to remain loyal to Pocahontas even though she really wants to return to her home in the hills, marry and have a family. The story is incredibly compelling and though I knew of Pochontas's untimely death, I was captivated by the story and eager to know what happened to Neetah (a fictional character). I couldn't put the book down though I did not like the unhappy ending (though I appreciate the historical accuracy). This book is unforgettable and I highly recommend it for people ages 14 and up, especially adults who may have an interest in Native cultures.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Talk Like Jane Austen Day

Talk Like Jane Austen Day

Dearest Readers,
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Sense & Sensibility, today, 30 October, is talk like Jane Austen day! If you wish to discover more about Miss Austen's language or her life and times, please visit

Friday, October 28, 2011

Return to Georgette Heyer

It's been a few years since I discovered the wonderful Regency world of Georgette Heyer. I have decided to reread some of my old favorites and blog about them in depth. 

Lady of Quality 

Annis Wynchwood left her brother's home at the age of six and twenty to set up her own establishment in Bath because she and her brother Geoffrey can not rub on together while they live under the same roof. Annis has a comfortable home in Bath with her garrulous, indigent relative as chaperone. Annis enjoys her life but she is a bit bored. On the way home from visiting her brother and his family, Annis comes across a broken down carriage and a young lady and young gentleman in distress. Annis offers her assistance to the pair and changes her world forever. The young lady, Lucilla, is running away from an unwanted marriage with her childhood best friend Ninian. Ninian wants the marriage as much as Lucilla but his sense of honor compels him to keep her from getting into trouble. Annis befriends the pair and takes young Lucilla under her wing. Lucilla's uncle Oliver Carleton, the rudest man in London, arrives in Bath and barges his way into Annis's well-ordered life. The pair are forever at odds yet they seem to share the same sense of humor and enjoy trading witty barbs. Soon Annis has more excitement than she every thought possible when her brother, fearing for her virtue, sends his wife and children to stay. Annis has her hands full playing hostess and keeping Druscilla out of trouble but she doesn't need help. Indeed Mr. Carleton expresses little interest in his niece. Why then does Mr. Carleton insist on staying in Bath? 

This book is tied for my #2 favorite Heyer novel. I love the independent, older heroine who thinks she knows everything until she matches wits with a notorious rake! The dialogue between Annis and Oliver is quite witty and made me smile. They are an evenly matched pair. The secondary characters provide much of the screwball comedy antics Heyer is known for.  I chuckled out loud in many places and smiled at the end. I love comedy of manners plots and no one did it better than Heyer. I enjoyed this book as much as I did the first time, even if it is basically a copy of her earlier book Black Sheep. I loved Black Sheep. It was great so why mess with success?

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Allegra by Clare Darcy -- Regency Romance

Allegra Harrington, spinster, age 29 has had it with living with her crotchety old aunt. The only other place for her is to join her younger sister Hilary as an unpaid servant in another aunt's household. Allie's godmother presents the perfect solution: marry Sir Derek Harrington, the cousin who has inherited Allegra's father's title and estate. Allegra remembers Derek as an arrogant boy but agrees to give him a chance, until local gossip turns her mind against him. Too proud to marry out of charity and still half in love with her late fiance, Allegra takes Hilary off to Brussels to a girls' school run by their former governess, Mlle. Jusseau. Mlle. Jusseau encourages the sisters to take part in the whirlwind of English Society. When the find themselves in a jam, they must turn to Sir Derek and ask for help. Allegra begrudgingly realizes that perhaps she made a grave mistake in refusing him. Now he's courting another woman who will take over Allie's beloved home. Once again the sisters find themselves in need of help and Sir Derek to the rescue.Allegra is convinced it is because Sir Derek shares their family name and refuses to allow a scandal to be attached, but young Hilary sees a different motivation for Sir Derek's kindness but her sister may be too proud to see it and they will be back to where they started. What ever shall they do? This is a lighthearted take on Pride & Prejudice. There isn't a whole lot of substance to the story or even much of a romance. It reads a lot like a Georgette Heyer novel but not quite as well written. That being said, I liked Allegra and found her to be a realistic and engaging heroine. I especially liked her silly little sister even though I normally hate silly teenagers in this genre. The story is fun and I like Pride and Prejudice copy cats as long as the hero isn't too overbearing. Sir Derek is masterful at times but not too high-handed. He knows just how to deal with his cousins and does it well. I recommend this book for fans of the traditional Georgette Heyer style Regency. For those who are looking for a romance (Regency Historical) do not read this author. 

The Sugar Rose by Susan Carroll --Regency Romance

Miss Aurelia Sinclair has been waiting her entire 23 years for her neighbor and best friend Lord Justin Spencer to finally propose. The arrangement has been of long standing between their families and Justin feels so comfortable around Aurelia that he completely forgets to employ any romantic charms when proposing. His friend Everard Ramsey, a noted London dandy is horrified. How could his friend be so gauche? Sure Miss Sinclair is a bit plain and plump but she is intriguing just the same. When Justin dashes off to London to play the bachelor for awhile, Everard wages that he can turn Aurelia into a belle who will charm Justin. Aurelia then begins a diet and exercise regime to help her lose weight and Everard helps her learn to carry herself with grace. Soon though Everard begins to think Aurelia is too good for Justin. He promised to be there whenever Aurelia needed him but he begins to wonder if he was wrong to become involved with his friend's fiance. When Aurelia finally is reunited with Justin, his response is everything she could have hoped for, but she wonders why it doesn't feel the way she hoped it would.  Aurelia must decide if she should stay with the comfortable life she's always known. She may not have a choice though, for another lady is out to claim Justin as her own while one of Aurelia's rejected suitors (Mr. Snape!) is bent on revenge. This story is a different sort of plot from the tried and true (and sometimes hackneyed) plots of most Regencies. It's a take on Pygmalion and I quite enjoyed the unique plot. There's more depth to the plot than it seems at first glance. The hero has quite an interesting backstory that I would have liked to see developed more. Aurelia also has a backstory but hers is a bit more common. Their stories help the reader understand why they behave as they do. The relationships develop nicely. There's a solid friendship between the hero and heroine before romance blossoms, which I really appreciated. I think many people will be able to relate to Aurelia. She's an emotional eater and as he begins to feel better about herself, she learns self-control. However, the writing is merely average. The author tries to hard to mimic the style of writing at the time with lots of " 'Tis" and " 'Twas" which is a little irritating. I really like light, fluffy romances with well-developed characters and relationships  so this one fit the bill despite the average writing. I would definitely recommend it to fans of "sweet" Regencies (kisses only).

Friday, October 21, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

Abilene Tucker has been riding the rails and wandering around with her Daddy Gideon her whole life. Now she's 12 Gideon is sending her to the small town of Manifest, Kansas where he spent time as a boy. Manifest is a dry, dusty town hit hard by the Depression. Abilene wonders what the town was like when Gideon lived there and searches for answers in old newspaper columns from 1918. She uncovers a cache of letters from a boy named Ned to a boy named Jinx all those years ago in 1918. Abilene searches for connections to Gideon and tries to understand why he left her. She makes the acquaintance of a host of quirky characters, including the diviner Miss Sadie. From Miss Sadie she hear a tale of hope, joy, love and loss in a small Kansas town in 1918. Abilene helps her adopted hometown unbury the mysteries and tragedies of the past and learns how her father's past has affected her present and will affect her future if she doesn't bring old secrets to light. The story is told from the point-of-view of Abilene, who is a typical down-on-her-luck Depression era kid common in children's literature. Her story alternates with the story of Manifest in 1918 as told by Miss Sadie and through Ned's letters. Manifest was a town driven by greed, fear and prejudice, all of which factor prominently into the story. The reader comes to know and care about the inhabitants of Manifest in 1918 more than in 1936. The characters come to life not only for Abilene for for the reader as well.  The story in Manifest in 1918 gripped me and sucked me in until I had to finish the book. I guessed at some of the mysteries shortly before Abilene did but that didn't stop me from wanting to know what happened. The plot has plenty of funny moment to counterbalance the sad ones. Abilene's best friends provide much of the comic relief. The writing is really good and the author stays away from heavy-handed lessons. This is one of those books that can be read and enjoyed by anyone ages 12 and up. I enjoyed it a lot but I did not think it was the best book I've ever read and I'm not sure I would have chosen it as the Newbery winner.

Miss Armstead Wears Black Gloves by Marian Devon -- Regency Romance

Miss Frances Armstead refuses to marry her childhood best friend, Bertie Yarwood as her uncle and his father wish. Instead, she plans to run off to Gretna with his older brother Evelyn when she comes of age. In order to get her uncle to stop pressing marriage with Bertie, Frankie decided to invent a secret fiance. She chose Lord Grenville Wainwright, whom she had briefly met at her Aunt Maria's house party. Lord Grenville was an easy choice for he was away at sea. When Lord Grenville was presumed drowned, Frankie found a convenient excuse to avoid marriage. Now Lord Grenville has returned in the flesh to settle on his estates and take up his duty as his grandfather's heir. Poor Frankie is in a pickle. She hopes she can bluff her way through the next six months when she can run off with her beloved. However, Lord Grenville is most uncooperative. He brought a beautiful lady from London which causes the neighbors to gossip. If that weren't enough to mortify Frankie, he refuses to listen to her explanation and threatens to expose her as a fraud. To avoid scandal, Frankie's Uncle Matthew sends her to Aunt Maria in London where Frankie discovers Lord Grenville living next door and still deeply angry over Frankie's scandalous plot. Fortunately for Frankie, the Yarwoods are in London too. Charming Evelyn manages to make a conquest out of every woman he meets while Bertie and Frankie attempt to save the Yarwoods from ruination. Frankie often runs afoul of Lord Grenville and shocks him with her plain speaking. Interestingly enough, Frankie discovers that she is after all, not the object of a scandal for Lord Grenville has not yet exposed her secret. Could it be that he's waiting for the right time or is it that he actually likes Frankie and finds her schemes amusing? This story is a poor imitation of Georgette Heyer's tried and true teenage heroine plots. Frankie is very young and immature and does not know what she wants yet. She invents one crazy scheme after another, barely escaping ruination. Lord Grenville is a typical stock character of the hot-tempered proud Lord. The story is not told from his point-of-view so the reader only seems him through Frankie's eyes and learns his story when she shares it with the reader. All of the secondary characters were pretty stereotypical: the impecunious rake, the young foolish guy pal, the greedy widow and the kindly old gentlemen. None of the characters seemed real to me or appealed to me. My favorite character was Bertie. The plot is rather incredible and I was hoping for a different outcome. This is not one of my favorites, but I'm not fond of silly teenage heroines. If you like Georgette Heyer's Spring Muslin, Arabella or April Lady you will probably enjoy this book.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What I've Read This Week Part II

What I've Read This Week Part II . . .

Lord Pierson Reforms by Donna Simpson -- Regency Romance

Dante, Lord Pierson is staggering home drunk one night accompanied by two doxys when a carriage rolls by and splashes him. Pierson views the face of a beautiful angel staring out the window at him and vows that he will find and marry that angel and she will be his moral compass and guiding light to reform. The angel's face belongs to Lady Rowena Revington and her beauty is only skin deep. Lady Rowena is the spoiled youngest daughter of a Duke who has vowed never ever to marry though she enjoys making conquests of all the gentlemen of the ton much to the dismay of her chaperon, Miss Amy Corbett. Amy is a simple, country girl fresh from her governess job in Ireland and she knows little about the ways of the ton and even less about how to convince Lady Rowena to marry so Amy doesn't get thrown out on the streets. When Lord Pierson at last comes face to face with his angel once more, he begins his suit. However, his friend Lord Bainbridge, feels that Lady Rowena would not make the ideal bride for a hopeless romantic like Lord Pierson and he sets out to prove it. Lord Pierson continues on with his suit despite the odds with some help from the sweet, gentle Amy. The very basic plot outline of this story copies Georgette Heyer's The Nonesuch but is vastly different in the approach. Lord Pierson acts as if he's been placed under a love spell for a good 200+ pages. Amy is mostly too good to be true with only occasional moment of humanity. I preferred the secondary characters more because they had more depth and realism than the primary characters. The story is rather silly and unbelievable and I had a hard time getting through it without throwing the book down in disgust. It is not destined to be one of my favorites. If you like besotted love struck heroes and Mary Sue heroines then you'll like this novel. 

A Dangerous Dalliance by Regina Scott-- Traditional Regency Romance

Miss Hannah Alexander is the art teacher at the Barnsley School for Young Ladies is about to embark on a career as a portrait painter when the headmistress engages Hannah to chaperone four young ladies to visit Priscilla's Aunt Sylvia on the Earl of Brentfield's estate. Lady Sylvia's husband and stepson have recently died in a terrible carriage accident, leaving Lady Sylvia to run the estate until the new heir could be found. David Tenant, an American leatherworker from Boston is newly arrived in England to inherit the title of Earl of Brentfield and take over the running of the estate. He has no idea what he's doing but thankfully he has a friend in his steward, a black gentleman named Asheram. It's a good thing Asheram is on hand because Lady Sylvia is extremely reluctant to give up control. She has tried all means of keeping her position - including trying to seduce David. Now she's bent on throwing her niece Priscilla at his head. David, however, only has eyes for Hannah. He loves her quiet beauty and her passion for art. Likewise Hannah quickly falls in love with the charming David. Together they search for the missing art treasures the late Earl had hidden from his greedy wife. When mysterious accidents happen that nearly cost the lives of David and Hannah, the young ladies are convinced someone is trying to murder their teacher and/or their host. They're determined to make the adults understand. They also understand that their host is courting their quiet art teacher and are determined to make a match. However, it may be too late for a happy ending unless the young ladies can make the adults see what is happening. This novel is a bit of a departure from Scott's other books. It takes place after The Twelve Days of Christmas and just before La Petite Four. It introduces the characters of La Petite Four. There is also a mystery which must be solved and murder to avoid. The reader knows exactly who the villain is and what the villain's motivation is. It's painfully obvious yet the characters don't realize it until the end. The villain is very diabolical. I felt a bit sorry for the villain at first but then they went way over the top to try to gain the upper hand. The villain is truly nasty and someone the reader will love to hate. The romance is not secondary to the mystery as in Georgette Heyer's traditional Regencies. The romance takes front and center with love at first sight. I always find love at first sight a bit silly but this time the characters seemed attracted to one another and seemed interested in getting to know each other. The romance is sweet even though Hannah and David break a lot of rules. The young ladies are spoiled and selfish. They're stereotypical upper class young ladies and don't show a whole lot of character growth. Only Priscilla grows as a result of events in the novel. We also learn more about some of the characters featured in previous novels, which is always fun. This is not my favorite of Scott's novels, but it will please fans of traditional Regencies and sweet Regencies.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What I've Read This Week Part I

What I've Read This Week Part I . . .

Belladonna by Mary Finn -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

Sent back home to his native village after failing school, Thomas Rose finds a girl hidden in the grass. Curious, Thomas seeks her out. The girl's name is Hélène but in England she goes by Ling, for in 1757 France and England are at war (as usual). Spirited Ling has run away from her home in a traveling circus in search of her beautiful white horse, Belladonna on whose back she rode and did tricks. Belladonna is Ling's best friend and family and the loss of her horse tears Ling apart. She's determined to find Belladonna and steal her back and enlists Thomas's aid. Thomas, besotted with the lively French girl, agrees to help. Their search for Belladonna brings them closer together and introduces Thomas to new people and new ideas. I expected to read a fun adventure tale but this novel is exactly the opposite. This is a coming-of-age novel for young Thomas as he learns to open his heart and his mind to love and acceptance. The prose is written in a lyrical, almost poetic way. I found it difficult to read and others may have a There are many characters and situations described so thoroughly that it sometimes bogged down the action of the story.  hard time understanding the author's descriptions of things that are unfamiliar to Thomas. There is also quite a lot of French dialogue which the reader can guess by the context and some Romani (Gypsy) words too. The story is slow moving and there is not a lot of action. Thomas tells the reader of his feelings for Ling but I didn't feel there was much real chemistry between them but he was besotted by the exotic young woman. I'm not sure this book would appeal to the target age market but adults might enjoy it.

The Book of Story Beginnings by Kristin Kladstrup -- Middle Grades Fantasy/Adventure

In 1914 young Oscar lives on an Iowa farm with his family. He dreams of adventure and becoming a writer. When he finds a mysterious old book locked in his mother's trunk, he can't resist writing down his ideas for story beginnings. One night the sea appears on the Iowa bluffs and Oscar rows away never to be seen again. Many decades later, his great-niece Lucy and her parents move to the same Iowa farmhouse Oscar's younger sister bequeathed to them. Oscar's sister spent her whole life trying to figure out what happened to Oscar. She was certain it was something magic and experimented with alchemy. Lucy's father, a chemist, can't resist trying his hand at Great-Aunt Lavonne's experiments while Lucy tries to solve the mystery of the missing boy. When she discovers the book of story beginnings and jots down her own story beginning, she begins an adventure she never dreamed of. This is a cute, charming fantasy story along the lines of E. Nesbit's turn-of-the-twentieth-century classics. The adventure is a lot of fun though mostly predictable. The scary factor is very minimal. The bittersweet ending has a bit of a heavy-handed message. I think the timeline of events from 1914 to Lucy's time is a lot off but I'm very nitpicky about that sort of thing. I think middle grades children and children at heart will enjoy this book.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

A Season for Scandal by Marian Devon -- Regency romance

Lord Dalton's father, the Earl of Rexford, makes him promise to stop his carousing and find a bride before the Earl's imminent death. Dalton is furious at his father's demands. His father wants him to marry the daughter of one of the famous beauties of the Earl's day. Dalton feels like he can't refuse his father's dying wish so off he goes to Almack's to view his potential bride (along with all the sons of his father's peers). Jenny, Claire and Sylvia are cousins, daughters of the four famous sisters who captivated the ton with their beauty 21 seasons ago. This next generation fails to live up to the expectations of the ton: Jenny is too tall and too outspoken and Claire is too plump. Only Sylvia can rival their mothers' famous beauty. None of the cousins wants to make their come out this Season but they are happy to be together though they don't know each other very well. Lord Dalton decides to marry Sylvia but Jenny feels that a rake would not be a good husband for her sweet cousin and decides to deflect his attention. Unfortunately Dalton can't stand Jenny and Jenny's sharp wit. Jenny also makes an enemy of the sharp tongued Mr. Roderick Chalgrove, the successor to Beau Brummell. Plump Claire worries about her weight and a family secret that everyone seems to know expect her. She finds an ally in an unexpected place who helps draw her Claire out of her shell. Sylvia remains a mystery but she's loyal to her cousins. The cousins take Society by storm and find love where they least expect it. This is a charming, sweet novel in the tradition of Georgette Heyer. It's fun and funny and there are some plot twists that were entirely unexpected. There was great character growth not usually shown in Regency novels of this type. I really liked the depth of the characters and how they changed each other for the better. It seems to be well researched but high sticklers beware for Jenny is not your typical 19th century miss. This is one of the better Regency novels and I highly recommend it to fans of the sweet Regency style novels. 

With the Might of Angels : The Diary of Dawnie Rae Johnson (Dear America) by Andrea Davis Pinkney -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

During the 1953-1954 school year, Dawnie is a normal 12 year old African-American girl living in the small town of Hadley in Virginia. Her town is strictly divided along color lines. She's forbidden by her parents to go to Ivorytown the white section of town but that doesn't stop her from dreaming about the brand new school there. Dawnie dreams of becoming a doctor and she knows that the stinky, falling down school and ancient tattered textbooks of her school won't help her achieve her dream. Dawnie keeps her dreams to herself, writing them down in her precious diary, a birthday gift from her autistic younger brother. Dawnie finishes 6th grade at the top of her class and spends the summer jumping on her Pogo stick and playing baseball but come fall, her life changes forever when the Supreme Court decides schools must be integrated. Dawnie has passed the competency exam proving she's smart enough to compete with the white kids so her parents give her permission to integrate. Dawnie hopes to share this experience with her best friend Yolanda and another child from their class, but only Dawnie's parents approve of integration. The decision to attend an all-white school causes a lot of stress for both Dawnie and her family. They meet with opposition from both the white and black communities. A young minister from Alabama visits Dawnie's church and encourages non-violent resistance and Dawnie learns that she can write down all her rage and hatred in her diary while studying hard to stay on top. Finally, she finds an unexpected ally and they challenge each other to pull through. This is a remarkable story of a fictional girl based on real life people and events that took place not that long ago. It's really eye opening to read the comments coming from the white community regarding their ignorant assumptions about African-Americans. Even more surprising was the opinions of many of the members of Dawnie's community who didn't believe in integration. It's really hard to believe this story takes place less than 100 years after the Civil War and just over 50 years ago. The writing is lively and entertaining as well as thought provoking. The author includes many historic events that occurred during this time as well as the usual historical note and information about her own life which inspired the novel This book is a must read for all ages.

Friday, October 7, 2011

What I Read Last Week

What I Read Last Week . . .

Sophie's Halloo by Patricia Wynn -- Regency Romance  
At Nineteen, Sophie Corby and her parents are on the way to London for her come-out. Sophie is dreading it, fearing that all men are hunting-mad like her father and anxious to leave her to go back to the hunting field. Sophie retreats into her daydreams to avoid her father's long-winded ramblings until a chance encounter with Sir Tony Farnham opens her eyes to the fact that there are gentlemen who don't like to hunt! Sir Tony is a welcome friend in London. He is clever and easily able to capture Sophie's attention and she finds him attractive, however, Sophie's father prefers fellow hunter Mr. Rollo as a husband for Sophie. It's up to Sir Tony and Sophie to ensure they end up happily ever after. There isn't much plot in this book and it's very quiet and slow. Everything is resolved neatly but left me wondering "is that all?" Sophie is mostly bland but she grew on me once she revealed her sense of humor. Sir Tony is one of those too good to be true heroes. This book didn't thrill me but I didn't hate it. It's fine if you like quiet stories where nothing happens.

he Keeping Days by Norma Johnston -- YA Historical Fiction/Classic
Set in 1900 in Yonkers, New York, this book is the journal of 14 year-old Tish, middle child of a large suburban family. Tish feels nobody understands he
r and longs to be a writer. She pours out her feelings about life, love and her family in her journal. Tish collects special days she calls "keeping days" and hopes her new year will be full of them, instead she gets a mother who insists on being an Early Christian Martyr, an older sister who is conflicted in her feelings towards two gentlemen, wild and unruly siblings and the Queen Bee of the neighborhood who is well on her way to becoming a Scarlet Woman! Through the year, Tish learns the true meaning of love and the importance of family. This is a typical coming-of-age story full of teen angst and critical family situations. I think I would have appreciated it better when I was a teenager but I could identify with Tish's feelings towards her family and the other teens. I felt that towards the end, the book took on a Christian slant that I didn't really care for. It raised some interesting questions about Faith but I didn't really sympathize with Tish's conclusions. The plot moved slowly and I didn't feel an overwhelming interesting in what happens next. I think fans of classic literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries will enjoy this book and teenagers will especially be able to relate to Tish and her situation.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith -- Classic
Like Keeping Days (above), this is a journal of a teenage girl who wants to be a writer.
Seventeen-year-old Cassandra lives with her eccentric family in a crumbling old castle in the English countryside in the 1930s. Cassandra's father is a writer with one brilliant book to his credit and a brief jail stint which may have possibly inhibited his desire or ability to write, therefore, the family lives in utter poverty, doing what they can to get by. Cassandra's older sister Rose is fed-up with being poor and will do anything to change her situation. Younger brother Thomas is a brilliant scholar. Hired-boy Stephen is madly in love with Cassandra and she's not sure how she feels about him. Two American men and their mother arrive from New York when the elder man, Simon, inherits the landlord's estate. At first, it seems like the men are captivated by Rose's beauty and think Cassandra an amusing child, but Cassandra overhears what they really think of her family and is embarrassed and angry about it and becomes determined to hate them, but it is difficult when they keep running into each other. Cassandra's father enjoys attention from Mrs. Cotton, Simon and Neil's mother, and the intellectual discussions they share though he shows no signs of wanting to write again. Luck finally comes their way when Rose and Simon become engaged to be married, but Cassandra worries about her sister's motives and her own feelings about the situation. Cassandra likens her family to the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice and there are many literary references to Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and others. It seemed at first like this was going to be a rewrite of Pride and Prejudice but it turned out to be Filled with lots of angst and difficult situations, this book is best appreciated by teenagers who can identify with Cassandra. an entirely original story about life and love and coming-of-age.

My Vicksburg by Ann Rinaldi -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction
Ann Rinaldi's latest novel for you
ng readers takes place during the Civil War in Mississippi during the 87-day Siege of Vicksburg in 1863. Claire Louise Corbet has always lived with her family in a large house with her family and many servants. Her father is brisk and stern but cares for his family. With her older brother enlisted as a doctor in the Union Army and her father as a doctor in the Confederate Army, it seems Claire Louise's world changes quickly. When General Grant and his troops march on Vicksburg, Claire Louise, her mother and little brother James must move from their grand home to caves carved into a hillside. Their cave rooms are spacious with many accomodations from home but it's hard not to worry with the constant shelling going on above their heads. During a cease-fire moment, Claire Louise sneaks off to pick berries and comes across her older brother nursing a man in a Confederate soldier. Claire Louise can tell Robert, the Confederate soldier, has a secret and is determined to help him in some way. Her views about honor and doing the right thing are challenged when she learns his secret. Claire Louise comes to a difficult decision that may change her life forever. This book is filled with amazing period details that are Ann Rinaldi's specialty. The plot was good and kept me interested though it seemed rather thin. Claire Louise is a typical Rinaldi heroine, spunky and brave. I liked this book much better than some of her other more recent works because of the period details and also because the plot wasn't so depressing. I recommend this one to fans of Rinaldi's books young and old and also Civil War and history buffs.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

This novel tells the story of the last years of Imperial Russia told from the point-of-view of the four Grand Duchesses. There's the big pair: Olga, intelligent and sensitive big sister, Tatiana, "the governess," and the little pair, sweet Maria and mischievous Anastasia. The girls enjoy lazy summer days on the family yacht teasing each other and their little brother, flirting with soldiers and playing with their pets. Little do they know that their idyllic world is about to change in an instant. The Serbian assassination of the Archduke of Austria plunges the world into war with Russia siding with their Slavic kin rather than Mama's cousin "Willie" (Kaiser Wilhelm II and Alexandra Romanova were both grandchildren of Queen Victoria). The Russian people become discontented and the Tsar is forced to abdicate. The Romanovs face house arrest with an ever-increasing humiliating and degrading routine. The sisters face the uncertainty of their future bravely, clinging to each other and to their Faith. An author's note includes details on the deaths of the Romanovs and the search for the true story. An extensive bibliography follows. I found this novel very long and very slow. I had a hard time getting through it knowing what happened to the Romanovs. I liked the characterization of each of the Grand Duchesses but I felt that their personalities really did not show through in their diary-like chapters.  I couldn't tell which sister was telling the story without looking. The strongest voices are Olga and Anastasia. I also felt that the author did a little TOO much research. She includes many Russian words and phrases, some of which are unnecessary when the English word will do just as well.  I had to keep checking the glossary which interrupted the flow of the story as I was reading. I'm not sure I would recommend this book to teens unless they have an intense interest in the Romanovs. I would recommend this book to adults who love history but haven't really explored historical fiction.

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales (Beka Cooper) by Tamora Pierce -- Young Adult Fantasy/Contemporary

This anthology of fantasy tales by popular YA author Tamora Pierce features 11 short stories, most of which have been published before. There are three new tales to continue the Tortall legends and a sneak preview of the new Beka Cooper novel. (Lets out an unladylike squeal of delight).

I will focus on the three new stories. Nawat is a sequel to the Trickster books. Aly gives birth to three live, human babies while Nawat struggles with his identity as a crow man. His ideas of child rearing clash with those of the human nurses and even the Queen. The Rajumat flock is angry and Nawat has to deal with them one way or another. This is a bittersweet tale about Nawat from his point-of-view. It's sometimes funny but also a bit sad and even makes you think in spots. Nawat has to make some difficult choices in this one as he struggles with his identity. I loved seeing Aly and Nawat again and finding out what happened next. I think Aly grows more like her mother as she gets older, though she would hate to hear anyone say that!

Lost: Adria, a girl from Tusaine is a math genius. She's made to doubt her abilities by an abusive father and an incompetent teacher. She's befriending by a Darking who helps her realize her worth. This is a cute story full of girl power. As much as I hate and don't understand math, I felt sorry for Adria and loved how Lost helped her find her way. It was an extra awesome bonus to read more about Darkings. (They're also in Nawat). I just love this magic world Tammy has created!

In Mimic, Ri, a young shepherdess is content with her freedom to roam the hills despite her grandfather's wish for her to learn healing and her brother's pleas to take over the sheep. When Ri rescues a strange creature from a hawk, she vows to keep it alive no matter how ugly it is. The strange creature turns out to be full of surprises and wisdom for Ri. This story teaches some great lessons to teen girls about doing what is right and about growing up. The creature is amusing and the story is a fun read. 

The other stories included are:
The Dragon's Tale about Daine's dragonling, Kitten

Elder Brother: about the repercussion of Numair using a word of power at the end of the Immortals Quartet

The Hidden Girl: A companion to Elder Brother, paralleling the Taliban's treatment of women

Huntress: A contemporary fantasy set in New York City

Plain Magic: A short story which teaches that appearances can be deceiving.

Testing: A contemporary non-fantasy about troubled teen girls testing their new house mother

Student of Ostriches: About Shang warriors

Time of Proving: A short story that doesn't appear linked to any other legends thus far. A girl helps a creature in need but not without payment. She learns a few things along the way about proving herself.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Greetings Readers! I have entered the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge sponsored by Historical Tapestry. As you know it's not much of a challenge for me, but it will be fun. I'm aiming for "Severe Bookaholism": 20 books. I've already beaten that but I'd like to see how many I read. I hope some of you will enter the challenge also.

Here's my list of books for October (links lead to my reviews):

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Waltz With A Rogue by Mona K. Gedney, Kathleen Baldwin and Lisa Noeli -- Regency Romance

This book of short stories contains three stories by well-known Regency authors. The first,
The Highwayman Came Waltzing by Kathleen Baldwin, follows a very different plot line from the usual Regency story. It's loosely based on the poem "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes. In this story, Elizabeth Claegborn is the long suffering heroine, living with her aunt, grandmother and cousins on the estate of her cheapskate uncle. The family has a very unique way of earning money. When Elizabeth's childhood sweetheart Trace, Lord Ryerton returns from the wars, he's determined to find the highwaymen robbing his stepfather's guests and put a stop to those rogues once and for all. He also wants to rekindle the relationship with Elizabeth but she hides a terrible secret that could force her true love to choose between his duty and his heart. She's certain he'll choose duty but will he? This is the best of the three stories. It's well written and has a slightly Gothic air but is also funny and sweet at the same time. Elizabeth comes across as a bit of a Mary Sue but her big secret prevents her from actually being so bland. She and Trace have great chemistry. The story was suspenseful enough to really hold my interest though it bears little resemblance to the poem.
In The Rebel and the Rogue by Mona Gedney, Vivian Woodruff tries to avoid being married off to her odious stepfather's youngest brother. Her stepparents yell and threaten but Vivian will not give in. She will marry for love or not at all. When she encounters the dashing and dangerous Anthony Mallory, she decides to use some secret knowledge she has of him to blackmail him into helping her. Anthony is amused and intrigued by the young lady and can't believe the trap he's fallen into but he agreed to help after all, and maybe he's enjoying himself more than he ever has before. This is a predictable story about a hardened rake who meets his match in a naive young girl. The writing isn't bad but not as great as Georgette Heyer or some of the other authors who have tackled the same plot.
Dance with Me by Lisa Noeli features a Lord in disguise as a dancing master. Neville Dunsleigh knows he will find his bride when he dances with her, but all the ladies he meets are the same old boring fortune and title hunters. In disguise, he'll have the chance to meet his true love at last. He hadn't counted on his clients flirting with him or being fired because he refused to flirt back. He also didn't know just how painful it could be when a lady steps on his toes. When a chance encounter with a beautiful woman comes his way, he just knows she's the one. However, she disappears and makes it difficult for him to reach. Penelope Spencer also has a secret. She's the daughter of theater performers raised as a gentlewoman. She thinks she loves Neville but she isn't sure and will he love her if he finds out her secret? This is the lightest of the three stories. It's almost a fairy tale it's so unrealistic. It's sweet and charming and if you can overlook the rapid advancement of the romance and the unlikeliness of it all, you will enjoy it.