Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What I Read in June 2015 Part IX

What I Read in June 2015 Part IX ...

Audacity by Melanie Crowder  --Young adult historical Fiction
A novel in verse about Clara Lemlich, a young female labor leader who organized the female garment workers' union and helped coordinate the history strike of 1909. The story begins with her childhood in Russia and her undying thirst for knowledge. Clara dreams of being a doctor but only boys study books in the shetl and her father protests against antisemitism by not allowing Russian language in the home. Clara protests by teaching songs and trading small favors with friends from the village to get access to books. Following a devastating pogrom in a nearby village, the family immigrates to New York where young Clara finds work in the garment factories, learns English and moves ever closer to her dream of becoming a doctor. Her family disapproves of her actions but the fire burning inside her won't be stopped and when she's blacklisted for speaking out against unfair working conditions, her fire burns even stronger.

The plot is very slow moving at first, but then gets better once the family gets to New York. I as more interested in how Clara came to be form the union and her work with the strike. The story disappointingly ends before the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. It really needed that to show just how important Clara's work was and how the fire changed workplace rules. The blank verse poetry isn't really my thing but some of the unusual forms are nice. The author's note and interview with family members are far more interesting.

A School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House, #1)
 School for Unusual Girls (Stranje House #1) by Kathleen Baldwin--Young Adult Historical Fantasy/Paranormal Regency Romance

Georgiana Fitzwilliam's parents are banishing her to Miss Stranje's school for unusual girls all for the little matter of burning her father's stables and half the neighbor's orchard. Georgie resists the banishment, arguing she was only trying to find a formula for invisible ink in hopes of saving the lives of soldiers. It's too late to save her older brother Robbie but if she can prevent more families from experiencing that pain, she will. Unfortunately for Georgie, the fire was the latest in a long list of unusual accomplishments and her parents are only too glad to be rid of her. Georgie is terrified of Miss Stranje and her torture chamber of horrors. Attempting to run away brings her face to face with the bold and teasing Sebastian, Lord Wyatt who makes her blood boil in more ways than one. Soon Georgie discovers all is not what it seems and she must trust in her own abilities and work with Sebastian or the world will be plunged into chaos in Napoleon's wake.

This book is sort of a fantasy/speculative hybrid. It's an alternate world where one split second decision can change the course of world history. It's not so much a gothic fantasy as it sounds but there are fantasy elements. That's really my only big complaint about the novel is that there's not enough explanation. Who is Miss Stranje? What exactly is her school and who are the other girls? There's very little characterization of the secondary characters - they'll get their own books, but there should have been more. What are Tess' nightmares and why are they taken for fact? What is her unusual affinity for animals? Why does Maya blend in and what is so special about her voice? Is it paranormal or just something natural? That isn't explained. The exposition goes on a bit too long. I knew there had to be a villain working for Napoleon because there always is. That person appears a little late in the story and the showdown comes much later than it should have. Too much time is spend on Georgie's experiments. I don't have a scientific brain so maybe it was just that all that was lost on me. The romantic plot/s were typical of the YA genre. I believe the author must love Anne of Green Gables because Georgie has red hair and a bit of a temper and Sebastian likes to tease and flirt much like Gilbert. Yes the romance is rather unbelievable but it's common for YA stories and I liked it though I was MORE interested in the adult romance - what's the story there?!

Georgie is a prickly character, a lot like Triss in Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series. Red hair + hot temper + brains = prickly heroine. I don't mind because I can relate to that sort of heroine better than one like Lady Jane or Myra who are very nice. Georgie has a lot of weight carried on her shoulders and she likes to wallow in self pity but I see a young woman in a time of great change coming into her own and learning how to value her own abilities and how to trust others to help her make decisions. She's certainly very intelligent, which I value highly. Sebastian is brooding one minute and teasing the next. He's a typical selfless YA hero who wants to fall on his sword instead of falling in love. He's a curious character with a tough backstory that's shaped him. He wants to be noble but he's only human and can't help his feelings. I love that he is not the hero of the story.

My favorite secondary character is Tess. She's also prickly like Georgie but tough. She's used to being rejected and it hurts but she's comfortable in her own skin. She has some mysterious stuff going on and a seriously intense love/hate relationship. Her sparring partner is also a favorite character but he's not a likeable one. He's actually a jerk to Tess and awkward around women. I'm sure he will get more backstory in the next book because I found him intriguing for his faults. Miss Stranje is strange indeed and if I knew more about her, I would really like her. I like what I know about her anyway and commend her for what she does. The villain is a little cardboard. The villain has a backstory but I wanted a bit more to add more depth to their plot. This isn't a book where you guess who the villain is going to be. The characters know from the outset but there's not much to go on except a few facts.

This is a fun book for YA fans and Georgie's exposition plot shows newcomers to the Regency era what a young lady should and should not be like. There's a sneak peak of the next book and I want to read it NOW!

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