Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What I Read in October 2015 Part III

What I Read in October 2015 Part III ...

A Love Affair For LizzieLove Affair for Lizzie by Mona K. Gedney-- RegencyHistorical Romance

Lizzie Lancaster has always had an understanding with her childhood friend Matthew Webster. The two formally pledged their love when Lizzie was 16 and promised to marry. Then Matthew went off to fight Napoleon while Lizzie stayed home. Lizzie has no desire to leave her home or her family and she faithfully waits for Matthew to return to her. When he writes breaking off their engagement in favor of a more worldly lady, Lizzie is heartbroken. She then cooks up a scheme to show him exactly how worldly she can be. She enlists the aid of a neighbor, Lady Thalia, to take Lizzie to Vienna where she can be reunited with Matthew and convince him to marry her. Along the way to Vienna they meet Mr. Daniel Thoreau, an American traveling in Europe and Mr. Mansfield, a well-connected young man headed to Vienna for the social life. Mr. Thoreau helps Lizzie learn to enjoy her adventure and joins her in her plan to make Matthew realize just what he's missing.

This story was OK. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. It's not what I would call a love story, let alone a romance. Lizzie doesn't even encounter Matthew until almost halfway through the book. Almost the whole story is told from Lizzie's POV with some from Mr. Thoreau and none at all from Matthew. The plot moves along very slowly and comes to a quick resolution. I found the ending a bit too sudden for my enjoyment. The Epilogue didn't really add to the story. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Paris and Vienna and the social life Lizzie experiences. She does things that I haven't read about in any other novel that I found incredibly interesting and charming.

The characters in this novel consist of Lizzie, a strong-minded young lady who is determined to win over the love of her life. I liked her and wanted her to be happy but I wasn't rooting for her to find happiness with Matthew. He was a real idiot and a complete jerk to her. He fell for a flirtatious *itch which made me automatically not like him, then he treated Lizzie abominably. I hated his behavior and though he was correct, he had no right to scold Lizzie about her behavior. That is Lady Thalia's job! I preferred Mr. Thoreau to Matthew. Daniel is kind, considerate, thoughtful and intelligent. Plus, he's American! He helps guide Lizzie and helps her become an adult with a purely unselfish motive. I thought he was a much better catch than Matthew! I wanted to like Lady Thalia for being a man-hating spinster but I found her irritating. I hated how she always talked in italics and selfish she was. She couldn't be bothered to hang out with Lizzie and chaperon the girl when she didn't feel like it. Mr. Mansfield is hardly in the novel and I wondered what his purpose was. He advances the plot on occasion. The final character to note is George Andronikos. Like Lizzie I found him charming and delightful. He isn't husband material but he's a fun escort and I wanted to know a little more about his activities.

I found this book for 50 cents at the library book sale. I wouldn't rush out and try to find it but if you can get it for free, it's not a terrible read.

Chasing SecretsChasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko-- Young Adult Historical Fiction

Thirteen-year old Lizzie Kennedy doesn't fit in. It's 1900 and girls are not expected to like science or want to be doctors but medicine is Lizzie's passion and she dreams of being a doctor like her father one day. She loves accompanying her father on house calls and the feeling she gets from helping people. Her Aunt Hortense dismisses Lizzie's passion and everyone expects Lizzie to want to get married. As a result of her unusual interest and her older brother Billy's new interest in fighting, Lizzie is alone. Her only friend, if you can call him that, is Jing, the family's Chinese cook. When Jing goes missing, Lizzie fears the worst. She finds an unexpected friend in Jing's son Noah, who must be kept a secret. Noah fears Jing stuck in quarantine in Chinatown where rumors of the plague abound. "The plague in San Francisco? Don't be absurd!" claim all the doctors but Lizzie isn't so sure. She knows one thing though - she has to get Jing out of there and back home where he belongs. When tensions between white Americans and the Chinese population of San Francisco grow stronger, Lizzie must summon all her courage and knowledge to help keep those she loves from harm.

This book doesn't quite live up to the promise of a "heart-stopping race." The action takes too long to get going and starts and stops too often to be really compelling. The plot fell flat for me and I didn't feel moved by the tragedy. I find Gennifer Choldenko's Al Capone books a little more compelling. The subject is new to me though. I had no idea there was plague in the 20th century United States or that there was a vaccine against it! The history behind the plot was more interesting than the plot. The author's note had some interesting facts and seemed geared towards teachers and parents.

The characters are good but not all that memorable. Lizzie is a likable, spunky teenage girl who thinks and acts in a very modern way. I liked her a lot though. I felt bad for her for being constrained by her gender and because she was so lonely. I thought some of her actions were totally crazy and I would never be that brave. I liked how she tried to make friends but still be herself. That's an important lesson that often gets lost in teenage novels. At first I wasn't crazy about Noah. I thought he was rather rude and a bit too cocky but he grew on me as Lizzie got to know him better. I wished he would have told Lizzie a little more about his life but the facts he revealed are interesting. He's smart, loyal and loving and that makes him a good friend for Lizzie. Gus, Lizzie's potential love interest, also shares the same qualities as Noah and is also brave. He's quiet but an important part of Lizzie's life so far. I really liked him. Gus's sister Gemma is crazy in a fun way. I'm not sure I'd like to be friends with her because trying to keep up with her would be exhausting! Most importantly to Lizzie is Jing. He's father, mother, friend and cook to Lizzie. She loves him and he seems to care for her yet still part of him is closed off to her because he's Chinese and a servant. Like Lizzie, I'd like to know more about him. Orange Tom, the cat, is another major character in the book. Lizzie discovers she can use him as a messenger but he's a working cat and doesn't like to be held. I wished he did for Lizzie's sake for she really needed the unconditional love of a pet.

The minor characters in this novel include Lizzie's Papa, Dr. Kennedy. He seems indulgent towards Lizzie but I am not positive he takes her seriously. He's a great doctor given the limited medical knowledge even in 1900. He's very honorable. Then there's Aunt Hortense, who has hidden depths that are hinted at but not quite revealed. I expect she is much more like Lizzie than Lizzie realizes. There's also Aunt Hortense's husband, Uncle Karl, a newspaper man who strives to tell the truth. I take it Uncle Karl is based on Joseph Pulitzer since his biggest rival is William Randolph Hearst. Uncle Karl comes across as largely two-dimensional and a man of his time but with a bit more honesty and integrity than many other men. Lizzie's big brother Billy plays an important role in her life. She always looked up to him and now he's moved on from being her pal and trying to become his own person. His struggles were tough to read about and I wish he and his father could have had a heart to heart talk. Finally, there's Maggy Doyle, the maid. She is a little bit slow but sweet and a good worker. I liked her very much.

I would recommend this novel to those who like a quick read and like to learn something new while having fun reading.

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