Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book review: The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyer

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer (Published by Harcourt, April 12, 2010)

Marie-Antoinette, known as Antonia as a child, grew up as the youngest daughter of Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria, a mother who demanded no less than perfection and dedicated herself to making politically advantageous marriages for her many children. In 1768, the year Antonia turns thirteen, her mother determines to marry her off to Louis-Auguste, the heir to the throne of France, who is one year older than Antonia. From that day forward, everything changes for her. Everything must be perfect - she must look perfect, learn to speak French perfectly, and perfectly memorize the many tedious rules of etiquette practiced at the French court. Now more than ever, her life is no longer her own.

After much tedious education and perfection of her looks, Antonia finally sets off to marry Louis-Auguste in 1770. She must leave behind everything of her former life and give up her Austrian identity, including her name - she is now to be known by her new French name, Marie-Antoinette. At the court of Versailles, she is miserable. She feels unwelcome by many who do not want their future queen to be Austrian, and the many rules that govern her every action at court are stifling. In addition, her marriage is unhappy and she fears she might not produce an heir to the throne and be sent home in disgrace. Determined to at least be happy in some way, she throws caution to the wind, disregards the rules of court life, and decides to live a life of luxury, parties, and entertainments - angering the people of France, who suffer from increasing poverty.

The Bad Queen is a fascinating look at the life of Marie-Antoinette from when she is a young teenager, through the French Revolution, when her own daughter, Marie-Therese, concludes her tragic story. It paints a sympathetic portrait of Marie-Antoinette, and shows how she was not truly a bad or evil person, but simply a girl who at far too young an age was married to a boy who had not been prepared to be a king, leading to poor choices that ultimately caused their downfall. I highly recommend this book, and the other Young Royals books, to readers who enjoy young adult historical fiction.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

In My Mailbox - 2/27/10

Credit goes to The Story Siren for creating and hosting the In My Mailbox feature. Here are my new books for this week:

For review:

The Family Greene by Ann Rinaldi

Cornelia Greene is fed up with gossip about her mother. Caty Littlefield Greene was once a beautiful young bride who lifted the troops' spirits at Valley Forge, but Cornelia knows that rumors of Caty's past indiscretions hurt Nathanael Greene, Cornelia's adored father. Yet, Caty claims that she's just a flirt, and that flirting is a female necessity--a woman's only means of power.
But Cornelia's concern with her mother's reputation fades to the background when she learns that Nathanael Greene may not even be her father. As she searches for the truth, she makes unexpected discoveries that lead her to a new understanding of love and family.


Emma's River by Alison Hart

Emma, her pony, and her mother travel up the Missouri River on a steamboat to join Papa on the frontier. When she sneaks to the main deck to check on her beloved pony, she finds Patrick, a stowaway, who's bunking with her pony, and the two make a deal that evolves into friendship. When the Sally May explodes in a fiery blaze, Louisa, Mama, Patrick, wealthy cabin passengers, poor immigrants, and one plucky pony must find a way to survive the disaster.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Traitor's Smile by Patricia Elliott

The Traitor's Smile by Patricia Elliott (Published by Hodder Children's Books, May 6, 2010)

Eugenie de Boncoeur has fled the violence of the French Revolution to find sanctuary in England at the home of her cousin, Hetta. At first, the two girls find themselves at loggerheads: Hetta can't understand Eugenie's preoccupation with clothes and appearance, and scorns her politics. Soon, however, they are drawn together by a shared sense of danger, for across the Channel waits the vengeful Pale Assassin, determined to claim Eugenie for himself. With her brother's life at stake, how can she refuse his dreadful bargain? But it will mean sacrificing her chance of love and returning to Paris in the grip of the Terror. Eugenie must now decide her destiny - with or without Hetta's help.

I had a bit of a hard time getting into the first book in this series, The Pale Assassin, because I found the main character to be really immature and helpless at first... however I did eventually get into the story and I want to find out what happens next after the cliffhanger ending! This is the UK release date, the first book did get a US release so hopefully this one will too, but in the meantime, if you can't wait, you can pre-order this book with free worldwide shipping from The Book Depository:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In My Mailbox - 2/20/10

Credit goes to The Story Siren for creating and hosting the In My Mailbox feature.

Here are my new books for this week:

For review:

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill

Wicked Girls is a fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials based on the real historical characters, told from the perspective of three young women living in Salem in 1692—Mercy Lewis, Margaret Walcott, and Ann Putnam Jr.
When Ann’s father suggests that a spate of illnesses within the village is the result of witchcraft, Ann sees an opportunity and starts manifesting the symptoms of affliction. Ann looks up to Mercy, the beautiful servant in her parents' house. She shows Mercy the power that a young girl is capable of in a time when women were completely powerless. Mercy, who suffered abuse at the hands of past masters, seizes her only chance at safety. And Ann’s cousin Margaret, anxious to win the attention of a boy in her sights, follows suit. As the accusations mount against men and women in the community, the girls start to see the deadly ramifications of their actions. Should they finally tell the truth? Or is it too late to save this small New England town?
A Printz Honor winner for Your Own, Sylvia, Stephanie Hemphill uses evocative verse to weave a nuanced portrait of one of the most troubling and fascinating times in our nation’s history. The book includes biographies of the real girls and the accused victims.


The Line by Teri Hall

An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It's said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.
Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel's dad died in the last war. It's a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.
Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

Violet Eyes by Debbie Viguie

A Retelling of "The Princess and the Pea"
When a storm brings the dashing Prince Richard to her family's farm, Violet falls in love at first sight. Richard also gives Violet his heart, but he knows his marriage is destined to be an affair of state, not of passion. For the king and queen have devised a contest to determine who will win their son's hand in marriage.
To be reunited with her prince, Violet must compete against princesses from across the land. It will take all of her wits — and a little help from an unexpected source — if Violet is to demonstrate the depth of her character and become Richard's bride.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison (Published in the UK by Macmillan Books, March 5, 2010; and in the US by Delacorte Books, October 12, 2010)

When shy Jenny Cooper goes to stay with her cousin Jane Austen, she knows nothing of the world of beautiful dresses, dances, secrets, gossip, and romance that Jane inhabits. At fifteen, Jane is already a sharp observer of the customs of courtship. So when Jenny falls utterly in love with Captain Thomas Williams, who better than Jane to help her win the heart of this dashing man?
But is that even possible? After all, Jenny’s been harboring a most desperate secret. Should it become known, it would bring scandal not only to her, but also to the wonderful Austen family. What’s a poor orphan girl to do?
In this delicious dance between truth and fiction, Cora Harrison has crafted Jenny’s secret diary by reading everything Jane Austen wrote as a child and an adult, and by researching biographies, critical studies, and family letters. Jenny’s diary makes the past spring vividly to life and provides insight into the entire Austen family—especially the beloved Jane.

I am intrigued by the fact that this book is written as a diary - some of my favorite books ever were the Dear America and Royal Diaries series which were historical fiction written in diary format. Sounds like it will be a really good read. The above cover is the US cover. Here is the UK cover. Which do you like better? I personally like the US cover better, as it looks more historical and more mature:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book review: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken (Published by EgmontUSA, March 23, 2010)

Growing up in Cliffton, a small village plagued by a years-long drought that began when she was a small child, Sydelle always longed to leave and see the world out there. A talented weaver, she had hoped to someday travel to the city and make a living with her craft. And one day when she is sixteen, everything changes and Sydelle gets her chance to leave Cliffton - but not in the way in which she had hoped for. Wayland North, a young wizard, finally brings rain to the village, and is offered anything he asks for in return. He chooses Sydelle, because she has the ability to fix his magical cloaks, and so he needs her aid on a long journey to the capital city to warn of a neighboring country’s invasion.

From the start, Sydelle deeply resents North. He took her from her home, for reasons she cannot fully understand, and she cannot stand his arrogance. And she soon begins to suspect that North has a terrible secret that he is hiding from her. Throughout the journey Sydelle grows closer to North, and discovers some startling truths about him, about her own mysterious powers, and about the role she must play in determining the fate of her kingdom.

Brightly Woven was just an *amazing* book. It is hard for me to put into words how much I loved everything about it. I loved the characters, they were so realistic and flawed and human, I loved the setting, the story, everything. The romance between Sydelle and North was so romantic and touching and believable, I loved how their relationship developed slowly and realistically rather than being love at first sight. If you love young adult fantasy, I highly recommend reading this book. I really hope there is a sequel - I would love to read more about these characters and their world.

Book review: Daughter of Fire and Ice by Marie-Louise Jensen

Daughter of Fire and Ice by Marie-Louise Jensen (Published by Oxford University Press, February 4, 2010)

Fifteen-year-old Thora is a gifted healer who has visions of the future. When her family’s enemy, Bjorn Swanson, the chieftain of their district in Norway, kidnaps her, he plans to force her to accompany him on a voyage to Iceland, the new world. But a very different journey begins when Swanson’s slave, a young man that Thora has seen in her visions, kills the cruel chieftain to avenge Swanson’s murder of his sister. The slave takes on the identity of Bjorn Swanson, and Thora knows her destiny is to travel with this young man to Iceland.

During the voyage, Thora begins to care deeply for the young man she now knows only as Bjorn, and believes she is falling in love with him, and that he may have feelings for her as well. However, circumstances make it difficult for them to be together. And as Thora, Bjorn, and their fellow travelers struggle to build a home in the harsh and dangerous land that is Iceland, Thora realizes there is a murderer among them.

Daughter of Fire and Ice is a fascinating, exciting, and romantic young adult historical novel. I loved the unusual historical setting of ninth century Norway and Iceland, as I have not read much set in this time period. Thora is a wonderful narrator who brings to life the story and setting. I have loved everything I have read so far by Marie-Louise Jensen - I highly recommend her books to readers who love young adult historical romance, and I can’t wait to read her next book.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

In My Mailbox - 2/13/10

Credit goes to The Story Siren for creating and hosting the In My Mailbox feature.

Here are my new books for this week:

The Fire Opal by Regina McBride

There was a time when Maeve O'Tullagh led a simple life; a time when she and her mother, Nuala, collected kelp on the foreshore near their cottage in Ard Macha; a time when she played among the Celtic ruins with her older brothers and daydreamed about the legendary Holy Isles, an enchanted land ruled in a past age by a beautiful goddess.
But after Maeve's sister, Ishleen, is born, her mother sinks into a deep, impenetrable trance. For years, Maeve tries to help her mother "awaken," and then the unthinkable happens: Ishleen succumbs to the same mysterious ailment as Nuala.
Heartbroken to think that her sister and her mother might be lost to her forever, Maeve sets off on an unimaginable quest to a world filled with fantastical creatures, a web of secrets, a handsome, devious villain who will stop at nothing to have her hand in marriage—braving them all to retrieve a powerful glowing stone that will help her recover the souls of her loved ones and bring them home to Ard Macha.

Aurelie: A Faerie Tale by Heather Tomlinson

Once upon a time, three children and a little river dragon were the best of friends—until a promise was broken. Now they are almost grown up and barely speaking to one another. Of the four, it is Princess Aurelie who feels the loss the most. How can she prevent a war when she can’t even make her friends get along? Heartsick at losing her dearest companions, Aurelie finds comfort in the beauty of fairyland. But a princess can’t hide from her duties forever. Her country needs her, and so do her friends, whether they know it or not.

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson

Diribani has come to the village well to get water for her family's scant meal of curry and rice. She never expected to meet a goddess there. Yet she is granted a remarkable gift: Flowers and precious jewels drop from her lips whenever she speaks.
It seems only right to Tana that the goddess judged her kind, lovely stepsister worthy of such riches. And when she encounters the goddess, she is not surprised to find herself speaking snakes and toads as a reward.
Blessings and curses are never so clear as they might seem, however. Diribani’s newfound wealth brings her a prince—and an attempt on her life. Tana is chased out of the village because the province's governor fears snakes, yet thousands are dying of a plague spread by rats. As the sisters' fates hang in the balance, each struggles to understand her gift. Will it bring her wisdom, good fortune, love . . . or death?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Contest: Win a signed copy of Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap

I am giving away a signed, finished hardcover copy of Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap, which will be published by Bloomsbury on March 2, 2010. I recently reviewed Anastasia's Secret, click here to read my review.

About Anastasia's Secret:

For Anastasia Romanov, life as the privileged daughter of Russia's last tsar is about to be torn apart by the bloodshed of revolution. Ousted from the imperial palace when the Bolsheviks seize control of the government, Anastasia and her family are exiled to Siberia. But even while the rebels debate the family's future with agonizing slowness and the threat to their lives grows more menacing, romance quietly blooms between Anastasia and Sasha, a sympathetic young guard she has known since childhood. But will the strength of their love be enough to save Anastasia from a violent death?
Inspired by the mysteries that have long surrounded the last days of the Romanov family, Susanne Dunlap's new novel is a haunting vision of the life—and love story—of Russia's last princess.

Contest rules:
To enter, comment on this post with your email address. Entries must be posted by Thursday, February 25
Contest open internationally, but the book may take a while to reach you if you win and live outside the US
Extra entries:
+1 if you link the contest on your blog
+1 if you read and comment on my review of the book
+1 if you are already a follower
Please specify any extra entries you have earned in your post. Thanks and good luck!

BEA 2010 & The Book Blogger Con

Last year was my first time attending Book Expo America. I was a bit nervous since I had only been a book blogger for a few months and I was nervous about whether I'd be welcome there! But it turned out to be a lot of fun and I'm glad I went. I got to meet some awesome bloggers, publicists, and authors, and picked up some great ARCs, signed books, and goodies.

I'm hoping to meet even more great people at BEA this year, and will also be going to the Book Blogger Convention, which is now affiliated with BEA, meaning it will be held at the Javits Center as well and will be another great opportunity to meet up with bloggers, authors, and publicsts & others from the book publishing industry. This year, BEA will be held at the Javits Center May 25-27, with conferences on the 25th, and more conferences, events, book signings, and the exhibit floor on the 26th-27th. Book Blogger Convention will be on Friday, May 28,

If you are attending BEA for the first time this year, don't be nervous! It's lots of fun and everyone is extremely friendly and nice. Here are some tips for making the most out of your time at BEA:

Plan your schedule ahead of time. There are a lot of different signings, panels, and events going on, many at the same time or close to each other. I made the mistake of only making a schedule ahead of time for the signings I wanted to attend the most, which meant I had to do a lot of planning while I was there, which was kind of chaotic. So this year, I plan to have a better schedule from the start. The schedule for BEA should be up on the official site in April.

Choices - you will unfortunately sometimes have to make some difficult choices, if author signings or panels you really want to attend are at the same time. So make sure to prioritize the events you want to attend the most.

Wear comfortable clothing! There will be a lot of walking around, so comfortable shoes are a must. Casual, neat clothes are fine - I wore jeans, a nice t-shirt, and sneakers. Don't dress in sloppy clothes, but you don't have to dress in formal business wear either. If you've picked up a lot of books and don't know what to do with them, there's a shipping area you can use - you can drop your box of books off there and pick it up at the end of the day. I didn't know about this til day 2 last year, so I spent all of day 1 carrying a heavy bag around - ouch! A lot of the booths will be giving out tote bags, so if you see one pick one up to carry your books around - you will need it.

Exchange contact information ahead of time with anyone you are hoping to meet up with during BEA. It's very big and chaotic, and you are unlikely to be able to find the people you want to meet up with unless you are able to contact them.

Plan out any other New York attractions you want to visit. I personally live only an hour and a half from the city and have been there many times, so I didn't stay at a hotel or visit anywhere other than BEA. But if there are any NY attractions you'd love to see, be sure and make time for that. One of my favorite places in NY is Strand Bookstore, which is a really neat bookstore that has ARCs, bargain priced hardcovers, and more.

Hope this post was helpful for anyone who is planning to attend BEA for the first time. If you are attending and would like to meet up, send me an email and we can exchange contact information. I am very much looking forward to attending again and can't wait for May!

If you would like to visit any of the other blogs for the BEA advice blog tour, the complete list can be found at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Montacute House by Lucy Jago

Montacute House by Lucy Jago (Published by Bloomsbury UK, May 3, 2010)

Cess works caring for the chickens at Montacute House but on her thirteenth birthday everything changes. She finds a precious locket hidden in the chicken coop and is convinced someone has placed it there for her to find. But the day is overshadowed by fear as a boy's body is found by the river, and then when John disappears, Cess is accused by the villagers of bewitching her best friend. Cess is determined to find John and prove the villagers wrong, but is soon embroiled in a plot that threatens her world and forces Cess to draw on powers she never knew she possessed, powers that will place her life in danger if they are discovered by the villagers. Witchcraft, politics and religious ambition combine in this gripping and wonderfully realised novel set in the Somerset of the 1500s.

A historical mystery set in one of my favorite time periods - sounds really good, and I like the cover a lot. FYI, this is a UK release - it can be preordered with free shipping worldwide at The Book Depository (one of my favorite online bookstores):

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book review: Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap

Anastasia's Secret by Susanne Dunlap (Published by Bloomsbury, March 2, 2010)

As the youngest daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, Anastasia had a very sheltered and isolated childhood. So when at twelve years old she meets Sasha, a young soldier, in the garden of her palace, she is intrigued - he is very different than anyone she is permitted to be friends with. But soon he must leave to fight in World War I. Anastasia is later reunited with him while helping to care for the wounded soldiers, and now that she is fourteen, hopes he will see her as a young woman, and not a child.

But everything in Anastasia’s world is about to change forever. In the aftermath of a costly war, the people of Russia are increasingly angry with their ruler. She must grow into a young woman as everything around her falls apart. After a revolt by the people, Anastasia and her family lose their wealth and status, and are eventually exiled to Siberia. In these dark days, Anastasia’s growing love for Sasha still brings her hope and joy. But there is little hope for their future together.

Anastasia’s Secret is a romantic and tragic story of what might have been, and brings Anastasia to life as a regular teenager with hopes and dreams, experiencing all the emotions of a teenage girl, although she grew up in a time very different than our own. It was hard to read the book at times knowing what the outcome would be and I so wished it could have ended differently. For readers who love historical fiction or who are fascinated by the Romanovs, I highly recommend this book, but be forewarned, you may need tissues at the end.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

In My Mailbox - 2/6/10

Credit goes to The Story Siren for creating and hosting the In My Mailbox feature.

Here are my new books for this week:

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford

Thirteen year-old Natalie Minks loves machines, particularly automata--self operating mechanical devices, usually powered by clockwork. When Jake Limberleg and his traveling medicine show arrive in her small Missouri town with a mysterious vehicle under a tarp and an uncanny ability to make Natalie's half-built automaton move, she feels in her gut that something about this caravan of healers is a bit off. Her uneasiness leads her to investigate the intricate maze of the medicine show, where she discovers a horrible truth, and realizes that only she has the power to set things right.
Set in 1913, The Boneshaker is a gripping, richly textured novel about family, community, courage, and looking evil directly in the face in order to conquer it.

A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis

Twelve-year-old Kat Stephenson may be the despair of her social-climbing Stepmama, but she was born to be a magical Guardian and protector of Society--if she can ever find true acceptance in the secret Order that expelled her own mother. She’s ready to turn the hidebound Order of the Guardians inside-out, whether the older members like it or not. And in a society where magic is the greatest scandal of all, Kat is determined to use all her powers to help her three older siblings--saintly Elissa, practicing-witch Angeline, and hopelessly foolish Charles--find their own true loves, even if she has to turn highwayman and battle wild magic along the way!

Dear Canada: Exiles From the War by Jean Little

When a frightened girl and boy arrive on the Twiss family’s doorstep, to escape the Blitz, Charlotte wonders how she will keep her war guests from missing their parents back home, or from cowering every time a plane flies overhead. Though the war is being waged across the Atlantic, Charlotte begins to feel its danger, as her brother George defies their parents and enlists in the Navy. After months of receiving letters from overseas, suddenly there is no word from him — has the unthinkable happened and George's ship been sunk by a German submarine?
Charlotte Twiss’s diary shows her innermost feelings about her life on the Canadian homefront, as she helps her war guests "settle in" and wonders whether her brother is safe from harm.

Stolen Child by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Stolen from her family by the Nazis, Nadia is a young girl who tries to make sense of her confusing memories and haunting dreams. Bit by bit she starts to uncover the truth — that the German family she grew up with, the woman who calls herself Nadia’s mother, are not who they say they are. Beyond her privileged German childhood, Nadia unearths memories of a woman singing her a lullaby, while the taste of gingersnap cookies brings her back to a strangely familiar, yet unknown, past. Piece by piece, Nadia comes to realize who her real family was. But where are they now? What became of them? And what is her real name?
This story of a Lebensborn girl — a child kidnapped for her “Aryan looks” by the Nazis in their frenzy to build a master race — reveals one child’s ierce determination to uncover her past against incredible odds.

The Princess and the Snowbird by Mett Ivie Harrison

From the author of The Princess and the Hound and The Princess and the Bear comes a companion novel that stands alone, filled with romance and captivating fantasy. Liva is the daughter of the hound and the bear, heir to all her royal parents’ magic and able to transform into any animal she wishes. Jens is an outcast, a boy without magic, determined to make his way in the forest. Though they are as different as night and day, from the time their paths first cross they are irresistibly drawn to each other.
But a terrible threat is stalking all who hold magic: the Hunter, bent on destruction. Aided by a magnificent snowbird, Liva and Jens must figure out how to save the humans and animals terrorized by the Hunter, as well as magic itself. If they fail, all will be lost—but if they succeed, they could finally be together at last.

Morning's Refrain by Tracie Peterson

When Phoebe Robbins learns her family will move to Sitka, Alaska, she is unsure what this wild, untamed land might offer her. But before she even sets foot on this new territory, she has an unexpected encounter with Dalton Lindquist.
Dalton is a man haunted by dark family secrets. When he decides to pursue answers to his past, he finds he must leave Sitka... and the lovely Phoebe. But Dalton is not the only one who has sought her attention. His best friend, Yuri, determines to claim her affection, as well.

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig

After years abroad, Robert, Duke of Dovedale, has returned to England to avenge the murder of his mentor. To uncover the murderer's identity, he must infiltrate the infamous, secret Hellfire Club. But the Duke has no idea that an even more difficult challenge awaits him-in a mistaken, romantic-minded young lady.
Charlotte Lansdowne wistfully remembers the Robert of her childhood as a valiant hero among men. Too aware of his own flaws, Robert tries to dissuade Charlotte from her delusions, even as he finds himself drawn to her. When Charlotte takes up a bit of espionage-investigating a plot to kidnap the King-Robert soon realizes that she is more than the perfect partner in crime.
Caught in a dangerous game full of deadly spies and secret rites, Robert and Charlotte must work together to reveal the villain...and confront their true love.

Halo by Zizou Corder

Washed ashore as a baby in ancient Greece, Halo is discovered by a family of centaurs. Although her true identity remains a mystery, she is loved as one of their own. But when Halo is dragged away by fishermen, her wild adventure begins . . .
Halo soon realizes that if she is to survive then she must live in disguise – as a boy. A violent war is threatening to erupt and Halo is at the mercy of the mighty Spartan warriors. And as she battles to hide her secret, Halo never forgets her quest to find out who she is – and where she really came from.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Folly by Marthe Jocelyn

Folly by Marthe Jocelyn (Published by Random House, May 11, 2010)

Three fates intertwine in this moving and passionate love story set in Victorian London.
Mary Finn: country girl, maid to a lord in London
Caden Tucker: liar, scoundrel, and heart's delight
James Nelligan: age six, tossed into a herd of boys
When Mary Finn falls into the arms of handsome Caden Tucker, their frolic changes the course of her life. What possesses her? She's been a girl of common sense until now. Mary's tale alternates with that of young James Nelligan, a new boy in an enormous foundling home.
In Folly, Marthe Jocelyn's breathtaking command of language, detail, and character brings Victorian London to life on every page, while the deep emotions that illuminate this fascinating novel about life-changing moments are as current as today's news.

Another historical novel, I'm so excited by all the awesome YA historical fiction coming out this year, and this is another one on my wish list that looks really good.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Book review: The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler

The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler (Published by HarperCollins, February 2, 2010)

For as long as she can remember, all Zita knew was the life of a servant girl in the castle of the harsh King Aricin. But when she is seven years old, she learns a secret that changes her life forever: she is the youngest daughter of the king, banished to the servant’s quarters after her birth. And over the next four years, she learns the reasons why: her father only wanted sons, and when his wife died giving birth to their thirteenth daughter, he wanted nothing to do with the newborn Zita and sent her off to be cared for and live among the palace servants. But Zita’s twelve older sisters know the truth, and still love her. When they realize that she has learned the truth, they decide to secretly spend time with her, which brings much happiness to Zita’s dreary life.

Shortly after Zita’s twelfth birthday, however, strange things begin to happen to the princesses, causing Zita to be deeply worried for her sisters. First, they are unable to speak in the presence of suitors. Then, they begin to become very tired and pale, but show no visible signs of illness. And though they spend all day resting in the palace, their shoes are mysteriously worn through. Zita soon suspects someone may be using magic against the princesses. Aided by her best friend Breckin, a stable boy at the castle, and Babette, a kind witch who lives in the nearby woods, Zita sets out to solve the mystery and save her sisters.

The Thirteenth Princess is a delightful middle grade retelling of the story “The Twelve Dancing Princesses," filled with mystery, adventure, magic, and a bit of romance. It is sure to be enjoyed by young girls who love books by Gail Carson Levine or Shannon Hale, and by anyone who loves fairy tale retellings. Zita is a charming heroine, and readers will cheer her on during her quest to save her sisters. This book is the first by debut author Diane Zahler, and I look forward to reading more from this promising new writer.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Great Macmillan books, part two

Here is part two of my post on great books published by the various divisions of Macmillan. This part features not yet published books.

Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson (Release date: March 30, 2010)

Diribani never expected to meet a goddess at the village well, much less one who grants her a remarkable gift: flowers and precious jewels drop from her lips whenever she talks. Tana is happy for her beloved stepsister, yet when she encounters the goddess, she finds herself speaking snakes and toads. While Diribani’s newfound wealth brings her a prince, Tana is chased out of the village because the province’s governor fears snakes, though thousands are dying of a plague spread by rats. As their fates hang in the balance, each sister struggles to understand her gift. Will it bring her wisdom, good fortune, love . . . or death?

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien

After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.
Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.

Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev (Release date: May 25, 2010)

Growing up in the enchanted Thèâtre Illuminata, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith learned everything about every play ever written. She knew the Players and their parts, but she didn’t know that she, too, had magic. Now, she is the Mistress of Revels, the Teller of Tales, and determined to follow her stars. She is ready for the outside world.
But the outside world soon proves more topsy-turvy than any stage production. Bertie can make things happen by writing them, but outside the protective walls of the Thèâtre, nothing goes as planned. And her magic cannot help her make a decision between—
Nate: Her suave and swashbuckling pirate, now in mortal peril.
Ariel: A brooding, yet seductive, air spirit whose true motives remain unclear.
When Nate is kidnapped and taken prisoner by the Sea Goddess, only Bertie can free him. She and her fairy sidekicks embark on a journey aboard the Thèâtre’s caravan, using Bertie’s word magic to guide them. Along the way, they collect a sneak-thief, who has in his possession something most valuable, and meet The Mysterious Stranger, Bertie’s father—and the creator of the scrimshaw medallion. Bertie’s dreams are haunted by Nate, whose love for Bertie is keeping him alive, but in the daytime, it’s Ariel who is tantalizingly close, and the one she is falling for. Who does Bertie love the most? And will her magic be powerful enough to save her once she enters the Sea Goddess’s lair?

The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle by Deva Fagan (Release date: May 25, 2010)

All Prunella wants is to be a proper bog witch. Unfortunately, her curses tend to do more good than harm. When her mixed-up magic allows a sneaky thief to escape her grandmother’s garden, Prunella is cast out until she can prove herself. It’s hard enough being exiled to the unmagical Uplands, but traveling with the smug young thief Barnaby is even worse. He’s determined to gain fame and fortune by recovering the missing Mirable Chalice. And to get what she wants, Prunella must help him, like it or not.

The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry (Release date: June 8, 2010)

Joan’s mother is Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most beautiful woman in the world. Her father is Henry II, the king of England. She loves them both—so what can she do when she’s forced to choose between them? As her parents’ arguments grow ever more vicious, Joan begins to feel like a political pawn. When her parents marry her off to the king of Sicily, Joan finds herself with a man ten years her senior. She doesn’t love him, and she can’t quite forget her childhood crush, the handsome Lord Raymond. As Joan grows up, she begins to understand that her parents’ worldview is warped by their political ambitions, and hers, in turn, has been warped by theirs. Is it too late to figure out whom to trust? And, more important, whom to love?

13 to Life by Shannon Delaney (Release date: June 22, 2010)

Something strange is stalking the small town of Junction…
When junior Jess Gillmansen gets called out of class by Guidance, she can only presume it’s for one of two reasons. Either they’ve finally figured out who wrote the scathing anti-jock editorial in the school newspaper or they’re hosting yet another intervention for her about her mom. Although far from expecting it, she’s relieved to discover Guidance just wants her to show a new student around—but he comes with issues of his own including a police escort.
The newest member of Junction High, Pietr Rusakova has secrets to hide--secrets that will bring big trouble to the small town of Junction—secrets including dramatic changes he’s undergoing that will surely end his life early.

The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle (Release date: September 2010)

Young Tabby Aykroyd has been brought to the dusty mansion of Seldom House to be nursemaid to a foundling boy. He is a savage little creature, but the Yorkshire moors harbor far worse, as Tabby soon discovers. The ghost of the last maid will not leave Tabby in peace, yet this spirit is only one of many. Why do scores of dead maids and masters haunt Seldom House with a jealous devotion that extends beyond the grave?
As Tabby struggles to escape the evil forces rising out of the land, she watches her young charge choose a different path. He is determined to keep Seldom House as his own. Though Tabby tries to befriend the uncouth urchin, her kindness cannot alter his fate. Long before he reaches the old farmhouse of Wuthering Heights, the boy who will become Heathcliff has doomed himself and any who try to befriend him.

The Waterloo Plot by Marissa Doyle (Release date unknown, prequel to the Leland sisters books)

A young witch must overcome physical and emotional scars while investigating who is attempting to assassinate members of the British War Cabinet, including her father, in 1814-1815.

Great Macmillan books, part one

After this whole Amazon fail mess, I wanted to write up a positive post to support Macmillan and their books rather than continuing to focus on what went wrong. So I decided to make a post featuring some awesome books from various Macmillan imprints. I ended up breaking it up into two parts, since it was longer than expected. Here is part one, featuring books already published:

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle

In 1837 London, young daughters of viscounts pined for handsome, titled husbands, not careers. And certainly not careers in magic. At least, most of them didn't.
Shy, studious Persephone Leland would far rather devote herself to her secret magic studies than enter society and look for a suitable husband. But right as the inevitable season for "coming out" is about to begin, Persy and her twin sister discover that their governess in magic has been kidnapped as part of a plot to gain control of the soon-to-be Queen Victoria. Racing through Mayfair ballrooms and royal palaces, the sisters overcome bad millinery, shady royal spinsters, and a mysterious Irish wizard. And along the way, Persy learns that husband hunting isn?t such an odious task after all, if you can find the right quarry. (My review here)

Betraying Season by Marissa Doyle

Penelope (Pen) Leland has come to Ireland to study magic and prove to herself that she is as good a witch as her twin sister, Persy. But when the dashing Niall Keating begins to pay her court, she can’t help being distracted from her studies.
Little does Pen know, Niall is acting upon orders from his sorceress mother. And although it starts as a sham, Niall actually falls deeply in love with Pen, and she with him. But even if he halts his mother’s evil plan, will Pen be able to forgive him for trying to seduce her into a plot? And what of Pen’s magic, which seems to be increasingly powerful? (My review here)

Nothing Here But Stones by Nancy Oswald

To Emma, Colorado seems as barren as an unfinished house. The land is too poor to farm, so Papa must work long hours in the mines. The trials of frontier life are especially hard for these Russian Jewish immigrants, who speak no English and practice a different religion from the others in the area. With a harsh, hungry winter coming, the settlement needs some good luck. Can Emma make it happen?
Based on the real struggles of an exceptional group of pioneers who came west in 1882, this is a finely crafted portrait of a family striving to make a home out of nothing. (My review here)

Fortune's Folly by Deva Fagan

Ever since her mother died and her father lost his shoemaking skills, Fortunata has survived by telling fake fortunes. But when she’s tricked into telling a grand fortune for a prince, she is faced with the impossible task of fulfilling her wild prophecy—or her father will be put to death.
Now Fortunata has to help Prince Leonato secure a magic sword, vanquish a wicked witch, discover a long-lost golden shoe, and rescue the princess who fits it. If only she hadn’t fallen in love with the prince herself!

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

All her world’s a stage.
Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.
She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents.
She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.
That is, until now.
Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Aurelie by Heather Tomlinson

Once upon a time, three children and a little river dragon were the best of friends—until a promise was broken. Now they are almost grown up and barely speaking to one another. Of the four, it is Princess Aurelie who feels the loss the most. How can she prevent a war when she can’t even make her friends get along? Heartsick at losing her dearest companions, Aurelie finds comfort in the beauty of fairyland. But a princess can’t hide from her duties forever. Her country needs her, and so do her friends, whether they know it or not.

The Swan Maiden by Heather Tomlinson

In the quiet hour before dawn, anything can happen. Doucette can dream of being a creature of flight and magic, of wearing a swan skin like her older sisters. But she must run the castle household while her sisters learn to weave spells. Her dream of flying is exactly that . . . until the day she discovers her own hidden birthright. Sudden, soaring freedom—it is a wish come true. Yet, not even magic can protect against every danger, especially when the heart is involved. As she struggles to find her own way in the world, Doucette risks losing the one person she loves most of all.

The Goodbye Season by Marian Hale

Mercy Kaplan doesn’t want to be like her mother, saddled with crying kids and failing crops for the rest of her life. Mercy longs to be on her own—until her wish comes true in the worst possible way. It is 1918 and a deadly flu epidemic ravages the country, leaving her utterly alone and penniless.
Mercy soon finds a job with Mrs. Wilder. But there’s something unsettling about the woman, whose brother died under mysterious circumstances. And then there’s Daniel, who could sweep a girl off her feet if she isn’t careful.

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

Hallow Hill has a strange and tragic history. For thousands of years, young women have been vanishing from the estate, never to be seen again. Now Kate and Emily have come to live at Hallow Hill. Brought up in a civilized age, they have no idea of the land’s dreadful heritage. Until, that is, Marak decides to tell them himself.
Intelligent, pleasant, and completely pitiless, Marak is a powerful magician who claims to be a King—and he has very specific plans for the two new girls who have trespassed into his kingdom.

Close Kin by Clare B. Dunkle

“Goblins are just a tale to frighten children.”
Emily might have believed this once, but she knows better now. For years she has been living happily in the underground goblin kingdom. Now Emily is old enough to marry, but when her childhood friend Seylin proposes, she doesn’t take him seriously.
Devastated, Seylin leaves the kingdom, intent on finding his own people: the elves. Too late, Emily realizes what Seylin means to her and sets out in search of him. But her quest, like Seylin’s own journey, is really a plot devised by the cunning goblin King, who has his own reason to hunt for elves. As Emily and Seylin come closer to their goals, they bring two worlds onto a collision course, awakening hatreds and prejudices that have slumbered for hundreds of years.

In the Coils of the Snake by Clare B. Dunkle

Miranda has waited her whole life to come to the goblin kingdom. Now she’s finally underground where she has always wanted to be, but she never imagined she would feel so lost. Her beloved Marak, the center of her world since childhood, has reached the end of his reign.
But Marak didn’t raise a coward. He taught Miranda to be brave, intelligent, and proud—the ideal woman to take her place beside Catspaw, the new goblin King.
Then a mysterious and highly magical elf lord brings his people back to their homeland, reigniting the age-old battle between goblins and elves. Miranda finds herself a prisoner. Caught between the two hostile rulers, she becomes their greatest reason for war—and possibly their only hope for a future.

By These Ten Bones by Clare B. Dunkle

A mysterious young man has come to a small Highland town. His talent for wood carving soon wins him work at the castle and the admiration of the weaver’s daughter Maddie. Fascinated by the silent carver, she sets out to gain his trust, only to find herself drawn into a terrifying secret that threatens everything she loves.
There is an evil presence in the woodcarver’s life that cannot be controlled, and Maddie watches her town fall under a shadow. One by one, people begin to die. Caught in the middle, Maddie must decide what matters most to her—and what price she is willing to pay to keep it.

The Humming of Numbers by Joni Stensel

Aidan is poised to take his monastic vows—until a girl enters the abbey, one who hums of the number eleven. Aidan has the ability to hear the humming of numbers, a buzzing energy given off by living things. He is captivated and tormented by the mysterious girl, Lana, who has some unusual abilities of her own. How can he become a monk when his mind is filled with impure thoughts? Before he can begin to sort his feelings out, the Vikings raid. Only Aidan and Lana can save the village from certain, violent death—and only if they learn to trust in their mysterious talents. Joni Sensel’s richly imagined new novel is a compelling blend of fantasy and adventure.

The Executioner's Daughter by Laura E. Williams

Born into the family of an executioner, Lily has always been sheltered by her mother from the horrors of her father's occupation. While her mother assists her father in all his daily duties, Lily spends her time caring for her animals, collecting herbs, and playing alone in the forest. But when her ailing mother takes a turn for the worse, Lily is suddenly thrust into the paralyzing role of executioner's assistant.
Aside from preparing healing concoctions for the suffering and maimed, Lily must now accompany her father at the town executions, something she has never done before. Though she loves her father, the emotional burden of his disturbing profession is just too much for her to bear. Lily must find a way to change her destiny, no matter the consequences. (My review here)

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

The summer of 1899 is hot in Calpurnia’s sleepy Texas town, and there aren’t a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine from town, but Callie might just have to resort to stealthily cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She also spends a lot of time at the river with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist. It turns out that every drop of river water is teeming with life — all you have to do is look through a microscope!
As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and learns just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

The Shrouding Woman by Loretta Ellsworth

It was once common practice for small towns to have a shrouding woman to help put their dead to rest. Still, when eleven-year-old Evie's Aunt Flo-herself a shrouding woman-comes to town, Evie knows little of a shrouding woman's ways and wants nothing to do with this aunt of hers, especially after her own mother's recent death. But as this mysterious woman slowly makes her way into Evie's life, her strong and sensitive presence brings far more than signs of death to a grieving girl's home.
Set in the mid-1800s, this beautifully written story, centered on the little-known practice of shrouding, touches on death and healing with sensitivity and quiet dignity.

Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse

In letters to her cousin, a young Jewish girl chronicles her family's flight from Russia in 1919 and her own experiences when she must be left in Belgium for a while when the others immigrate to America.
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