Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Sigrun's Secret by Marie-Louise Jensen

Sigrun's Secret by Marie-Louise Jensen (Published by Oxford University Press, January 2011)

"Their garments are black as night. They carry torches in their hands, darkness and anger in their hearts. They are coming."
When a dark family secret is exposed, Sigrun's peaceful life is shattered. Forced to pay for her parents' misdeeds, she finds herself exiled from all she knows - and from the boy she loves - for three long years.
Yet more secrets lie ahead; not least the power Sigrun finds awakening in herself, seemingly passed to her from a mysterious amulet. Can she use her new-found gift to save herself and those around her from the dangers they face? And will true love wait until her return?

I have loved all of Marie-Louise Jensen's books so far and can't wait to read her next book!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In My Mailbox - 6/19/10

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:

Wildwing by Emily Whitman

Addy knows there's so much more to life than what she has. She must be destined for more than being a maid to an eccentric elderly man. And so when she finds a mysterious contraption in the gentleman's study, of course she steps inside. Of course she bumps into the wrong button. Suddenly Addy is in medieval England, mistaken for the young woman betrothed to the lord of the nearby manor. It's destiny. But is it home? And will she ever find her way back to her own time? Will she want to, once she's met the shy, handsome falconer's apprentice?

Surrender the Heart by MaryLu Tyndall

For the sake of her ailing mother, Marianne Denton becomes engaged to Noah Brennin---a merchantman she despises. But as the War of 1812 escalates, Jonah's ship is captured by the British, and the ill-matched couple learns vital information that could aid America's cause. As they battle to save their country, will they also find love?


Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men—ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable—vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones—and garner suspicion from her friends—by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn't love?

Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist

From the day she arrives at the Biltmore, Tillie Reese is dazzled--by the riches of the Vanderbilts and by Mack Danvers, a mountain man turned footman. When Tillie is enlisted to help tame Mack's rugged behavior by tutoring him in proper servant etiquette, the resulting sparks threaten Tillie's efforts to be chosen as Edith Vanderbilt's lady's maid. After all, the one rule of the house is no romance below stairs.
But the stakes rise even higher when Mack and Tillie become entangled in a cover-up at the town orphanage. They could both lose their jobs, their aspirations ...and their hearts.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book review: The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry

The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry (Published by Henry Holt, June 8, 2010)

As the youngest daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her husband, King Henry II of England, Joan is forced from a very young age to be wise and observant beyond her years. Her parents have a troubled relationship, and Joan often feels torn between them, and worried about her older brothers, particularly Richard who is her favorite, as her parents often have arguments about their sons.

While still a young girl, Joan is married off to King William of Sicily, who is ten years older than her. The marriage is not a loving one, as William has little use for Joan except to try and produce an heir, which is not successful as they are unable to have a child. Although she does not find happiness in marriage, as Queen of Sicily Joan matures into a strong and capable young woman, even going on Crusade with her brother Richard after the death of her husband.

The Queen’s Daughter is a fascinating novel rich in historical detail. I love historical fiction about the Middle Ages and I love novels about real queens and princesses from history so this book combined two of my favorite topics in historical fiction. The Middle Ages is a time period often heavily romanticized in fiction, but as Joan’s story shows, wealthy women of that time were virtual prisoners, married off by their families for political or monetary gain. Since only the basic facts of Joan’s life are known, the author fills in the details, imagining Joan’s life starting when she is seven and ending when she is in her early thirties. This is a book that I would highly recommend to both teens and adults who love historical fiction, particularly those who enjoy stories about real queens and princesses from history.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Interview with Susan Coventry, author of The Queen's Daughter

Susan Coventry is the author of The Queen's Daughter, a young adult historical novel about the life of Joan, the youngest daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her second husband, Henry II, King of England. The book is set during the Middle Ages, one of my favorite historical time periods, so I am especially excited to feature this interview! And if you would like to learn more about Susan Coventry and The Queen's Daughter you can visit her website.

What inspired you to write a novel about Joan? Her parents are quite famous, but it seems not much has been written about Joan herself.

I wanted to write about Joan because not much has been written about her. I discovered her in a roundabout way- through her husband Raymond, not through her parents, and was kind-of taken aback. I knew the story of Eleanor and Henry and the rebellious sons. How had I never heard of the daughters?!! I started researching Joan and was amazed by the rich life she must have led. She traveled as much as her mother. She was also married to a king. She nearly married a Saracen! At the same time, I thought: imagine having Eleanor of Aquitaine as a mother. It was difficult enough for the sons, but try being a daughter living up to Eleanor’s expectations. And after all that, she suffers the indignity of being all but forgotten by posterity. It didn’t seem fair. I wanted to tell Joan’s side.

Why did you decide to tell her story as a novel for young adults?

I didn’t actually set out to write a story for young adults, but just to tell Joan’s story. The book is influenced by her age and her voice, and my writing is probably influenced by novels I was reading as I wrote. I read a lot with my own kids, and they’re teens now. In fact, I’m not really sure that if I had sat down and said "I’m going to write a YA book" I could have done it that way.

The Queen's Daughter is a novel that is really rich in historical detail. What kind of research did you do?

I wish I could say I traveled to all the places Joan lived, but I only visited Toulouse/southern France. The bulk of my research was more mundane. I read everything I could find. I made a lot of use of the public library and the university library to scour any medieval sources for references to Joan or her husbands. I borrowed and bought a lot of books. There is more information available on-line now than there was when I started writing the book, but I did use the internet too. Not everything on-line is reliable, but then again, some of the books also contradict each other. There was a lot going on in Joan’s world at the time, so there was plenty of information to absorb. The frustrating thing was how little reference was ever made to Joan.

The Middle Ages is an era that is often highly romanticized but in reality was very different, particularly for women. Were you surprised by what you learned about the lives of Medieval women?

I wasn’t so much surprised as I was impressed by the strength and resilience of these women. Their lives were very physically difficult and in a lot of ways dangerous. Their lifespans (excluding the remarkable Eleanor) were short. Women had so little voice and left so little record. One of Raymond’s wives, for example, was the daughter of an emperor, and her name was never even recorded. (In my book, I called her Theodora.) And yet, of course women played crucial roles– it’s just most of the time they weren’t given credit for what they did except for giving birth. They must have wielded influence in subtle ways. Love is not a modern concept and it is a powerful force. I’m not saying they used love to be manipulative, but I imagine they influenced the men in their lives. Medieval women’s lives were very different from ours but I can’t help thinking that at a basic level, we are very much the same.

If you could go back in time for a day (with guaranteed safety!), what place and time would you visit?

I would visit Southern France just before the crusades against the Cathars-- the early thirteenth century. It was supposed to have been a mini-Renaissance, a time when troubadours flourished and Count Raymond VI tried to maintain a semblance of peace and stability in Occitania. (Maybe I have a romanticized view!) The ruins of some the old castles are still there. It’s a great place to go and imagine the Middle Ages.

What are some of your own favorite books and authors?

Historical fiction is my passion. I love everything I’ve read by Cecelia Holland, particularly Great Maria. I’m also a fan of Colleen McCullough and Sharon Kay Penman’s meatier historicals and of the Lymond chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.

In the children’s/young adult realm, I really enjoyed What I Saw and How I Lied. I’ve been a fan of Judy Blundell/Jude Watson since reading her various Star War series with my son. I’ve reread The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander with both my kids, and Watership Down will always be one of my favorites. Gerald Morris’s Squire’s Tales books are also at the top of my list.

When you are not writing, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I love to read, but with a largely sedentary day-job and all the sitting required while I’m writing, what makes me happiest is getting outside and away from home with my kids. It has to be away from all the distractions of home so that we can really focus on family time. I love camping and hiking. My daughter likes the challenge of climbing things-- rock-climbing, tree-climbing. And my son likes canoeing. My husband is in charge of making it all work out!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Poisoned House by Michael Ford

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford (Published by Bloomsbury UK, August 2, 2010)

The year is 1856, and orphan Abigail Tamper lives below stairs in Greave Hall, a crumbling manor house in London. Lord Greave is plagued by madness, and with his son Samuel away fighting in the Crimea, the running of Greave Hall is left to Mrs Cotton, the tyrannical housekeeper. The only solace for the beleaguered staff is to frighten Mrs Cotton by pretending the house is haunted.
So when a real ghost makes an appearance - that of her beloved mother - no one is more surprised than Abi. But the spirit has a revelation that threatens to destroy Abi’s already fragile existence: she was murdered, and by someone under their very own roof. With Samuel returned to England badly wounded, it’s up to Abi to nurse him back to health, while trying to discover the identity of the killer in their midst. As the chilling truth dawns, Abi’s world is turned upside down.

A Victorian murder mystery set in a creepy old house - sounds rather Gothic, doesn't it? And the cover is very creepy.

Note: This book is publihed in the UK, if you live outside the UK and wish to purchase it, it can be pre-ordered from The Book Depository with free worldwide shipping: (I am not affiliated with them in any way other than as a customer, I just think they are awesome!)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In My Mailbox - 6/12/10

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:

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
So much for normal.


Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper

Grace Parkes has just had to do a terrible thing. Having given birth to an illegitimate child, she has travelled to the famed Brookwood Cemetery to place her small infant's body in a rich lady's coffin. Following the advice of a kindly midwife, this is the only way that Grace can think of to give something at least to the little baby who died at birth, and to avoid the ignominy of a pauper's grave. Distraught and weeping, Grace meets two people at the cemetery: Mrs Emmeline Unwin and Mr James Solent. These two characters will have a profound affect upon Grace's life. But Grace doesn't know that yet. For now, she has to suppress her grief and get on with the business of living: scraping together enough pennies selling watercress for rent and food; looking after her older sister, who is incapable of caring for herself; thwarting the manipulative and conscience-free Unwin family, who are as capable of running a lucrative funeral business as they are of defrauding a young woman of her fortune. A stunning evocation of life in Victorian London, with vivid and accurate depictions, ranging from the deprivation that the truly poor suffered to the unthinking luxuries enjoyed by the rich: all bound up with a pacy and thrilling plot, as Grace races to unravel the fraud about to be perpetrated against her and her sister.

Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon be married. She dreams of a handsome and charming prince, but when the first suitor arrives, she finds him stodgy and boring. Prince Aethelbald from the mysterious land of Farthestshore has traveled far to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be approaching Parumvir.
Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his warnings. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir, and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in grave danger. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

The Seeker by Ann H. Gabhart

Charlotte Vance is a young woman who knows what she wants. But when the man she planned to marry joins the Shakers--a religious group that does not marry--she is left dumbfounded. And when her father brings home a new wife who is young enough to be Charlotte's sister, it is more than she can bear. With the country--and her own household--on the brink of civil war, this pampered gentlewoman hatches a plan to avoid her new stepmother and win back her man by joining the Shaker community at Harmony Hill. Little does she know that this decision will lead her down a road toward unforeseen peace--and a very unexpected love.

The Protector by Carla Capshaw

Quintus Ambustus is a slave — Adiona Leonia is a wealthy socialite. He fights for his life in the gladiator's ring — she plays cutthroat politics in Rome's high society. He's sacrificed everything for his Christian faith — she believes in nothing and no one. But when Adiona's life is threatened, Quintus is chosen as her bodyguard, and their fascination with one another shocks them both. Neither thought to find joy in a match society would condemn…but their feelings cannot be denied. Have they lost too much to believe in happiness? Or will their growing love let them leave the past behind—and build a new future together?

Interview with Lee Nichols + Giveaway

Lee Nichols is the author of Deceptions, the first book in the Haunting Emma series, which I just reviewed today. In addition to the interview, thanks to Bloomsbury I have one ARC of the book to give away to a lucky winner! Information on how to enter can be found below the interview and if you want to learn more about Lee and her books, you can visit her website.

Can you tell us a little bit about Deception and the Haunting Emma series?

When seventeen-year-old Emma Vaile's parents disappear she discovers she can see and control ghosts and that her parents knew this all along. So where are they and what have they done? She also loses her best friend, battles an evil ghost and falls for the wrong guy.

After writing several adult books, what inspired you to write a YA paranormal about ghosts?

I first conceived of DECEPTION as an adult novel and the more I worked with the idea, the more I realized I really wanted it to be a YA. My goal was to write a contemporary Gothic novel with a kick-butt heroine.

If you could have any paranormal ability, what would you choose?

I love dogs, so I think I'd like to be a werewolf. Or maybe a wereFrechbulldog.

Is anything in the story based on your own experiences as a teenager?
I think Emma's teasing relationships with her friends is how I interacted with my friends. And I moved from California to Massachusetts for college, so Emma's feelings about that transition in high school are akin to my own. And a lot has been made lately about missing parents in YA fiction, but that really was my experience. My parents were divorced, my father lived 2000 miles away and my mother worked and had a life other than her children. So I had a lot of autonomy at seventeen.

When will the next Haunting Emma book be released?

BETRAYAL comes out March, 2011! The cliff hanger at the end of the first book is making people desperate for book two. All I can say is Emma becomes even more kick-butt and Bennett turns into a bad boy.

When you are not writing, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I've got a 5 year old son, so he sucks up most of my free time. When I'm not with him, I'm with husband, friends, or the dogs. Or, more likely, sleeping.

Contest rules:
To enter the contest, just post a comment on this interview with your email address. Contest is open to US residents only (no PO boxes).
For one extra entry, you can link to this post anywhere such as your blog, Twitter, etc. If you do, be sure to let me know in your comment!
Entries must be posted by Saturday, June 19th. Good luck!

Book review: Deceptions: A Haunting Emma Novel by Lee Nichols

Deceptions: A Haunting Emma Novel by Lee Nichols (Published by Bloomsbury, June 8, 2010)

When seventeen-year-old Emma Vale’s parents go on a business trip, she hopes for a fun couple of weeks without parental supervision. But the reality turns out to be much different. Weird things begin to happen, and then Emma’s parents disappear. She has nowhere else to go, until Bennett, her older brother’s friend, arrives, claiming to be her guardian. He takes Emma to live in his family’s home in Massachusetts, which is a creepy old museum, and enrolls Emma in Thatcher, an exclusive private school.

Adjusting to a new home and a new school while worrying about her parents turn out not to be Emma’s biggest problems, as creepy and violent visions from her childhood return. She learns that she is a ghostkeeper, and has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. There is also a mystery to solve, as someone has been murdering ghostkeepers.

Deceptions, the first book in the Haunting Emma series, is a fun and spooky paranormal read. Lee Nichols successfully combines normal teenage life with a creepy supernatural mystery. Emma’s first person narration is very entertaining, she is a very smart and funny character. The story has a Gothic feel and is a nice change from all the vampire and werewolf books out there. All these factors combine to make this a book that stands out among all the young adult paranormal fiction out there, I had been tired of the genre lately because of all the sameness but this is definitely a unique story that is well worth a read. My one complaint is the cliffhanger ending since now I can’t wait for the next book!

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

June 2010 historical fiction feature - the American Revolution

Since I love historical fiction so much, a couple of months ago I decided to start a monthly feature on my blog where I would post about books covering a certain time period or topic in the middle grade & young adult historical fiction genres. In March I posted about Tudor England historical fiction, and in April I blogged about historical fiction about people of color, along with a guest post from Ari of Reading in Color, and just last month, I posted about books set in the Colonial America era. Now, for June, I am following up with a post about books set during the American Revolution, which was an exciting time in history when the United States became an independent country.

Middle grade books:

Daniel at the Siege of Boston by Laurie Calkhoven: In 1776 Boston, twelve-year-old Daniel Prescott enjoys assuming his father’s role in taking care of his mother and sister, as well as his work as a spy and messenger for the American revolutionaries, but the pleasure ends when he witnesses the horrors of war firsthand, and learns that a trusted patriot is actually a British spy.

Betsy Zane: The Rose of Fort Henry by Lynda Durrant: In 1781 twelve-year-old Elizabeth Zane, great-great-aunt of novelist Zane Grey, leaves Philadelphia to return to her brothers’ homestead near Fort Henry in what is now West Virginia, where she plays an important role in the final battle of the American Revolution.

Give Me Liberty by L.M. Elliott: Follows the life of thirteen-year-old Nathaniel Dunn, from May 1774 to December 1775, as he serves his indentureship with a music teacher in Williamsburg, Virginia, and witnesses the growing rift between patriots and loyalists, culminating in the American Revolution.

Betrayal at Cross Creek by Kathleen Ernst: Twelve-year-old Elspeth Monro, a Scottish settler and weaver’s apprentice on the North Carolina frontier in 1775, must find out who is betraying her Loyalist family during the months before the start of the Revolutionary War.

Ride of Courage by Deborah Felder: In 1781, twelve-year-old Molly Randall, living with her family in Yorktown, Virginia, finds her courage tested when she must ride a powerful Arabian horse to get help for a neighbor about to be executed for treason by the British.

Hope's Crossing by Joan Elizabeth Goodman: During the Revolutionary War, thirteen-year-old Hope, seized by the band of Tories who attack her Connecticut home, finds herself enslaved in a Tory household on Long Island and uses all her resources to escape and make her way home.

Midnight Rider by Joan Hiatt Harlow: In Boston in 1775, orphaned fourteen-year-old Hannah is indentured to the family of a British general and begins attending secret meetings disguised as a boy, then passing messages and warnings to the revolutionaries using her beloved horse Promise.

My America: Hope's Revolutionary War Diaries by Kristiana Gregory: The diaries of a young girl living in Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War, the three books are Five Smooth Stones, We Are Patriots, and When Freedom Comes.

Dear America: The Winter of Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory: Eleven-year-old Abigail presents a diary account of life in Valley Forge from December 1777 to July 1778 as General Washington prepares his troops to fight the British. (Sequel: Cannons at Dawn)

Dear America: Love Thy Neighbor by Ann Turner: In Greenmarsh, Massachusetts, in 1774, thirteen-year-old Prudence keeps a diary of the troubles she and her family face as Tories surrounded by American patriots at the start of the American Revolution.

My Name is America: The Journal of William Thomas Emerson by Barry Denenberg: William, a twelve-year-old orphan, writes of his experiences in pre-Revolutionary War Boston where he joins the cause of the patriots who are opposed to the British rule.

Dear Canada: With Nothing But Our Courage by Karleen Bradford: When Mary's family sides with the British against the American rebels, they are branded traitors and forced to flee their home. All they have is what they can carry with them — and their determination and courage — when they head north toward Canada.

American Diaries: Mary Alice Peale by Kathleen Duey: When her wounded brother returns from battle, twelve-year-old Mary must get help for him without telling her father, a wealthy Tory, who has disowned his son for joining General Washington’s Continental Army.

The Daughters of Liberty series by Elizabeth Massie: The adventures of two friends who live in Philadelphia at the start of the American Revolution. Books are Patsy's Discovery, Patsy and the Declaration, and Barbara's Escape.

Spy by Anna Myers: In 1774, twelve-year-old Jonah becomes a pupil of Nathan Hale, who inspires him to question his beliefs about the impending revolution, and two years later, Jonah makes a decision that leads to Nathan’s execution.

The Keeping Room by Anna Myers: Left in charge of the family when his father leaves their South Carolina home to fight in the Revolutionary War, thirteen-year-old Joey Kershaw finds all his resources tested when General Cornwallis comes to town and chooses the Kershaw house as his headquarters.

Annie Henry: Adventures in the American Revolution by Susan Olasky: Follows the adventures of Annie Henry, daughter of patriot Patrick Henry, as she grows up during the American Revolution.

Thomas: Patriots on the Run by Bonnie Pryor: Thomas believes the Revolutionary War will never come to his peaceful Pennsylvania valley. But all too soon, he and his family are running for their lives

Thomas in Danger by Bonnie Pryor: Having lost their home when the Revolutionary War reached their part of rural Pennsylvania, Thomas and his family start a new life running an inn in Philadelphia, where Thomas finds new danger that takes him into captivity among the Iroquois.

The Hannah books by Jean Van Leeuwen: The adventures of a young girl growing up in Fairfield, Connecticut during the American Revolution. The books are Hannah of Fairfield, Hannah's Helping Hands, and Hannah's Winter of Hope.

The Sarah's Journey series by Wanda Luttrell: The story of a young girl named Sarah growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia and on the Kentucky frontier during the American Revolution.

American Girl Felicity Mysteries: Lady Margaret's Ghost, Peril at King's Creek, and Traitor in Williamsburg.

Hannah Pritchard: Pirate of the Revolution by Bonnie Pryor: After her parents and brother are killed by Loyalists, fourteen-year-old Hannah leaves their farm and eventually, disguised as a boy, joins a pirate ship that preys on other ships to get supplies for the American Revolution.

An Eye for an Eye by Peter and Connie Roop: In 1775 fourteen-year-old Samantha, who should be wearing dresses, knows that in britches she can out-hunt her twin and out-sail her older brother near their James River home, but can she use those skills against the British when the American Revolution begins?

Young adult books:

Catherine and the Pirate by Karen Hawkins: Catherine Markham falls in love with the pirate who escorts her on a dangerous voyage from Boston to Savannah during the American Revolution.

Ann of the Wild Rose Inn by Jennifer Armstrong: Sixteen-year-old Ann and her twin brother, John, are dedicated to the cause of American independence, but when Ann falls in love with a British soldier, her resolve is tested.

Cast Two Shadows by Ann Rinaldi: In South Carolina in 1780, fourteen-year-old Caroline sees the Revolutionary War take a terrible toll among her family and friends and, along with a startling revelation about her own background, comes to understand the true nature of war.

The Family Greene by Ann Rinaldi: Follows Caty and her daughter Cornelia through the latter half of the eighteenth century as they mingle with the heroes of the Revolutionary War, discovering that a woman’s only means of power, flirting, can cause trouble and confusion.

Time Enough for Drums by Ann Rinaldi: Sixteen-year-old Jem and her servant struggle to keep things going at home in Trenton, New Jersey, when the family men join the war for independence from the British king.

Finishing Becca by Ann Rinaldi: In 1778 fourteen-year-old Becca takes a position as personal maid to Peggy Shippen, the daughter of wealthy Philadelphia Quakers, and witnesses the events that lead to General Benedict Arnold’s betrayal of the revolutionary American forces.

A Ride into Morning by Ann Rinaldi: When unrest spreads at the Revolutionary War camp in Morristown, New Jersey, under the command of General Anthony Wayne, a young woman cleverly hides her horse from the mutinous soldiers who have need of it.

Or Give Me Death by Ann Rinaldi: With their father away most of the time advocating independence for the American colonies, the children of Patrick Henry try to raise themselves, manage the family plantation, and care for their mentally ill mother.

Just Jane by William Lavender: Fourteen-year-old Jane Prentice, orphaned daughter of an English earl, arrives in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1776 to find her family and her loyalties divided over the question of American independence.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson: The story of Isabel, a slave girl living in New York at the beginning of the American Revolution.

The Innkeeper's Daughter by Lou Kassem: Wishing she could join the fight for independence rather than submit to the duties of a frontier wife, fiery young Byroney Rose Frazer overhears enemy plans and begins a desperate journey to save the family and the man she loves.

The Way Lies North by Jean Rae Baxter: After her three brothers are killed and her sweetheart joins the Rebels in the Revolutionary War, Charlotte and her loyalist family are forced to flee their home for the safety of Canada and are aided along their arduous journey by members of the Mohawk nation.

Saratoga Secret by Betsy Sterman: In 1777, as General Burgoyne and his British troops invade the Upper Hudson River Valley, sixteen-year-old Amity must carry a secret message to the Continental army to give warning of an impending attack.

The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn: It is 1777 and Phoebe Olcott is thrown headlong into the horrors of war when her beloved cousin Gideon is hanged for being a British spy. When she finds a message left by Gideon containing the names of Loyalist families to be protected by the King's army, Phoebe knows she must deliver the message to the general at Fort Ticonderoga. She sets out into the wilderness and soon meets up with Jem, a young Loyalist travelling to the safety of British Canada. As they travel across the country facing rebel guns, wild animals and worse, Phoebe and Jem discover they have a growing attraction for each other. But her own mission cannot be ignored and Phoebe once again finds herself alone, freezing and near death before she is reunited with Jem on the shores of Lake Ontario.

An Enemy Among Them by Deborah H. DeFord: A young Hessian soldier questions his loyalty to his king after fighting with the British in America during the Revolutionary War and spending time as a prisoner in the home of a German American family from Pennsylvania.

Soldier's Secret by Sheila Solomon Klass: During the Revolutionary War, a young woman named Deborah Sampson disguises herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army.

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen: From his 1776 Pennsylvania homestead, thirteen-year-old Samuel, who is a highly-skilled woodsman, sets out toward New York City to rescue his parents from the band of British soldiers and Indians who kidnapped them after slaughtering most of their community.

Sunfire: Sabrina by Candice F. Ransom: A historical romance about a teenage girl living during the American Revolution who spies for the patriots and must choose between the two young men who love her, one a Tory and the other a patriot.

1776: Son of Liberty by Elizabeth Massie: On his farm in Maryland, sixteen-year-old Caleb Jacobson hears rumors of an armed rebellion of the Massachusetts colonists against the oppressive tyranny of King George III and his soliders. Educated in a small Quaker school, Caleb has been taught that it is wrong to raise one's hand against another. Yet Caleb is a free black living in a slave colony. He knows firsthand the horrors and hardships of slavery and wonders what good an American victory will do if his fellow blacks--including his best friend Gaddi--remain shackled in bondage. Then comes news that the British Governor Lord Dunmore promises freedom to any slave who joins his army against the Americans. Can he be trusted to keep his work? Or should Caleb support the colonists' fight in hope of a better future for his people? Caleb will have to choose.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Dear America: Like the Willow Tree by Lois Lowry

Dear America: Like the Willow Tree by Lois Lowry (Published by Scholastic, January 1, 2011)

Suddenly orphaned by the Spanish flu epidemic in the fall of 1918, eleven-year-old Lydia Pierce and her fourteen-year-old brother, Daniel, of Portland, Maine, are taken by their uncle to be raised in the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake. Thrust into the Shakers' unfamiliar way of life, Lydia must grapple with a new world that is nothing like the one she used to know. Now separated from her beloved brother, for men and women do not mix in this community, Lydia must adjust to many changes. But in time, and with her courageous spirit, she learns to find the joy in life again.

It's a new Dear America book, enough said! Dear America was one of my favorite series ever so I am very excited that there are finally some new books in the series after many years. I already read the September 2010 release, The Fences Between Us, and loved it. And I am very excited for Like the Willow Tree and hope I love it just as much!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Book review: My Side of the Story: The Plague by Philip Wooderson

My Side of the Story: The Plague by Philip Wooderson (Published by Kingfisher, July 5, 2006)

The Plague is a book written in a rather unique style; it is actually more like two books in one. The first half of the book is told from the perspective of one character; then, in the second half of the book, the story continues from the point of view of the first character’s cousin. I really liked the idea, and wish I had ended up liking the actual book more.

The first part of this story is narrated by Rachel, a young girl living in London in 1665, at the time of the great plague that devastated the city. She had lived a rather comfortable, middle class life, as the daughter of a merchant. The plague changes all that, and in addition to her worries about whether she and her family will survive and escape the diseased city, she doesn’t know what happened to her cousin, Robert, who disappeared at the beginning of the story. The second half of the story is told by Robert who explains what happened to him and how he eventually reunites with Rachel and the rest of his family as the plague spreads to the countryside.

I have read and enjoyed several other books about the plague in London in 1665 - in particular I really enjoyed two others, At the Sign of the Sugared Plum by Mary Hooper, which is written for young adults, and The Great Plague by Pamela Oldfield, from the My Story series, which is for middle grade readers. So I had hoped I might really like this book as well. But the plot was rather weak and I think it might have been better if the book was just about the characters’ struggles to survive during the plague rather than adding in a poorly developed and not very interesting mystery. I think the narration was actually supposed to be a diary or memoir written by the main characters but it wasn’t entirely clear. In addition the details of the plague seemed a bit much for a middle grade novel and might disturb younger readers. I’m not really sure who I’d recommend this book to, maybe young adult readers who are extremely interested in the time period the story is set in and who are looking for a quick read. The Plague truly isn’t the most awful book, I've read worse, but it's not very good either, and there are just so many better books out there, including others about the same historical events.

In My Mailbox - 6/5/10

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 Agency: The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

Mary Quinn is back, now a trusted member of the Agency, the all female detective unit operating out of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. Her new assignment sends her into the grimy underbelly of Victorian London dressed as a poor boy, evoking her own childhood memories of fear, hunger, and constant want. As she insinuates herself into the confidence of several persons of interest, she encounters others in desperate situations and struggles to make a difference without exposing --or losing --her identity. Mary’s adventure, which takes place on the building site of the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, offers a fictional window into a fascinating historical time and place.

Stork by Wendy Dersol

Sixteen-year-old Katla has just moved from Los Angeles to the sticks of Minnesota. As if it weren’t enough that her trendy fashion sense draws stares, she learns to her horror that she’s a member of an ancient order of women who decide to whom certain babies will be born. Add to that Wade, the arrogant football star whom Katla regrettably fooled around with, and Jack, a gorgeous farm boy who initially seems to hate her. Soon Katla is having freaky dreams about a crying infant and learns that, as children, she and Jack shared a near-fatal, possibly mystical experience. Can Katla survive this major life makeover and find a dress for the homecoming dance?


The World Above by Cameron Dokey

Gen and her twin brother, Jack, were raised with their mother's tales of life in the World Above. Gen is skeptical, but adventureous Jack believes the stories--and trades the family cow for magical beans. Their mother rejoices, knowing they can finally return to their royal home.
When Jack plants the beans and climbs the enchanted stalk, he is captured by the tyrant who now rules the land. Gen sets off to rescue her borther, but danger awaits her in the World Above. For finding Jack may mean losing her heart....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen (Published by HarperTeen, October 26, 2010)

Bright Young Things is the first in an epic four-book series about three teenage girls finding their way in the glittering metropolis of New York City and the glamorous mansions of Long Island. It’s 1929 and Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey have escaped their small Midwestern town to chase big dreams and even bigger secrets. In New York, they meet Astrid Donal, a flapper who has everything she could ever want, except for the one thing Letty and Cordelia have to offer—true friendship. Set in the dizzying summer before the market crash, against the vast lawns of the East End and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls will find romance, intrigue, and adventure.

I enjoyed Anna Godbersen's Luxe series and hopefully her new series will be enjoyable as well. The historical setting of the 1920s sounds very interesting and I haven't read a book set in that time period recently. Sadly there weren't ARCs at BEA as originally announced, they just had a sample book with a few chapters in it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book review: Traitor in Williamsburg by Elizabeth McDavid Jones

Traitor in Williamsburg: A Felicity Mystery by Elizabeth McDavid Jones (Published by American Girl, March 2008)

It is April 1776 in Williamsburg, Virginia, where eleven-year-old Felicity Merriman lives with her family. It is shortly after the beginning of the American Revolution, and with the royal governor having fled Williamsburg, the town is now ruled by the Committee of Safety, a group of Patriots who try to identify those with Loyalist sympathies who may be aiding the British. But the anti-Loyalist sentiments are causing some innocent men to be accused as well, such as the father of Felicity‘s friend Fiona McLeod. Mr. McLeod is innocent, but fearing for his family’s safety, he decides they must all leave Williamsburg.

Felicity’s sadness over missing her friend is soon replaced by worry for her father when the same mysterious man who accused Fiona’s father accuses Felicity’s own father, a known Patriot, of being a traitor. With the help of her best friend, Elizabeth, and her father’s apprentice, Ben, Felicity must find out the identity of the mysterious accuser so that she can clear her father’s name.

Traitor in Williamsburg is a book that is sure to be enjoyed by young girls who enjoy historical fiction. The characters are likeable and the story teaches many historical facts. As a young girl I loved the American Girl books and Felicity was one of my favorite characters because I always have loved stories set in colonial America, so I still enjoyed this book even if I am way too old for it now! Because this book and the other American Girl Mysteries are longer than the original American Girl books, the series will especially be enjoyed by readers who love the American Girl books and characters but who are beginning to move on to longer books. However the book also works fine as a standalone and it is not necessary to have read previous books about Felicity to enjoy the story.
Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Drowsy Town kit by Irene Alexeeva