Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielson

Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielson (Published by Scholastic, July 1, 2010)

Adrianne is struggling with the harsh reality of poverty in her seaside village, only to be swept away to an underwater mermaid kingdom to be the bride of the Prince of the Sea. Chosen for her noble heart and character, Adrianne realizes that she has not seen herself clearly for who she is--someone who could be a princess. She must make a decision: embrace this strangely luxurious life under the sea, or return home to the ones she loves and the difficulties ahead..

I love the premise of this book! An underwater mermaid kingdom sounds so cool, and the cover is so pretty. I wish the release date for this one wasn't so far off!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book review: Betraying Season by Marissa Doyle

Betraying Season by Marissa Doyle (Published by Henry Holt, September 29, 2009)

After her twin sister, Persephone, marries - during her first London season, no less - teenage witch Penelope Leland travels to Ireland in the spring of 1838 with her former governess Ally, who is also newly married. Pen has never been as talented with magic as Persy, and would like to prove that she can be as good a witch as her twin. She hopes her studies in Ireland will enable her to do just that.

Shortly after her arrival in Dublin, Pen meets the handsome young Niall Keating. He begins to court her, and attracted to him, she enjoys it - even to the point where she is distracted from her studies. Unknown to Pen, however, is that Niall is acting on orders from his mother, who is also a powerful witch. Lady Keating wants to use Pen as part of a sinister plot against Queen Victoria. What wasn’t part of the plan was Niall and Pen falling in love with each other for real.

Betraying Season is a wonderful sequel to Marissa Doyle’s first book, Bewitching Season, but also manages to stand on its own for readers who haven’t read the first book. It contains a perfect blend of magic, romance, and history. I highly recommend both books to readers who enjoy young adult fantasy or historical fiction.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book review: The Goldsmith's Daughter by Tanya Landman

The Goldsmith's Daughter by Tanya Landman (Published by Candlewick, September 9, 2009)

Itacate was born in the great city of Tenochtitlán during the last years of the ill-fated Aztec empire. Her mother died giving birth to Itacate and her twin brother, and Itacate herself almost didn’t survive. As a result, she is considered from birth to be unlucky and destined to a terrible future, while her brother is believed to be destined to greatness. She spends her childhood mostly ignored, until her father, a goldsmith, discovers her talents and makes her his secret apprentice. But the year Itacate turns fifteen, everything changes.

First, Itacate’s twin brother, whom she believed would grow to be a great warrior, is instead chosen as a sacrifice to the gods. Then, Spanish Conquistadors arrive. Itacate catches the eye of one young Spaniard, Francisco. But when their secret love is discovered, it brings down upon them the wrath of her father and the disapproval of her people. And time is running out for Tenochtitlán and its people. What will become of Itacate, her family, and her beloved when the city falls?

The Goldsmith’s Daughter is a fascinating historical novel that brings to life the Aztec culture and the final days of the great city of Tenochtitlán and the beginning of the Spanish conquest of the Americas. Although the historical outcome is known, there is still suspense in wondering what will become of the fictional characters when the city inevitably is destroyed. Although the author does make a few modifications to the actual historical events for the sake of the story, overall she does a good job of introducing teen readers to the Aztec culture and to an era of history not often written about for young adults.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book review: A Pearl Among Princes by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

A Pearl Among Princes by Coleen Murtagh Paratore (Published by Dial Books, September 17, 2009)

Gracepearl Coal is the cook's daughter on Miramore, the island where every summer the young princes of the nearby kingdoms come for their training. The only way to come and go from the island is on the boats that take the princes there, and Gracepearl has for many years longed to leave the island on one of those boats and see the world beyond.

Now that Gracepearl is almost sixteen, she is old enough to be betrothed. She hopes to be chosen by one of the princes, as it is her only chance of leaving Miramore. And there are two attractive young princes who seem like good potential husbands. But it is a third young man - Mackree, a stable boy on the island - to whom Gracepearl's heart truly belongs. But how can she be with Mackree without giving up her dream of seeing the world beyond Miramore?

A Pearl Among Princes was a very quick read, as it is a middle grade rather than young adult book as I originally had thought from the plot description and the ages of the main characters. However, despite the fact that it was written for a younger age group than I had expected, I did find it to be a fun and cute (at times, maybe too cute) read. If you know a preteen girl who loves fairly tales, this would be a good book to recommend or to give as a gift.

Book review: Duchessina by Carolyn Meyer

Duchessina by Carolyn Meyer (Published by Harcourt Books, June 1, 2007)

Orphaned at a young age and heir to a vast fortune, Catherine de' Medici was one of the wealthiest young women in 16th century Europe. But that did not make her childhood happy. For her own protection, she was kept locked in her home or secluded in a convent for most of her early years. After three years at the convent, she is finally set free, only to learn she is to be married to Henri II, prince of France, in a political union.

Married at the young age of fourteen, Catherine’s marriage is not happy. Her husband is not interested in her, preferring his much older mistress. Catherine knows that in order to secure her future, she must produce a male heir. In order to survive in the world she must live in, she determines that she will use her skill and cunning to outwit, out scheme, and outlast her enemies, shaping her future as one of the most powerful and feared queens in history.

Although Catherine de' Medici is not the most likeable of historical figures - she was known as a cruel and manipulative queen who ruthlessly eliminated her enemies - author Carolyn Meyer manages to make her a sympathetic young woman in this novel, telling of the events that helped shape her later character. I highly recommend this novel to teen readers who love historical fiction. It is a very fascinating look at a famous queen who is not often written about in young adult fiction.

Book review: In Mozart's Shadow by Carolyn Meyer

In Mozart's Shadow by Carolyn Meyer (Published by Harcourt Books, June 1, 2008)

Young Nannerl Mozart, like her younger brother Wolfgang Mozart, has been a talented musician since the time she was a small child. And it is from a young age that she is forced by an unloving and overbearing father to continuously give up her hopes and dreams for the sake of her brother. As a little girl she was allowed to perform by her father, who wanted to show off his children as child prodigies, but even then, she knew he preferred her brother.

When she is too old to be a child prodigy any longer, Nannerl must suffer and sacrifice even more due to the demands of her father, who is determined to put all his efforts into promoting his son’s career. Because she is a girl, she cannot become a famous musician, despite her great talent, and because of her father, she is prevented from studying, pursuing a position at court, or marrying the man of her choosing. Though she loves her brother, she becomes increasingly distant from him due to his career and her own unhappiness at the loss of all her dreams.

In Mozart’s Shadow is another excellent historical novel from the talented Carolyn Meyer. Once again she takes a young woman from the pages of history and brings her to life with all her feelings, hopes, and dreams. Nannerl Mozart was a talented young woman forced to sacrifice so much for her family, and hopefully this and other books about her will give her some of the fame she rightfully deserved in her own lifetime but was prevented from achieving because of her gender and the demands of her family.

Book review: Nine Days a Queen by Ann Rinaldi

Nine Days a Queen by Ann Rinaldi (Published by HarperTeen, January 18, 2005)

Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days at the age of fifteen before being executed for treason, narrates her story beginning at age nine. Unloved by her parents, young Jane had an unhappy and lonely childhood. Sent to court at age nine, she finally gained happiness as a maid of honor to Queen Katharine, wife of King Henry VIII. After the king dies, Jane remains a member of Katharine's household, but even that happiness is lost when Katharine dies in childbirth after remarrying.

Returning home, Jane must once again endure her parents' cruelty, as they scheme to arrange a marriage for her that will bring them wealth and power. But when the young King Edward, Jane's beloved cousin, dies, Jane is unprepared for how far they will go. Staunch Protestants, Jane's parents are determined that Edward's Catholic half-sister Mary will not become queen -- and so they force their daughter to accept the crown of England in a plot that is doomed to failure.

This was an excellent historical novel for teens that tells the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey. I was really looking forward to reading this book, because I love historical novels about royalty, and Ann Rinaldi is one of my favorite authors. I am happy to say I am not disappointed at all. Ann Rinaldi brings Jane to life as an intelligent girl, observant and wise beyond her years, who against her will became a pawn in a power struggle she wanted no part in. This makes the inevitably sad ending even more tragic. Teen readers who are interested in the Tudor era, or who enjoy historical fiction, should definitley read this book.

Book review: The Last Duchess by Sharon Stewart

Beneath the Crown: The Last Duchess by Sharon Stewart (Published by Scholastic Canada, September 1, 2006)

Dunia is a young peasant girl in the Russian countryside of 1911 who runs away from an abusive father, hoping for a better life. She is found by the infamous Rasputin, who takes her to the royal palace to be his messenger. At the palace she befriends the Tsar's family and becomes especially close friends with the youngest daughter, Anastasia. However she begins to distrust Rasputin's motives and on the eve of the Russian Revolution she must choose where her loyalties lie, even if it means risking losing everything she has come to love in her new life.

This was a very interesting and enjoyable historical novel for young adult about the Russian Revolution, and the last Tsar and his family. By using a peasant girl as the narrator and the Tsar's family as main characters, the author was able to show the perspective of an ordinary girl who was born into poverty in contrast to the luxurious life the royal family lived. I would highly recommend this book to young readers who enjoyed historical fiction such as the Royal Diaries series (particularly the one about Anastasia), as well as to older readers like myself who have a special interest in the subject.

Book review: The Nine Days Queen by Karleen Bradford

Beneath the Crown: The Nine Days Queen by Karleen Bradford (Published by Scholastic Canada, February 1, 2006)

Awaiting execution for treason after she was Queen of England for just nine days, sixteen-year-old Lady Jane Grey looks back on her short life. She had some happiness as a child, but her parents were distant. A cousin of the Tudor ruling family, she spent some time at court as a young girl. Eventually, her parents had her married to a man she didn't love, or even like. Meanwhile, England is caught in turmoil, as the young Protestant king, Edward, dies. Jane's male relatives scheme to have her crowned Queen of England instead of Edward's Catholic half-sister Mary, although Jane wants no part of it. Powerless to determine her own destiny, she is forced to accept the crown of England and is caught up against her will in events that can only end in tragedy.

This excellent historical novel brought to life the tragic story of Lady Jane Grey; as someone who really enjoys historical fiction set in this era, I found it particularly interesting. She was just a young girl who had no say in her own future and wrongly lost her life as a result of a plot she had no real part in. I highly recommend this novel to preteen and young adult readers who like to read historical fiction about royalty; I think it would particularly appeal to readers of the Young Royals and Royal Diaries series.

Book review: The Princess in the Tower by Sharon Stewart

Beneath the Crown: The Princess in the Tower by Sharon Stewart (Published by Scholastic Canada, September 1, 2005)

As a Princess of France, Marie Therese Charlotte, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, had a luxurious childhood. But life for Mousseline, as she is called by her family, changes drastically beginning in 1789. There is a growing discontent in France, and soon a new order emerges, one that has no room for the royal family. Mousseline must endure tragedy as she is imprisoned in a tower just for being a member of the royal family, even though she is just a child. There, she is separated from her parents and siblings, and must struggle to remain strong as she endures the loss of her family and her entire way of life.

Narrated by the young Marie Therese, this book was very similar to the books in the Royal Diaries series and would make a good companion read to the book about Marie Antoinette from that series. I highly recommend this book to preteens and young adults who enjoy historical fiction, particularly if they have an interest in royalty or in this time period. It gave an interesting perspective on the French Revolution from the point of view of the young princess who lost everything.

In My Mailbox - 9/26/09

Credit goes to The Story Siren for thinking up the In My Mailbox feature.

Here are the new books I bought or received this week:

Dragonfly by Julia Golding

Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil of Gerfal in order to unite their lands. And he's not too pleased, either. They hate each other on sight. So, when Tashi and Ramil are kidnapped, they fear there's no escape - from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing, and imprisonment? And will the people they meet on their adventure help them or betray them to the enemy?

Snap by Carol Snow

Madison Sabatini thought she knew who she was: an almost-sophomore with a bright future. The newest photographer on her school paper. A shopaholic with great hair and a fabulous wardrobe. Then, in a flash, everything changed.
Now she's stuck in Sandyland, a gloomy beach town in the middle of nowhere, living with her parents in a crappy hotel "suite." Instead of spending the summer with her friends at home, she's hanging out with pink-haired Delilah, an artist who works in a shop called Psychic Photo, and a skater boy named Duncan who's totally not her type. Except, maybe he is . . .
Determined to make the best of things, Madison throws herself into her one passion: photography. But when strange figures start appearing in her pictures—people who weren't there when she snapped the shots, people who are later reported dead—she begins to question everything about who she is . . . and who she wishes she could be.

Switch by Carol Snow

Claire Martin has some serious body issues.
Ever since Claire hit her teens, electrical storms have been making her switch bodies. Usually she's back to her old self in no time. But when something goes terribly wrong, she finds herself stuck in the fabulous body—and life—of Larissa, the icy blonde beauty who has caught the eye of Nate, Claire's longtime crush.
Will Claire ever figure out how to get her old life back? And, more importantly, will she even want to?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken (published by Egmont USA, March 23, 2010)

When Wayland North brings rain to a region that’s been dry for more than ten years, he’s promised anything he’d like as a reward. He chooses the village elder’s daughter, sixteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabel, a skilled weaver with an unusual knack for repairing his magical cloaks. Though Sydelle has dreamt of escaping her home, she’s hurt that her parents relinquish her so freely, and finds herself awed and afraid of the slightly ragtag wizard who is unlike any of the men of magic in the tales she’s heard.

The pair rushes toward the capital, intent to stop an imminent war, pursued by Reuel Dorwan (a dark wizard who has taken a keen interest in Sydelle) and plagued by unusually wild weather. But the sudden earthquakes and freak snowstorms may not be a coincidence. As Sydelle discovers North’s dark secret and the reason for his interest in her, and learns to master her own mysterious power, it becomes increasingly clear that the fate of the kingdom rests in her fingertips. She will be either a savior, weaving together the frayed bonds between Saldorra and Auster, or the disastrous force that destroys both kingdoms forever.

This is another Tenners book and I've heard some good things about it. I love fantasy and this book sounds like it has an unusual but interesting plot. Plus the cover is really pretty!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In My Mailbox - 9/19/09

Credit goes to The Story Siren for thinking up the In My Mailbox feature.

Here are the new books I bought or received this week:

Alice in Love and War by Ann Turnbull

1644 - Alice Newcombe, trapped and unhappy on her uncle's farm, finds her life transformed when royalist soldiers are billeted there during the Civil War. Suddenly her days are filled with excitement - and love for one young soldier, Robin. When the regiment moves on, Alice persuades Robin to take her with him, and she joins the other army women on the baggage train. The road ahead is long and hard - will there be happiness at its end?

A Pearl Among Princes by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Gracepearl Coal is the cook's daughter on Miramore, the island all princes visit for their summer program in the Charming Arts. Each year, the princes-in-training arrive on gallant seacraft, guided by captains trained to navigate the island's treacherous waters. Passage on one of these boats is the only method to leave the island—thus betrothal to a royal is the only way for Pearl to find her far-off destiny, the one that's started haunting her dreams. Luckily, this year's crop of princes include some promising prospects, but how will Pearl leave behind her ailing father or—hardest of all—marry a boy other than her long-time beloved, Mackree . . . who now finds it too painful to even speak to her?

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth. Now that Cassie is older, she knows the story was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, is determined to become a scientist, and has no time for make-believe.
Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face-to-face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned at the ends of the earth. And he can bring her back — if Cassie will agree to be his bride.
That is the beginning of Cassie's own real-life fairy tale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knows will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her — until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Contest: Win an ARC of Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein

I am giving away my extra, unread ARC of the wonderful Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein. You can read my review of this book, which I loved, at this link.

About Lady Macbeth's Daughter:

The daughter Macbeth might have had, if Shakespeare had thought to create her…

Albia has grown up with no knowledge of her mother of her father, the powerful Macbeth. Instead she knows the dark lure of the Wychelm Wood and the moors, where she’s been raised by three strange sisters. It’s only when the ambitious Macbeth seeks out the sisters to foretell his fate that Albia’s life becomes tangled with the man who leaves nothing but bloodshed in his wake. She even falls in love with Fleance, Macbeth’s rival for the throne. Yet when Albia learns that she has the second sight, she must decide whether to ignore the terrible future she foresees—or to change it. Will she be able to save the man she loves from her murderous father? And can she forgive her parents their wrongs, or must she destroy them to save Scotland from tyranny?

In her highly anticipated follow-up to Ophelia, Lisa Klein delivers a powerful reimagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, featuring a young woman so seamlessly drawn it seems impossible she was not part of the Bard’s original play.

Contest runs through October 2. USA mailing addresses only. You can get extra entries for the following:
+2 already a follower
+1 become a new follower
+1 post on Twitter
+2 post on your blog (sidebar, post, etc)

good luck everyone!

Book review: The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliot

The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliott (Published in the US by Holiday House, November 28, 2009, and in the UK by Hodder Books, July 2, 2009)

Although orphaned at a young age, fourteen-year-old Eugenie de Boncoeur has never known much hardship. Raised by a wealthy guardian, her life is carefree. She is more concerned with parties and dresses than the growing unrest around her. But in July 1789, she is suddenly and violently made aware when the French Revolution begins.

Eugenie is sent to a convent for her own safety, but even there she cannot escape the violence. And she soon learns that she is in danger from more than just the hatred the revolutionaries have for aristocrats like Eugenie and her family. Her guardian has betrothed her to a mysterious man named the Pale Assassin, a man who wants to marry her to get revenge for a wrong he feels her father committed against him years ago. Eugenie attempts to flee to safety with relatives in England, chased by both revolutionaries and the sinister Pale Assassin.

I had mixed feelings about this book. It starts out a bit slow, and Eugenie was a hard character to like at first - she starts out spoiled, selfish, and immature. However, as the book progresses the story picks up pace, and Eugenie becomes more likeable as she matures and develops an awareness of the world around her. Ultimately I did get into the story and am interested to find out what happens next in the sequel, which will be published next year. This isn’t the best book I have read recently, but if you can overlook the slow start and enjoy historical fiction, I would suggest giving this book a try.

Book review: The Lady in the Tower by Marie-Louise Jensen

The Lady in the Tower by Marie-Louise Jensen (Published by Oxford University Press, January 1, 2009)

Eleanor had a happy childhood in 16th century England, during the reign of King Henry VIII. Her loving and indulgent parents allowed her to ride horses and learn to joust with her cousin and younger brother, and did not scold her too much for her failure to master ladylike tasks such as sewing. That all changed when Eleanor was eleven. Her father, suddenly a different man than the one she had known all her life, falsely accused her mother of terrible crimes and had her locked in a tower in their home.

The story picks up four years later. In the aftermath of these events, Eleanor has become estranged from her father, and from her younger brother who is close to their father and cannot remember the time before their mother was imprisoned. She secretly conspires with the servants and villagers to deliver food and messages to her mother, and to save her from her father’s plots to have her killed. Her father had her betrothed to a much older man but he died before the wedding day, to Eleanor’s relief. However, now that she is fifteen, he has chosen another man to be her husband. His choice, Lord Stanton, is young and handsome, but also insufferable, and even worse she believes he is on her father’s side. Eleanor also knows that if she marries and leaves her home, her mother will have no one left to protect her from her father, and so is determined to find a way to escape with her mother before the wedding.

The Lady in the Tower is a wonderful young adult historical novel set in the Tudor era, one of my favorite time periods. Eleanor is a lively and likeable character, and the book has a perfect blend of history, intrigue, and romance. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy young adult historical fiction and I look forward to reading more from Marie-Louise Jensen, who is a promising new writer in this genre.

Book review: Panama by Shelby Hiatt

Panama by Shelby Hiatt (Published by Houghton Mifflin, September 28, 2009)

A fifteen-year-old girl living in Ohio in the early twentieth century is excited when she learns her family will move to Panama, where her father will have a job helping to build the Panama Canal. She hopes for an exotic and exciting adventure, but is disappointed when she finds that her new home is the Zone, which the Americans have made into a town just like those back home.

While visiting a building site for the canal, she meets the intriguing Federico, a young man who seems far too cultured to be an ordinary canal worker. He is sophisticated and loves books - just what she has been looking for. She begins a love affair with him which transitions her from childhood to adulthood, although in the end she finds herself more emotionally invested and heartbroken than she had intended.

I was intrigued by the description of this book because I had never read a book about the building of the Panama Canal and I am always on the lookout for unusual historical fiction. But ultimately I was rather disappointed by this book. There were some historical errors, and I was rather unsettled by the sexual relationship between the fifteen-year-old narrator and the much older Federico. Also, and this is more of a personal pet peeve, I was really annoyed that the narrator’s name is never revealed. Overall I wouldn’t really recommend this book, although it might have some appeal to readers particularly interested in the historical setting.

Book review: Alice in Love and War by Ann Turnbull

Alice in Love and War by Ann Turnbull (Published by Walker Books, September 7, 2009)

Alice Newcombe’s father died when she was eleven, leaving her an orphan. She was sent to live on her aunt and uncle’s farm, where she felt unwelcome from the start. Five years pass, until Alice is sixteen in the year 1644. Civil war divides England, but Alice is most worried about fighting off the unwelcome advances of her uncle, and fears what will happen if one day, she cannot fight him off. So when Royalist soldiers come to their village, and Alice falls in love with one young soldier named Robin, she seizes her chance to escape, and leaves with Robin to join the other women on the baggage train following the army.

Life is hard, but Alice becomes friends with many of the women on the baggage train. And she loves Robin, and is sure he loves her too. But when he leaves her alone for the winter, she begins to wonder if he was honest with her, and if he really cares for her as much as he made her believe he did. What will happen to her if he does not return? Can she make her own way in a country torn apart by a violent war?

Alice in Love and War is an excellent historical novel that brings to life the English Civil War, a time period I didn’t know much about as an American reader. Alice is a well-developed and likeable character and the book kept me turning the pages eagerly to find out what would happen to her next. There are some mature themes in this book, although not described in graphic detail, so I wouldn’t recommend this book for young readers, but it is an excellent book for teens - and adults too - who love historical fiction.

Book review: The Bride Backfire by Kelly Eileen Hake

The Bride Backfire by Kelly Eileen Hake (Published by Barbour Books, October 1, 2009)

In Nebraska Territory, 1857, there is a longstanding feud between two neighboring families, the Specks and the Grogans. When Opal Speck’s father discovers Adam Grogan on their property, he threatens to kill him. Opal saves Adam’s life the only way she can think of: by lying that he is the father of her unborn child. Thanks to her lie, Adam’s life is saved, but it also results in Opal and Adam being forced into a shotgun marriage.

From the start, Adam doesn’t want a real marriage. Not realizing that Opal made up the entire story to save his life, he believes that Opal is pregnant with another man’s child, and her purpose in lying was to give her child a name. He is frustrated that Opal continues to refuse to tell him who the child’s real father is. Opal doesn’t know how to tell Adam that what he is believing is wrong, that she isn’t pregnant and only wished to save him from her angry father. When she begins to fall in love with her husband and longs for their marriage to be a real marriage, but she doesn’t know if Adam, who was forced to marry her, could ever love her for real. Can she manage to set things right with him?

The Bride Backfire is an enjoyable western romance for readers who like inspirational romances or clean love stories that don‘t have graphic adult content. At times I got frustrated with Opal and wished she’d just tell Adam the truth already, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the story, and I would give other books by this author a try.

Book review: The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Meyer

The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Meyer (Published by Harcourt, January 26, 2009)

Young Charley Darwin, growing up in early 19th century England, has a fascination with science from a very young age. He’d rather perform secret experiments than do his schoolwork. This fascination continues into his young adulthood, when he receives the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to sail around the world with Captain Robert FitzRoy on the Beagle.

The voyage will be long and dangerous, but Charley doesn’t hesitate, even though it means leaving behind Fanny, the girl he cares for who can’t promise to wait for him. The hardships of the journey are lessened by Charley by the many discoveries and observations he makes about the natural world, through the collection and observation of many plants, animals, and other living things.

The True Adventures of Charley Darwin is an interesting historical novel about the childhood and young adult years of the famous naturalist Charles Darwin. It is very different on the surface from Carolyn Meyer’s recent books, because it features a male main character as the narrator. However, it is not really all that different as it features the same attention to historical detail and brings to life the early years of a famous person from history. Recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction.

Contest: HarperTeen classics prize pack

I received these in the mail from HarperTeen, but my house already has copies of a lot of the classic books, and I don't really have room for more, so I've decided to give these away in a contest. These are really nice trade paperback editions with some neat extras included to appeal to teen readers such as quizzes, interviews with the characters, etc. If you are looking to pick up copies of these classics books these editions are a really nice choice. The winner wins all three of these books. They are mostly unread except I did read the extras at the end of the books but that's it. The books are:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


Contest runs for two weeks, and ends October 2, 2009.
US mailing addresses only.
How to get extra entries:
+1 if you are a follower or become a new follower
+1 for linking on Twitter
+1 for linking on your blog (sidebar or post)
Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: 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)

Following an attack on her family, fifteen-year-old Thora is enslaved by a brutish Viking chieftain, Bjorn Svanson. A healer and a midwife, Thora is valuable. She also has visions of the future ...and in one she foresees Svanson's death. When her prediction becomes reality, Thora recognizes that another of Svanson's slaves is a man she has seen before-a man from recurrent visions who is destined to be part of her future. Assuming Svanson's identity, the slave and Thora use the dead man's ships to escape. Their destination is Iceland, the then uncharted 'land of fire and ice'. To succeed they must first win over Svanson's crew, and their journey is fraught with hardship and danger. But their troubles are only just beginning. Soon, newcomers are among them and someone is stealing from Thora's medicines to cause terrible harm. Under suspicion herself, can Thora unmask the real culprit and clear her name? And can Thora and the man now known as Bjorn ever really hope that their pasts won't catch up with them?

As most of you reading this blog know, I love historical fiction, and especially books with unique/unusual settings, so this one looks really good! I haven't read a historical novel about Vikings in a long time. And the author has written other excellent young adult historical novels with unique settings as well.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

In My Mailbox - 9/12/09

Credit goes to The Story Siren for thinking up the In My Mailbox feature.

I had a rather slow week, I received one book for review as well as one book I had purchased online:

Alchemy and Meggy Swan by Karen Cushman

Fans of Karen Cushman's witty, satisfying novels will welcome Meggy Swann, newly come to London with her only friend, a goose named Louise. Meggy's mother was glad to be rid of her; her father, who sent for her, doesn't want her after all. Meggy is appalled by London, dirty and noisy, full of rogues and thieves, and difficult to get around in—not that getting around is ever easy for someone who walks with the help of two sticks. Just as her alchemist father pursues his Great Work of transforming base metal into gold, Meggy finds herself pursuing her own transformation. Earthy and colorful, Elizabethan London has its dark side, but it also has gifts in store for Meggy Swann.

Dear Canada: A Desperate Road to Freedom by Karleen Bradford

A riveting tale of a brave family's last bid for freedom, and the price they pay to find it. Julia May and her family have done the unthinkable. They have fled from their life of slavery on a tobacco plantation in Virginia, and are making their way north, on foot, where they have heard that slaves can live free. Their story, told through Julia May's journal entries, is gruelling. Their journey takes them through swamps, travelling by night and hiding by day. It is a harrowing, terrifying experience, but determination to find a new life in Canada keeps them going. The diary that Julia May keeps is another act of bravery. Learning to read and write alongside her mistress at the plantation was her own secret, and strictly forbidden for a slave girl. Now as she records her fears and the extraordinary things she sees during her journey, she is deeply afraid that she'll be found out and suffer the consequences. But her journal keeps her going through the hard times until they are finally free. Readers will be moved as they follow her family's trek north...but even here old prejudices die hard.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: Violet Eyes by Debbie Viguie

Violet Eyes by Debbie Viguie (Published by Simon Pulse, February 23, 2010)

Seventeen-year-old Violet is amazed when a storm brings the dashing Prince Richard to her impoverished family’s farm. The two fall in love at first sight, but although Richard has given his heart to Violet, his parents will only let him marry a princess of their choosing, a lady of the highest nobility and sensitivity. Now on a quest to be reunited with her true love, Violet must rely on her wits — and a little help from an unexpected source — to compete with princesses, pass the king and queen’s tests, and prove herself worthy of being Richard’s bride.

I love fairy tale retellings and have enjoyed many books from the Once Upon a Time series so I am looking forward to reading this one as well. Also, I *love* the cover.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

In My Mailbox - 9/5/09

Credit goes to The Story Siren for thinking up the In My Mailbox feature.

Here are the new books I bought or received this week:

Dark Guardian: Dark of the Moon by Rachel Hawthorne

Brittany is determined to prove herself to the Dark Guardians. And yet she's been keeping a devastating secret: She hasn't experienced any of the intense, early signs of change that mark a Dark Guardian's transformation. The only intense feelings she has are for Connor—and she's kept that a secret, too. But she knows she'll never truly have Connor's love if she's not a Shifter like him.
At the first full moon after her birthday, her greatest fear is realized: She doesn't transform. Brittany is so desperate to become a wolf that she'll go to extremes she never thought possible . . . and put all the Dark Guardians in incredible danger.

The Squire's Quest by Gerald Morris

Why is it, Terence wondered, that the things you know most surely are always the things you can’t demonstrate to any one else?
And why is it, after all of these years, that Terence is still just a squire, offering advice on how best to scrub the rust spots from armor? But Squire Terence has more to worry about than his place on the social scale. For all the peace and prosperity that has made England famous across Europe, Terence is uneasy. After nearly six months without contact with the World of the Faeries – not even from his old friend, the mischievous sprite Robin – Terence is sure something is rotten in King Arthur's court.

Look to the East by Maureen Lang

At the dawn of the First World War, the French provincial village of Briecourt is isolated from the battles, but the century-old feud between the Toussaints and the de Colvilles still rages in the streets. When the German army sweeps in to occupy the town, families on both sides of the feud must work together to protect stragglers caught behind enemy lines. Juliette Toussaint may have been adopted from a faraway island, but she feels the scorn of the de Colvilles as much as anyone born a Toussaint. So when she falls in love with one of the stragglers - a wealthy and handsome Belgian entrepreneur - she knows shes playing with fire. Charles Lassone hides in the cellar of the Briecourt church, safe from the Germans for the moment. But if hes discovered, it will bring danger to the entire village and could cost Charles his life. First in a three-book series.

Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis

Okay, so maybe Shelby has made a few mistakes with boys lately (how was she supposed to know Wes had "borrowed" that Porsche?). But her stepmother totally overreacts when she catches Shelby in a post-curfew kiss with a hot senior: Suddenly Shelby's summer plans are on the shelf, and she's being packed off to brat camp. It's good-bye, prom dress; hello, hiking boots.
Things start looking up, though, when Shelby meets fellow camper (and son of a rock star) Austin Bridges III. But soon she realizes there's more to Austin than crush material-his family has a dark secret, and he wants Shelby's help guarding it. Shelby knows that she really shouldn't be getting tangled up with another bad boy . . . but who is she to turn her back on a guy in need, especially such a good-looking one? One thing's for sure: That pesky full moon is about to get her into trouble all over again.

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.)
Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever—or whoever— is hunting her?

Wishing for Tomorrow: The Sequel to A Little Princess by Hilary McKay

Hilary McKay revisits Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for Young Ladies after the events of A Little Princess and Sara Crewe's happily ever after. But Sara is much missed - and most acutely by best friend Ermengarde, who laments that 'nothing is the same as it was before'. But life must go on at Miss Minchin's as new friendships are made, rivalries continued, lessons learned and, most importantly, fairytale endings are had.

Winter's Child by Cameron Dokey

A Retelling of "The Snow Queen"
Free-spirited Grace and serious Kai are the best of friends. They grew up together listening to magical tales spun by Kai's grandmother and sharing in each other's secrets. But when they turn sixteen and Kai declares his love for Grace, everything changes. Grace yearns for freedom and slowly begins to push Kai — and their friendship — away.
Dejected Kai dreams of a dazzling Snow Queen, who entices him to leave home and wander to faraway lands. When Grace discovers Kai is gone, she learns how much she has lost and sets out on a mystical journey to find Kai...and discover herself.

A Blue and Gray Christmas by Vickie McDonough, Lauralee Bliss, Tamela Hancock Murray, and Carrie Turansky

Surrender yourself to the forces of love in four engaging Civil War Christmas romances. Join up with Leah Woods as she searches for her missing fiancé in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Stick to your guns with Arabella Lambert as she pledges her allegiance to pacifist Barry Birch, a man labeled a coward. Ride out the storm with Rachel Thornton as she resists her attraction to the wounded artist James Galloway. Saddle up with Confederate-born Hannah McIntosh as she falls for Chris Haley, an embittered Union soldier. Can these couples forge an everlasting union in the tide of civil war?

Her Inheritance Forever by Lyn Cote

In 1836 Texas, Alandra Sandoval is determined to run her rancho without a man. Scully Falconer is top hand on a neighboring spread. The Mexican lady and the American cowboy are on separate paths---until greedy relatives, a troubled past, and the tides of history bring them together! Will their lives change forever?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: Alchemy and Meggy Swan by Karen Cushman

Alchemy and Meggy Swan by Karen Cushman (Published by Clarion Books, April 26, 2010)

Fans of Karen Cushman's witty, satisfying novels will welcome Meggy Swann, newly come to London with her only friend, a goose named Louise. Meggy's mother was glad to be rid of her; her father, who sent for her, doesn't want her after all. Meggy is appalled by London, dirty and noisy, full of rogues and thieves, and difficult to get around in—not that getting around is ever easy for someone who walks with the help of two sticks. Just as her alchemist father pursues his Great Work of transforming base metal into gold, Meggy finds herself pursuing her own transformation. Earthy and colorful, Elizabethan London has its dark side, but it also has gifts in store for Meggy Swann.

I really loved Karen Cushman's young adult historical novels when I was a teen, but I haven't read anything new by her in a long time. So I was excited to see she has a new novel coming out set in Elizabethan England, which is one of my favorite settings. And I love the cover so much!
Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Drowsy Town kit by Irene Alexeeva