Saturday, August 28, 2010

In My Mailbox - 8/28/10

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

I forgot to do an IMM post last week, so there are two weeks of books here. I also got Mockingjay, but everyone knows about that book! I am not sure if I will review it though because most of my strong opinions on it require spoilers to explain.


Storyteller by Patricia Reilly Giff

While staying with her aunt, Elizabeth finds something remarkable: a drawing. It hangs on the wall, a portrait of her ancestor, Eliza, known as Zee. She looks like Elizabeth.
The girls’ lives intertwine as Elizabeth’s present-day story alternates with Zee’s, which takes place during the American Revolution. Zee is dreamy, and hopeful for the future—until the Revolution tears apart her family and her community in upstate New York. Left on her own, she struggles to survive and to follow her father and brother into battle.
Zee’s story has been waiting to be rediscovered by the right person. As Elizabeth learns about Zee, and walks where Zee once walked and battles raged, the past becomes as vivid and real as the present.

Lady Jane Grey: Queen for Sale by Caroline Corby

Lady Jane Grey: Queen for Sale is the story of a Tudor girl doomed from birth by her royal blood. When Henry VIII dies Jane overhears that, inexplicably, in his will he has elevated her family in the event that his own children produce no heirs. Overnight the nine-year-old Jane has become a valuable pawn in the struggle for the throne of England. After being sold by her parents to Thomas Seymour, Jane is traded between powerful Tudor families as she grows older. As King Edward VI gets frailer, Jane’s value rises. She falls into the hands of Warwick, a man who will do anything to get her on the throne. When he forces her to marry his son, Jane’s fate is sealed. She must become queen or die.

I Am Canada: Blood and Iron by Paul Yee

Heen's father and grandfather have brought their family in China to the brink of ruin with their gambling habits. To solve their money troubles, Heen and his father come to Canada to build the railway - a decision plagued by disaster. The living conditions provided for workers are wretched and work on the railway is excruciating. Transporting tons of gravel and working in tunnels about to be dynamited proves to be deadly for many of his co-workers. Soon the friction between the Chinese workers and the whites, who barely acknowledge these deaths, reaches a fevered pitch. As an added stress, Heen's father has found some men to gamble with, which puts all of their earnings at risk. Heen's only solace is his journal, where his chilling observations of the injustice and peril heaped upon the workers serve as an important testament to this dramatic era in Canadian history.

I Am Canada: Prisoner of Dieppe by Hugh Brewster

Alistair "Allie" Morrison lets his friend Mackie talk him into enlisting for WWII, even though he's only 18. After months of endless training Allie's eager for battle. But his first action is not just any battle…it's the disastrous raid on the German-held port of Dieppe. He and his unit are under orders to take one of the main beaches, but they disembark from their landing craft onto a killing ground. As Allie gets his bearings and makes sense of the horror on every side, he witnesses friends advance into a massacre. All told, almost a thousand Canadian soldiers died that day. In the resulting chaotic evacuation, Allie and Mackie are captured as POWs and sent to Stalag VIIIB in Germany. Still shell-shocked from their fighting, the soldiers struggle to maintain their courage. Others, like Mackie, are determined to plot an escape and outwit their captors, at any cost.

For review:

Vigilante's Bride by Yvonne Harris

Robbing a stagecoach on Christmas Eve and kidnapping a woman passenger is the last thing Luke Sullivan expects to do. He just wanted to reclaim the money stolen from him, but ends up with a feisty copper-haired orphan thrown over his shoulder who was on her way to marry Sullivan's bitter enemy.
Emily McCarthy is an orphan out of options. Forced to marry because she was too old for her orphanage, she doesn't take kindly to her "rescue." Still she trusts God can turn any situation to good especially when it seems Sullivan may just be the man of her dreams. But Sullivan's crossed a dangerous man unused to losing and Emily may just be the prize he's unwilling to sacrifice.

A Prince Among Frogs by E.D. Baker

While Princess Millie and her dragon fiance, Audun, prepare for their wedding, all kinds of disasters strike, causing the family to leave the castle and pursue the Wizard Olebald, the sea witch Nastia Nautica and other adversaries from earlier books who must be banished from Greater Greensward forever. Most of all they need to find out which of the many frogs in the swamp is Felix, Millie's baby brother…

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Crusade by Linda Press Wulf

Crusade by Linda Press Wulf (Published by Bloomsbury UK, January 3, 2011)

Robert: Left on the steps of a church as a baby, Robert was often hungry but never stole food like the other orphans in town. Introverted and extraordinarily intelligent, he knew all the Latin prayers and hymns by heart by the time he was five years old.
Georgette: Her own mother died in childbirth, leaving Georgette with a father who, seventeen at the time, had neither experience nor aptitude as a nurturing parent, and a brother known in town as Le Fuer – The Spitfire – for his terrible temper.
Perhaps to replace something missing from their own lives, both Robert and Georgette are drawn to the news of a crusader, twelve or thirteen, no older than themselves, travelling down through France with thousands of followers – all, unbelievably, children too.
Of those thousands, this is the incredible story of two. A story of hardship, loss and of love.

I love historical fiction and I love the Medieval era so this sounds look a really good book, can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap

In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap (Published by Bloomsbury, April 12, 2011)

It’s 1854 and sixteen-year-old Molly would give anything to change her circumstances as a lowly servant in a posh London house. So when she hears of an opportunity to join the nurses who will be traveling with Florence Nightingale to the Crimea, she jumps at the chance. The work is grueling, the hospital conditions deplorable, and Miss Nightingale a demanding teacher. Before long, the plight of British soldiers becomes more than just a mission of mercy as Molly finds that she’s falling in love with both a dashing young doctor and a soldier who has joined the army to be near her. But with the battle raging ever nearer, can Molly keep the two men she cares for from harm? A love story to savor, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes imagining of the woman who became known as “the lady with the lamp.”

I *love* Susanne Dunlap's historical fiction, so I can't wait to read her next book! The historical setting sounds really unique and interesting.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In My Mailbox - 7/14/10

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

Here are the new books I got this week:

For review:

The Last Full Measure by Ann Rinaldi

As Confederate and Union soldiers take over their town, the local residents can do little more than hunker down in their homes while cannon and gunfire explode around them. But the battles are not only fought between soldiers. At home, fourteen-year-old Tacy and her disabled brother lock horns as David struggles with his desire to go to war. He has strong principles, and it tortures him to allow others to fight while he does nothing.
In the aftermath of this great and terrible battle, in which so many soldiers sacrifice their lives for their beliefs, David gives his last full measure…and leaves Tacy struggling to make sense out of it all.


The Queen's Daughter by Susan Coventry (hardcover copy, reviewed ARC here)

Joan’s mother is Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, the most beautiful woman in the world. Her father is Henry II, the king of England and a renowned military leader. She loves them both—so what is she to 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 stuck with a man ten years her senior. She doesn’t love her husband, 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 importantly, whom to love?

Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielson (hardcover copy, reviewed ARC here)

When Adrianne comes face-to-face with the mermaid of Windwaithe Island, of whom she has heard terrible stories all her life, she is convinced the mermaid means to take her younger sister. Adrianne, fierce-willed and courageous, is determined to protect her sister from the mermaid, and her family from starvation. However, the mermaid continues to haunt Adrianne in her dreams and with her song.
Yet, when the islanders find out about Adrianne's encounters with the mermaid she is scorned, for this small and superstitious community believes the mermaid will bring devastation to the island if Adrianne does not give herself to the sea.
A powerful and lyrical story of one girl who must choose between having everything and having those she loves.

Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink

The ultimate battle between sisters is nearing, and its outcome could have catastrophic consequences. As sixteen year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for a way to end the prophecy, her twin sister Alice hones the skills she'll need to defeat Lia. Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister's role in the prophecy, and that's not the only thing she wants: There's also Lia's boyfriend James.
Lia and Alice always knew the Prophecy would turn those closest to them against them. But they didn't know what betrayal could lead them to do. In the end, only one sister will be left standing.

Oracle by Jackie French

Nikko lives in a small farming village in Greece near the stronghold of Mycenae in 1200 BC. When his sister Thetis is born, Nikko rescues her from the hillside where she has been abandoned, setting off an unforeseen chain of events.
Thetis survives the trauma of her birth but is rendered mute until the age of five, when the gift of speech is given to her; but she can only tell the truth, which soon proves to be a double-edged sword.
When the villagers try to double-cross the king′s tribute gatherers, Nikko and Thetis are sent to the Mycenean court to be trained as entertainers for the king. There they meet Euridice, a horse dancer from the North, and forge an enduring friendship.
When Thetis′ prophecy of disaster comes true, and Mycenae is hit by an earthquake, she disappears. Nikko and Euridice flee in search of her.
Nikko eventually finds Thetis in Delphi, where she is now installed as Oracle, set to fulfil her destiny. But danger still lurks in the shape of the new Mycaenean king, who wants her back at court to foretell his future ...

Dread Pirate Fleur and the Ruby Heart by Sara Starbuck

Moments before he is murdered, Fleur’s father tells her the terrible secret of who he really is. Now orphaned, Fleur has little choice but to leave her home and join the man who comes to claim her – her estranged uncle, William Hart. But William is a terrifying and ruthless pirate and Fleur is thrust into life on board the Libertine. Living amongst a devilish crew of battle-hardened buccaneers is dangerous for a young girl and earning their respect seems impossible. But Hart blood runs in Fleur’s veins and when she gets the chance to avenge her father’s death she might just prove to be the fiercest pirate of them all.

India Dark by Kirsty Murray

MADRAS 1910: Poesy and Tilly are caught in a scandal that will change their lives forever. Singing and dancing across a hundred stages as members of a troupe of Australian child performers, they travel by steam train into the heart of India. But as one disaster follows another, money runs short and tempers fray. What must the girls do to protect themselves and how many lives will be ruined if they try to break free?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards

The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards (Published by Puffin Books UK, February 3, 2011)

1584 – Surrey, England. When Lady Jane Rievaulx begins service to the Queen at Richmond Palace, she is thrilled at the court’s newest arrival . . . Master James Lacey. Despite her previous courtship with his older brother, James is the man she truly loves. And for his part, he cannot deny his fascination with her. However, James is setting sail on a treacherous journey to the Americas, seeking absolution for what he sees as past sins. But when Lady Jane is forced into a terrible situation by her own family, there is only one man to save her. Will Master James return to his lady - before it’s too late?

I read Eve Edwards's debate novel The Other Countess not long ago and *LOVED* it so I can't wait to read her second book, especially since the Tudor era is one of my favorite settings for historical fiction.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Interview with Kirby Larson, author of Dear America: The Fences Between Us

I am very excited to post this interview with Kirby Larson, the author of The Fences Between Us, which is the first new Dear America book in several years. The Dear America series was my favorite series when I was younger and the main reason I love historical fiction so much, so I was so excited to have the opportunity to interview the author of the newest book in the series. The Fences Between Us will be published by Scholastic on September 1.

About The Fences Between Us: Thirteen-year-old Piper Davis records in her diary her experiences beginning in December 1941 when her brother joins the Navy, the United States goes to war, she attempts to document her life through photography, and her father--the pastor for a Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle--follows his congregants to an Idaho internment camp, taking her along with him.

The Fences Between Us is the first new Dear America book in years. How did you become involved in writing for the series?

The editor, Lisa Sandell, approached my agent wondering if I'd be interested. One of the topics she was looking for was a World War II story and coincidentally, I felt I had a story that would be a good match for the series. In addition, I felt completely honored to be asked!

Piper's story is based on the life of a real minister and his family who followed his congregration to the Minidoka incarceration camp. How did you learn about this story, and what inspired you to turn it into a novel for young readers?

After thinking I didn't like history at all, writing Hattie Big Sky got me absolutely hooked on the genre. I feel like a real detective as I scour and hunt for facts and details. I had been doing some research about World War II and the Japanese incarceration camps, with the idea that it would be part of another book I was working on. That didn't jell, but I had discovered Pastor Emery Andrews' story -- about moving his family from Seattle to Twin Falls so he could continue to serve his congregation after they were "relocated" to Minidoka -- and really wanted to find a way to tell it in a book for kids. Scholastic's invitation to write for Dear America came at the perfect time! Though I admired Pastor Andrews' courage tremendously, I Iearned that his choices were tough on his family. I thought back to myself as a 12 or 13-year-old, and could easily imagine how upset I would've been to be uprooted from my home and friends. I find many of my stories start with such a what-if question: What if I had been Pastor Andrews' daughter?

What kind of research did you do about the Japanese incarceration and about life during World War II?

It might be easier to talk about the kind of research I didn't do! I read dozens of books on the topic, of course, going over bibliographies with a magnifying glass (sometimes literally!) to make sure I didn't miss any juicy leads. The Densho Project ( has a fabulous archive of videotaped interviews with incarcerees, as well as other historical information. I spent many hours in the special collections at the University of Washington and the Seattle Public Libraries. The internet makes it so much easier to access information as well; not only is there a wealth of material now online from the Library of Congress, I also discovered sites such as the one devoted to sailors who had served on the USS Enterprise. Finally, I interviewed people connected with the story, including Pastor Andrews' son, Brooks.

How does writing a novel in diary form compare to writing a regular novel?

This was something I really struggled with. My poor editor patiently tried to get me to understand that the book needed to suggest a diary, not literally be one. My first drafts were as holey as an old pair of socks because I was trying too hard to write as if I were a 13-year-old keeping a diary. It finally clicked with me that I needed to fill in more of the blanks for my typical reader who would not have as firm a grasp on World War II history as I did. So entries are more detailed than they would be in a real diary; the trick was to keep them from sounding like excerpts from a history text! I kept Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy, close at hand to study how she revealed historical details and information through Birdy's diary entries. I must say, however, once I found Piper's voice, the writing went much more smoothly.

What are some of your own favorite books and authors?

Never force a bookworm to name favorite books!!! That being said, I never miss a Karen Cushman title (though I confess that Matilda Bone is my favorite of hers). Other novelists I tremendously admire include Frances O'Roark Dowell, Barbara O'Connor, Dave Patneaude, Karen Hesse, Kate DiCamillo, Trenton Lee Stewart, M.T. Anderson (not the Octavian Nothing books), Ingrid Law, Cynthia Lord, Susan Patron, Jennifer Holm, among others. Picture book authors I read and study include Marie Louise Gay, Ann Whitford Paul, Helen Ketteman, Laura Kvasnosky, Mary Nethery, Bonny Becker and Kathryn Galbraith. Of course, I am leaving tons of favorites out!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am very grateful to Scholastic for allowing me to tell Piper's story. It's not "sexy" like one set in the war zone of Pearl Harbor or concentration camps of Europe might be, but it is so important because that episode in our past -- our shameful treatment of fellow Americans -- doesn't simply reveal to us our failings as human beings, it also provides inspiration for overcoming those flaws. I hope Piper's story encourages my readers to learn more about this moment in American history.

Book review: Dear America: The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson

Dear America: The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson (Published by Scholastic, September 1, 2010)

When thirteen-year-old Piper Davis’s older brother, Hank, joins the Navy after graduation from high school in 1941, she is mostly just sad because it will mean she won’t get to see her beloved big brother for a long time. After Hank leaves home, a family friend gives Piper a diary, and she writes about school, her friends, her interest in photography, and the news of the wars in Europe and Asia, which seem far away and unlikely to affect her life. That all changes, however, on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, where her brother is stationed.

From that day on, everything changes in Piper’s life. The war and her worry for her brother’s safety are constantly on her mind. And having grown up as the daughter of the pastor at a Japanese Baptist Church, she has many Japanese friends and neighbors. It saddens Piper to see the discrimination against the Japanese-Americans, many of whom were born in the United States. When the Japanese are forced to leave their homes, Piper's father decides to follow his congregation to the internment camp, and takes Piper with him. At first Piper deeply resents her father for taking her away from her home and friends. But she soon learns that what she has lost pales in comparison to the suffering of her Japanese friends and neighbors, incarcerated far from home in a place barely fit for humans to live in.

As a long time fan of the Dear America series I was eagerly anticipating reading The Fences Between Us, the first new book in the series in several years, and I am happy to say I was not at all disappointed. Piper’s diary is both entertaining and educational, bringing to life both everyday life for a young girl during World War II, as well as the wrongful incarceration of the Japanese-Americans in internment camps. I highly recommend this book to both old and new fans of the Dear America series.

Book review: The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood, based on a concept by the Duchess of Northumberland (Published by Balzer + Bray, a division of HarperTeen, July 20, 2010)

Sixteen-year-old Jessamine Luxton lives with her father, an apothecary, in the cottage at Hulne Abbey, not far from Alnwick Castle, in late 18th century England. Her mother died when she was young and since then she has grown up in the isolated cottage. Jessamine is interested in her father’s work growing plants but he will not allow her to assist him for fear the poisonous plants will harm her. Instead her days are filled with the work of housekeeping and growing the herb and vegetable gardens.

Jessamine’s life changes when a mysterious orphan boy named Weed is brought to the cottage by a stranger who thinks Jessamine’s father will be interested in Weed’s abilities, as he seems to have some strange knowledge of herbs or healing. Weed is close in age to Jessamine, and she is determined to get to know this strange boy. A romance begins to develop between the two; however, Jessamine soon becomes dangerously ill with a mysterious ailment and Weed must use his special knowledge of plants to try and find a way to save her.

The Poison Diaries is the first in a trilogy and as such it ends rather abruptly and somewhat unsatisfactorily as a result. This isn’t really a book that can stand on its own, I think you will need to read the whole series and I’m disappointed the next book won’t be out for a year since I really want to know what happens. I really enjoyed the first half of the novel, and reading about Jessamine and Weed’s growing relationship. Later on however the book does get very dark and some of the decisions made by characters are morally questionable. I did love the creepy gothic historical setting, it was very atmospheric, and the plot was definitely something very different, and for that reason I would recommend this book to readers who love unusual young adult fantasy novels. This is definitely a book that stands out, and in a good way in my opinion, from all the endless young adult paranormals about werewolves and vampires. However, if you really hate cliffhangers, you may want to wait until the entire series is available before reading.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

In My Mailbox - 8/7/10

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

Here are the new books I got this week:


The Mourning Wars by Karen Steinmetz

Based on true events, THE MOURNING WARS is a gripping, powerful, and utterly memorable historical novel. In 1704, Mohawk Indians attacked the frontier village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, killing 50 and kidnapping 112 more, including John Williams, a Puritan minister and prize hostage, and his children.
This is Eunice’s remarkable story, fictionalized but based on meticulous research, about a seven-year-old girl's separation from her family, harrowing march to Canada, gradual acceptance of her new Native American life, and ultimate decision at 16 to marry an Indian and reject her stern father's pleadings to return to the fold.

My Story: Pyramid of Secrets by Jim Eldridge

It's 2554 BC and Pharaoh Khafra is building a great pyramid at Giza to rival those built by his predecessors. He is also making plans for what will become one of the most famous and iconic monuments in history - the Sphinx. But Khafra has enemies and division in his workforce. Among the labourers in his employ is one 13-year old boy, Menes. Menes has his own reasons for hating the pyramid and wanting to rebel. But his rebellion could have drastic consquences for those closest to him...

Whisper My Name by Jane Eagland

Since she was twelve, Meriel Garland has lived with her grandfather in London, exiled from her beloved India following the death of her mother. Now sixteen, Meriel chafes against the strict regime of tests and study that her grandfather imposes on her. Escaping, she discovers a world outside her narrow existence - one that promises admiration for her acting skills, social success and the excitement of seances. But what should have been a game turns serious as the young medium Sophie Casson passes on a message from Meriel's dead mother - and Meriel begins to suspect she might not be alone in the world after all. In searching for the truth about her past, Meriel uncovers a sinister scheme - and soon it's hard to know who she can really trust.

Dread Pirate Fleur and the Hangman's Noose by Sara Starbuck

Fleur has been reunited with the crew of the pirate ship the Black Dragon, and is especially happy to be home with her best friend Tom and her gruff uncle William the Heartless. They set sale for the Americas, a continent in the suspicious grip of the infamous witch trials at Salem. When Fleur discovers her mother - who she has long believed dead - is on trial for witchcraft, she mounts a daring rescue mission, which results in William being captured and transported to London to the Tyburn gallows. Fleur knows she must do everything in her power to save him, and captains the Black Dragon on its most treacherous journey yet. But dealing with rough waters and an ambush from the Royal Navy is nothing compared to the danger posed by her own mother Rose, the ultimate in unscrupulous pirate queens...

The Prodigal Patriot by Darlene Franklin

Sally Reid's family decides on a dangerous course when the Tories of Maple Notch, Vermont, chase Patriot families from their land. When Josiah Tuttle discovers their secret and offers to help, Sally doesn't know if she can trust him. After all, Josiah's father is one of the Tories who forced her family into hiding. The Tuttles have already lost one son to the hated Patriot cause. How can Josiah both honor his grieving father and protect the woman he loves? When called upon to take a stand, which side will he choose?
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