Saturday, March 31, 2012

In My Mailbox - 3/31/12

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

Here are the new books I got this week:

My Story: Berlin Olympics by Vince Cross

In 1935, Eleanor Rhys Davies is growing up in a changing world. She and her best friend, Sarah, are determined to compete in the national swimming team for the 1936 Olympics. Their dream comes true when both are selected. But the host city is Hitler's Berlin, and Sarah is Jewish. Eleanor witnesses the Nazi's hostility to Jews and hears the distant murmurings that will erupt into World War II. (already read and reviewed here)

Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner

Himiko, the beloved daughter of a chieftain in third century Japan, has always been special. The day she was born there was a devastating earthquake, and the tribe's shamaness had an amazing vision revealing the young girl's future—one day this privledged child will be the spiritual and tribal leader over all of the tribes. Book One revolves around the events of Himiko's early teen years—her shaman lessons, friendships, contact with other tribes, and journey to save her family after a series of tragic events. Once again, Esther Friesner masterfully weaves together history, myth, and mysticism in a tale of a princess whose path is far from traditional.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book review: My Story: Berlin Olympics by Vince Cross

My Story: Berlin Olympics by Vince Cross (Published by Scholastic, April 5, 2012)

Fourteen-year-old Eleanor Rhys Davis, called Ellie by her friends, lives in England in 1935. She is a very talented swimmer, but she doesn't always get the best grades in school. One of her teachers encourages her to start writing in a diary. At first, she doesn't have much to write about, and so she describes school, swimming practice, and spending time with her two best friends, who are also swimmers - Sarah, who she grew up with, and Tara, a new girl at school who is the daughter of an American diplomat. Sarah is Jewish, and although she and her parents were born in England, her grandparents were immigrants from Germany. She is worried about her relatives who still live in Germany, since the Nazis have begun to pass laws that restrict the rights of Jewish people.

As Ellie and Sarah's swimming improves, their teacher, Mrs. Williams, suggest the girls should work hard at their training in hopes of being chosen for the British swim team for the 1936 Olympics which will be held in Berlin, Germany. However, as the rest of the world learns about how the Nazis are treating Jews and other people they consider "racially inferior," there is debate in some countries about not participating in protest.

Although this book was not one of my favorites from the My Story series, I did enjoy it. I hadn't known much about the 1936 Olympics before reading this book, so I did learn some interesting history. I think certain parts of the story could have used more detail, and I was disappointed that it ended so abrubtly, with everything being wrapped up in an epilogue set several years later. Readers who enjoyed other books in the My Story series will probably enjoy this book as well, but if you are new to the series, many of the other books are a better choice to start with, unless you are particularly interested in the subject and historical setting of this book.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl (Published by Viking Books, June 14, 2012)

Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her widowed mother, young half-brother, and two stepsisters—and she must maintain Crawley Hall. Althea, in short, must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors—or suitors of any kind—in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then Lord Boring comes to stay with his aunt and uncle. Althea sets her cap to become Lady Boring. There’s only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has set his own cap.

I read a couple of books by this author years ago and I remember really enjoying them. So I am really looking forward to this book, the story sounds really fun and cute!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book review: Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill

Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill (Published by Knopf Books, March 27, 2012)

Fifteen-year-old Maria is the younger daughter from a family of glassblowers in fifteenth-century Italy. Because of the cost of dowries, often a family can only afford for one of their daughters to be married, and the tradition is that that will be the oldest daughter. But in Maria's father's will, he left instructions that Maria should be the one to marry a nobleman, rather than her older sister, Giovanna. Although they are sisters and are very close, Maria and Giovanna could not be more different. Giovanna is a proper young lady, while Maria prefers to spend her time sketching and watching the glassblowing process.

Now that Maria is old enough, her mother, uncle, and brothers have decided it is time to select a husband for her, but none of the men they are introduced to seem suitable. At the same time, Luca, a young man without a family who is known for being an excellent glassblower, comes to work for Maria's family. Maria feels drawn to Luca, but knows she can never be with him. And when her family finally finds a proper husband for her, that man seems more interested in Giovanna than Maria.

This book a verse novel told from the perspective of Maria. Because of the format and the short length (only 150 pages), some of the characters and relationships seemed underdeveloped. I wish the book had been a longer, and I think it would have been interesting if Giovanna's perspective had also been included - alternating viewpoints would have been perfect for this story. Overall, Sisters of Glass wasn't one of my favorite books ever, but the unique historical setting makes it worth a try if you enjoy verse novels and historical fiction.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Book review: A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink (Published by Dial Books, March 20, 2012)

In just one night, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright's life in Victorian London changed forever. Her parents were murdered and her house was burned to the ground, and the people responsible were after Helen. Now, all alone in the world, Helen must follow her parents' final instructions, which tell her to find and join with two brothers, Griffin and Darius Channing, who are not much older than Helen and who lost their parents in the same way.

Helen then learns that she is descended from angels and will soon come into her powers. Suddenly, many strange things from her childhood, including the unusual education her parents gave her, make perfect sense. She is thrust into a world of angels and demons, into a struggle between the forces of light and darkness. As Helen and the two brothers search for their parents' killers, she is reunited with a childhood friend, but she's not sure she can trust him.

A Temptatation of Angels is a book that stands out from all the other young adult paranormal romances due to the setting of Victorian London. Although the exact year the story takes place is not mentioned, it definitely has a very nice historical feel to it. I loved this setting and I think it was a perfect backdrop for the story. Also, while the ending does leave open the possibility of more stories set in this world, this book definitely functions well as a stand alone, which is very refreshing since I am tired of everything being a series. The one thing I didn't love so much was that there was a bit of a love triangle (I am tired of love triangles!), but at least it was resolved the way I hoped. If you love historical fantasy, or if you love paranormal romance but want to read something that's different and unique, I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by author.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

In My Mailbox - 3/24/12

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

Here are the new books I got this week:

Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill

Maria is the younger daughter of an esteemed family on the island of Murano, the traditional home for Venetian glassmakers. Though she longs to be a glassblower herself, glassblowing is not for daughters—that is her brother's work. Maria has only one duty to perform for her family: before her father died, he insisted that she be married into the nobility, even though her older sister, Giovanna, should rightfully have that role. Not only is Giovanna older, she's prettier, more graceful, and everyone loves her.
Maria would like nothing more than to allow her beautiful sister, who is far more able and willing to attract a noble husband, to take over this role for her. But they cannot circumvent their father's wishes. And when a new young glassblower arrives to help the family business and Maria finds herself drawn to him, the web of conflicting emotions grows even more tangled.

Catla and the Vikings by Mary Elizabeth Nelson

In a time of war, small acts of courage can yield big results.
In the fall of 1066, a thirteen-year-old Anglo-Saxon girl named Catla watches from afar as Viking raiders burn her village and imprison her family and the other villagers. No one sees her as she flees toward Aigber, the closest village, praying the people there will help.
Catla must ignore her terror as she makes her way to the standing stones, a place of refuge, where she meets Sven, an older boy from her village. Together, they continue toward Aigber and are able to alert the village of the coming peril. Catla and Sven rally the villagers of Aigber, and with Catla's help, a plan is put in place that will save both villages from the Nord-devils.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Venom by Fiona Paul

Venom by Fiona Paul (Published by Philomel, October 3, 2012)

Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, access to the best balls, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.
But when Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin. . .and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?
Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.

I love the concept of this book, especially the setting of historical Venice combined with mystery and romance. I can't wait to read it!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book review: Forget Me Not by Sue Lawson

Forget Me Not by Sue Lawson (Published by Black Dog Books, March 1, 2012)

This book tells the story of the Gilmores, a fictional middle class family traveling in second class on the maiden voyage of the Titanic in 1912. The story alternates between the third-person perspective of fifteen-year-old Thomas and the first person perspective of his slightly younger sister, Eve. The family has left their home in Southampton, England to immigrate to America and settle in South Carolina. Their younger sister, Beatrice, has weak lungs, and the doctor has said their only hope for her to get better is to move to a warmer climate.

Thomas and Eve feel very differently about the move to America. Thomas is excited for a new home, new life, and new friends. Eve, on the other hand, is devastated to have left her home and friends behind, and is nervous about traveling on the Titanic - something about the ship just gives her a bad feeling. Eve begins to feel a bit better when she and Thomas meet Meggie and Hugh, a brother and sister around their age who are traveling home with their parents to America after a trip to Europe. The four teenagers become friends and Eve even begins to feel something more for Hugh. But then disaster strikes, when the Titanic hits an iceberg and begins to sink.

Forget Me Not is one of the many books about the Titanic released recently, to coincide with the upcoming 100th anniversary of the sinking in April 2012. I have been interested in the Titanic for years, so I am always eager to read a new novel set during the doomed voyage. Overall, I enjoyed this book, it wasn't my favorite Titanic book ever, but it was an enjoyable, quick read. The characters and their relationships could have been a bit more developed, and I wish the ending had been a bit less abrupt. I'd recommend this book to readers who love historical fiction about the Titanic, or who are interested in the subject for the first time due to the upcoming anniversary.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

In My Mailbox - 3/17/12

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

I only got two new books this week. The first is a review copy, and I also bought a finished copy of Grave Mercy since I had a B&N gift card and I *LOVED* the book so I much that I wanted a hardcover copy with the cover art.

Violins of Autumn by Amy McAuley

When the Germans begin bombing London in World War II, Betty is determined to do her part. Instead of running air raid drills like most girls her age, she lies about her age and trains to become a spy. Now known by her secret agent persona, Adele Blanchard, she finds herself parachuting over German-occupied France under the cover of darkness to join the secret Resistance movement. Prepared to die for her cause, Adele wasn’t expecting to make a new best friend in her fellow agent or fall for a handsome American pilot. With the brutality of war ever present, can Adele dare to dream of a future where the world is at peace and she is free to live and love of her own accord?

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?
Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.
Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart? (reviewed here)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Defiance by C.J. Redwine (Published by HarperTeen, August 28, 2012

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.
At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.
As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

This book sounds great and so original! I'm so happy that there are some original young adult fantasy novels being published this year. I love fantasy and I'm so sick of paranormal.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (Published by Houghton Mifflin, April 3, 2012)

Ismae's life in fifteenth century Brittany (now a part of France) has been difficult and painful from the day she was born. Her true father was said to be the god of death. Her mother later died, and the father who raised her was physically abusive. At age fourteen, he sold her to a cruel man who wanted to marry her, but her new husband rejected her when he saw the scars on her back, left by the poison her mother took to try and induce a miscarriage. Ismae is able to escape and is taken to the convent of St. Mortain, the old god of death. There, she is told she can be trained to be a powerful assassin and serve her true father, Mortain. And the skills she is taught will mean she never needs to fear a man again.

Three years later, Ismae has almost finished her training. She completes two successful missions, and soon will be ready to take her final vows. But then Ismae is chosen for a mission that is far more complicated. Brittany is struggling to mantain its independence from France. The duke recently died, and his heir - his daughter Anne - is only twelve years old. Many powerful men want to marry the young duchess, and most have ulterior motives. Ismae is told her mission is to protect Anne - particularly from those who would threaten their country's independence - and kill anyone at court that has been marked for death by Mortain. But at court, it's hard to know who to trust. And soon Ismae finds herself, against her will, falling in love with a man, something she vowed never to do.

Grave Mercy is one of my favorite recent young adult novels. I loved everything about it! The concept was great and very original, like nothing else I've ever read from the young adult genre. There's lots of history, romance, magic, mystery, and intrigue. I particularly loved the romance between Ismae and Duval, her love interest. Unlike the instant love found in many young adult novels, the romance develops gradually, since Ismae fights her feelings at first. I loved Duval's character too - he was so caring, noble, and protective. All the court intrigue reminded me a bit of Game of Thrones (the TV series, haven't read the books) - there's lots of poltics, evil plots, backstabbings, and traitors, leaving Ismae not knowing who to trust and who is on which side. This book is on the long side for a young adult novel and the plot is quite complicated, so I think this would appeal more to older teens and adults, including adults who don't normally read young adult books - it's a great crossover read. I can't say enough good things about this book, and I can't wait to read book two, which sadly won't be published until spring 2013.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

In My Mailbox - 3/10/12

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

Here are my new books for this week:

Forget Me Not by Sue Lawson

The story of one family's voyage on the Titanic.
"I am filled with the worst feeling. Everyone says it is the safest, most luxurious ship in the world, but something about it is extremely unsettling."
Evelyn Gilmore does not share her brother Thomas’s excitement about travelling on the maiden voyage of the luxurious Titanic.
For Evelyn the ship is taking her away from everything she knows and loves. For Thomas it is taking him to his new life.
How could they know what the trip would bring?

The Wrong Boy by Suzy Zail

Hanna is a talented pianist, and the protected second daughter of middle class Hungarian Jews. Relatively late in World War II the Budapest Jews were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz. Hanna and her mother and sister are separated from her father. Her mother becomes increasingly mentally ill until she too is taken away somewhere. Her sister Erika is slowly starving to death. Hanna is quite a naïve 15-year-old but when presented with the opportunity to play piano for the camp commander, she is desperate to be chosen. She goes each day under guard to the commander’s house and stands waiting in case the commander should want some music. Also living in the house is the commander’s son, Karl. A handsome young man who seems completely disengaged from what is happening around him. Hanna hates him as he sits drawing in the music room. But the longer Hanna goes to the house, the more she realises there are other things going on. Secret things. Karl may not be the person she thinks he is. Before she knows it she has fallen in love with the wrong boy.

Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse

This is historical fantasy at its best. Sixteen-year-old Hild has always been a favorite of her uncle, king of the Shylfings. So when she protects her cousin the crown prince from a murderous traitor, she expects the king to be grateful. Instead, she is unjustly accused of treachery herself.
As punishment, her uncle sends Hild far away to the heir of the enemy king, Beowulf, to try to weave peace between the two kingdoms. She must leave her home and everyone she loves. On the long and perilous journey, Hild soon discovers that fatigue and rough terrain are the least of her worries. Something is following her and her small band of guards—some kind of foul creature that tales say lurks in the fens. Will Hild have to face the monster? Or does it offer her the perfect chance to escape the destiny she never chose?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book review: My Story: Wartime Princess by Valerie WIlding

My Story: Wartime Princess by Valerie Wilding (Published by Scholastic UK, March 1, 2012)

This book is written as the fictional diary of Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II. Margaret begins her diary when she is eight years old, shortly before World War II breaks out. Margaret is young, so she doesn't understand much about what is going on in the world, but she knows that Adolf Hitler is a bad man and that there may be a war with Germany. Soon her worst fears come true when the Nazis invade many countries in Europe and England must go to war.

Even though Margaret is a princess, she too must make sacrifices because of the war, which goes on for many long years. Food is rationed, and there are few parties and no fancy new clothes. Worst of all, she and her sister, Elizabeth, rarely get to see their parents, as the two princesses must live in safety in the countryside because of the Germans bombing London and other cities. However, there are still some fun times, too, despite the war, and there is also the beginnings of a romance between Elizabeth and their cousin, Prince Philip of Greece.

When I ordered this book online I expected it to actually focus on Elizabeth as the main character, since she's on the cover and the summary made it sound like it was her diary and not Margaret's. And while she is certainly an important character, and her romance with Philip is an important part of the story, I'm not sure why she's on the cover when all the other books in the series show the diarist on the cover. Margaret is closer in age to the target audience for this series, anyway, so it does make sense to have her tell the story, but I think the cover should have been more accurate and shown the main character like all the other books in the My Story series do. So I guess the cover issue is a minor complaint, since I really enjoyed the story, it's just bothering me a bit! The book seems to be historically accurate and I think the author did a good job at imagining what Princess Margaret might have been like as a young girl, and what she would have thought about the war and all the changes in her life. Readers who enjoyed other books in the My Story series and the similar Royal Diaries series will probably enjoy this book as well.

Interview with Rachel Coker, author of Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words

Rachel Coker's first novel, Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words, which is a historical novel for young adults set during World War II, was recently published. What makes this remarkable is that Rachel is fifteen years old. I was very impressed to see such a young writer publishing a book, and I am excited to post this interview with Rachel.

How did you get started writing at such a young age? Have you always loved to write?

It all started as a school assignment, actually. When I was in sixth grade, my mom had me write a short story about a girl living during the Reformation. It turned out pretty well and I’ve been writing ever since! I don’t remember writing much before that, unless you count a few short poems and lame stories I made up in second grade as writing.

What was the hardest part of publishing a novel at your age?

Probably getting people to take me seriously. It was really hard to convince people that I really did have a contract and that my book really was coming out and would be available at places like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I think a lot of people thought at first that I was self-publishing or that it was something minor.

Why did you decide to write historical fiction?

Because I love it! History is seriously my favorite thing to study. It’s so much fun to learn about what life would have been like for someone growing up in the 40’s, or 60’s, or even 1800’s, and then try to interpret that into a book. If you can write a story about someone who grew up a hundred years ago and it still speaks to the person reading it today, then you have accomplished something. I believe that, in the end, people are still the same today as they were then, despite the changes in culture.

What are some of your own favorite books and authors?

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell is my absolute favorite book. It is one of the few works I have read that has completely captivated me and connected me to that time period. I had a whole new respect and understanding of the people who lived through the Civil War after reading that book. I also really love Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, because it was the first book I read that inspired me to use my imagination.

When you aren't writing, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I run a blog that takes up a lot of my time, talking about my life and offering encouragement other teens. I also teach piano and spend a lot of time doing portrait photography for families in our area. But I am a junior in high school, so school is definitely my first priority!

I definitely agree with Rachel about historical fiction, which is my favorite too! I plan to review Interrupted soon, but in the meantime, here is the cover and summary:

Can love really heal all things? If Sam Carroll hadn't shown up, she might have been able to get to her mother in time. Instead, Allie Everly finds herself at a funeral, mourning the loss of her beloved mother. She is dealt another blow when, a few hours later, she is sent from Tennessee to Maine to become the daughter of Miss Beatrice Lovell, a prim woman with a faith Allie cannot accept. Poetry and letters written to her mother become the only things keeping Allie's heart from hardening completely. But then Sam arrives for the summer, and with him comes many confusing emotions, both toward him and the people around her. As World War II looms, Allie will be forced to decide whether hanging on to the past is worth losing her chance to be loved.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (Published by Razorbill, December 11, 2012)

A deeply dramatic fantasy series that's Game of Thrones for teens.
Sixteen-year-old Cleo has grown up in luxury, the royal heiress to a prosperous kingdom. But beneath her nation's seemingly peaceful surface lies dangerous unrest. Whispers of war are growing ever louder--intensified by a murderous incident for which Cleo's betrothed, Aron, is accused.
Amidst the ongoing intrigue, Cleo has a more desperate mission. She defies her father's orders and sets off on a secret and perilous journey into a neighboring country, seeking a magic long thought to be mythical. If it's real, it could be the cure that heals her ailing sister. If it's only legend, Cleo will be stranded in a kingdom that has just declared war on her own.
This sensational series debut melds intricate storylines with unforgettable characters and vibrantly imagined magic. Falling Kingdoms is ideal for fans of Kristin Cashore, Cinda Williams Chima, and George R.R. Martin.

This book won't be out for a while (nine months! why does it have to be so long? I guess I will cross fingers for an ARC?), but I decided to feature it this week because it sounds SO AMAZING. Game of Thrones for teens? I'm sold! I hope this is the start of more young adult high fantasy because I LOVE high fantasy and I wish there was more of it being published in the YA genre.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

In My Mailbox - 3/3/12

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 reason I got so many books is that it seems like almost all my preorders of UK books from The Book Depository came in at once, plus I also traded a few ARCs with other bloggers. So I had a very good mailbox week and I can't wait to read several of these books, if only there were more hours in the day!

Courtship and Curses by Marissa Doyle

Sophie’s entrance into London society isn’t what she thought it would be: Mama isn’t there to guide her, Papa is buried in his work fighting Napoleon, and Sophie’s newly acquired limp keeps her from dancing at any of those glittering balls. If it weren’t for her shopping escapades with her new French friend Amélie and a flirtation with the dashing Lord Woodbridge, she would think this season a complete disaster.
But when someone uses magic to attack Papa the night of Sophie’s first ball, her problems escalate, especially when it becomes clear that all the members of the War Cabinet are being targeted. Can she catch the culprit and keep her own magic powers hidden long enough to win herself a match?

All Fall Down by Sally Nicholls

When Isabel's Yorkshire village is devastated by the Black Death, it seems that the world is ending in horror and fear. But for the survivors of the terrible plague, a new and freer society will rise from the destruction of the feudal system that enslaved the family. This is a powerful historical novel from one of today's most exciting young writers.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past. Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze

Happily ever after is a thing of the past.
The year is 2090.
England is a barren land. Food is rationed. Oil has decimated the oceans. The people are restless.
A ruthless revolutionary enacts a plan to destroy the royal family, and in a moment, the king is dead. His heiress, Princess Mary, and her brother, Jamie, have been abducted, and no one knows their fate. Princess Eliza Windsor barely escapes, and finds herself scared and lost in London's dangerous streets.
With a mind for revenge and the safe recovery of her siblings, Eliza joins the enemy forces in disguise. There she is tempted by her first taste of independence -- and true love. Ultimately she must summon her courage and fight to ensure that she does not become... The Last Princess.

My Story: Wartime Princess by Valerie Wilding

It's 1939, Europe is on the verge of war and Princess Margaret begins a diary to record her wartime experiences. But more exciting than blackouts, evacuees, and doodlebugs is her sister Elizabeth's blossoming romance with Prince Philip of Greece. Margaret dreams of a royal wedding, but Philip is sent to serve in the navy and Elizabeth longs to join the army. Will there be a fairy tale ending?

London Stories by Jim Eldridge

The story of London as seen through the eyes of the city's children. Twelve stories transport the reader from the Londinium of two millenniums past to the London of 2012, anticipating the Olympi games and a Diamond Jubilee. Along the way we escape a great fie, survive the gunpowder plot and meet Charles Dickens. The perfect companion to a defining year in British History.

Sophia the Flame Sister by Amber Castle

When eleven-year-old Gwen ventures into the forest beyond her castle home she comes across the magical island of Avalon and her life changes forever. The lady of the lake, Nineve, asks Gwen to embark on a quest to protect the enchanted island of Avalon from the evil sorceress Morgana Le Fay.
Morgana has imprisoned the eight Spell Sisters of Avalon throughout the kingdom and stolen their magical powers. It's up to Gwen, her best friend Flora and a very special horse named Moonlight to find the sisters and return them to Avalon before its magic is lost forever.
In this first adventure Gwen and Flora search for Sophia the Flame Sister who Morgana has imprisoned in an enchanted forest. Can the girls save her and help to restore the magic of fire to Avalon? (already read and reviewed here)

Lily the Forest Sister by Amber Castle

In this second adventure Gwen and Flora are faced with a swarm of hornets and enchanted vines as they try to rescue Lily the Forest Sister. Can they overcome Morgana's magic and return Lily to Avalon?

Isabella the Butterfly Sister by Amber Castle

In their third adventure Gwen and Flora must find Isabella the Butterfly Sister. But with wolves under Morgana's magical control stalking them through the forest, will the girls be able to find Isabella and return her safely to Avalon?

Amelia the Silver Sister by Amber Castle

In this fourth adventure Gwen and Flora set out to rescue Amelia the Silver Sister who is imprisoned in an old castle. But when Morgana attacks the castle with a hurricane the girls become trapped too! Can they escape and return Amelia to Avalon?

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she's had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be a personal maid on the Titanic's doomed voyage. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a roughly-hewn but kind sailor and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes.
Amidst the chaos and desperate urging of two very different suitors, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. Tess’s sailor also manages to survive unharmed, witness to Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable actions during the tragedy. Others—including the gallant Midwestern tycoon—are not so lucky.
On dry land, rumors about the survivors begin to circulate, and Lady Duff Gordon quickly becomes the subject of media scorn and later, the hearings on the Titanic. Set against a historical tragedy but told from a completely fresh angle, The Dressmaker is an atmospheric delight filled with all the period's glitz and glamour, all the raw feelings of a national tragedy and all the contradictory emotions of young love.

The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry

This dark and thrilling adventure, with an unforgettable heroine, will captivate fans of steampunk, fantasy, and romance.
On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena's father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.

Book review: Spell Sisters: Sophia the Flame Sister by Amber Castle

Spell Sisters: Sophia the Flame Sister (Published by Simon & Schuster UK, March 1, 2012)

This is the first book in a series set in a fantasy version of Medieval England that imagines what the adventures of young Guinevere might have been like. In this series, Guinevere is living with her aunt, uncle, and cousin, Flora, where she is to learn how to be a young lady. Flora is Gwen's age and more ladylike and less adventerous than Gwen is, but the two girls are still best friends.

While exploring in the woods, the two girls meet Nineve, the Lady of the Lake. She tells them it is Gwen's destiny to save Avalon. The evil sorceress Morgana Le Fay has imprisoned the eight sisters whose magic helps keep Avalon alive. If they are not freed soon, they will be trapped forever, and only a mortal girl can rescue them. Gwen and Flora decide they must work together to find all eight sisters and free them. In their first adventure, they search for Sophia, the sister who controls the magic of fire.

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be cute. Seriously, everything about it is cute. The illustrations are adorable! Even the bad guys (Morgana and her nasty evil bird minions) are cute in the pictures. While this book probably won't appeal to fans of serious Arthurian legend stuff (unless they also happen to like cute things, which I do, I will admit it), it's probably the perfect book for young girls who like the magical sparkly fairy type books. And if you are like me and are an adult who once in a while wants to read something extremely adorable, you might enjoy it, too.
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