Monday, April 30, 2012

Mailbox Monday - 4/30/12

Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Cindy's Love of Books for the month of April.

Here are the new books I got this week:

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has turned into an entirely different person. The once spirited teen is now passive and reserved. A change Lord and Lady Darlington can’t help but be grateful for.
It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been… even as their carefully constructed fa├žade rapidly comes undone.
Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one… the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever.
When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long. (already read and reviewed here)

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Hitler's Angel by William Osborne

Otto and Leni have escaped to England from Nazi Germany. They thought they were safe, but now the British want them to go back. Dropped behind enemy lines, they embark on a secret operation codenamed Wolfsangel. Their mission is to find and kidnap a girl who could bring down Hitler. And so begins their bravest journey yet.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Book review: Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame (Published by Simon & Schuster, May 1, 2012)

Wentworth Hall is set in 1912 England at the estate of the Darlington family. The estate has been in the family for almost three hundred years. The Darlingtons were once very wealthy, but most of the money is gone now, and the world is changing. Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has recently returned from a year away in France, and to everyone who knew her, she seems quite changed. Maggie's younger sister, sixteen-year-old Lila, misses her old relationship with her sister and wishes her parents would see that she is growing up. Also living at Wentworth Hall are the two teenage servants, Michael and Nora, that the Darlington sisters grew up with, and used to play with as children, and Therese, the new nanny who returned with Maggie and her mother from France to care for the new baby, James. Shortly after the start of the novel, two wealthy teenage orphans, Teddy and Jessica Fitzhugh, come to stay with the Darlingtons until they turn eighteen and can claim their inheritance.

The story is mostly about how all of these characters have secrets that could cause a great deal of trouble if revealed. Some of these secrets I guessed in advance, but others surprised me. There's also a plotline involving someone in the household writing unkind satires about the family, which are published in the local newspaper. The satires, about the "Worthless Family," are included to read and are quite amusing, since all the details are so exaggerated - the grand house, which they can't afford to repair, is literally collapsing on the poor Worthless family!

Although Wentworth Hall is set in 1912 and there's very obvious class differences between the characters, other than that this book was rather light on the history, similar to the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen. This book was a quick and fun read and had a satisfying ending. I'm tired of everything being a series so I liked that this book appears to be a standalone novel. I think a lot of different readers would enjoy this book - fans of Downton Abbey (since it's set in the same time period), readers who love historical fiction, and even those readers who don't usually read historical fiction but love stories with lots of gossip and secrets and scandals.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron (Published by Scholastic, September 1, 2012)

A spine-tingling tale of steampunk and spies, intrigue and heart-racing romance!
When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.
Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.
As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.

Sadly there is no cover yet for this book, I looked everywhere and couldn't find one. But it still sounds really, really good.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

In My Mailbox - 4/21/12

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 Voyage of the Sea Wolf by Eve Bunting

At the end of The Pirate Captain's Daughter, Catherine and cabin boy William are marooned on Pox Island by the murderous crew of the pirate ship Reprisal. The young lovers see no hope of escape.
In Voyage of the Sea Wolf, the continuing sage of Catherine's sea adventures, she and William are rescured from their island prison by the Sea Wolf, a pirate ship pursuing the Reprisal. Catherine worries that these new pirates will send her back to the island once they discover she's a girl. But then, she meets the captain of the Sea Wolf. A woman! Surely, Catherine thinks, the bloodshed and brutality she and William experienced aboard the Reprisal can't happen again, especially under the leadership of a female captian.
But just as things seem to be going their way, the captain takes a liking to William. Catherine is forbidden to see him.
If Catherine and William want to stay together, they must find a way to now escape from the Sea Wolf. (already reviewed here)

The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper

Sophie FitzOsborne and the royal family of Montmaray escaped their remote island home when the Nazis attacked. But now that war has come to England and the rest of the world as well, nowhere is safe.
Sophie fills her journal with tales of a life in wartime. Stories of blackouts and the Blitz. Dancing in nightclubs with soldiers on leave. And desperately waiting for news of her brother Toby, last seen flying over enemy territory.
But even as bombs rain down on London, hope springs up in surprising places, and love blooms. And when the Allies begin to drive their way across Europe, the FitzOsbornes take heart. Maybe, just maybe, there will be a way to liberate Montmaray - to go home again at last.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Enter to win an advance copy of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I ended up with an extra ARC of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, so I decided to have a contest for it because this book is AWESOME! If you are sick of the usual paranormal romance you will love Shadow and Bone because it's so awesome and DIFFERENT. It's a high fantasy set in a fictional world inspired by Imperial Russia. Now if you still aren't sold, here's the publisher's summary:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

Sounds awesome, right? All you have to do to enter is to fill out the form below. And you can come back every day to earn additional entries!

Book review: The Voyage of the Sea Wolf by Eve Bunting

The Voyage of the Sea Wolf by Eve Bunting (Published by Sleeping Bear Press, May 1, 2012)

The Voyage of the Sea Wolf is the sequel to The Pirate Captain's Daughter (which I previously reviewed), and begins right where the previous book ended. Fifteen-year-old Catherine, who had been traveling on her father's pirate ship disgused as a boy, was marooned and left to die on a barren island along with William, the boy she loved, because her secret was discovered and her father was killed. On the island, waiting to die, Catherine and William realized how much they loved one another. But now they have been rescued, and brought aboard the Sea Wolf, another pirate ship that was passing by and saw them.

At first, Catherine is relieved that the captain of the Sea Wolf is a woman, because she won't have to worry about being punished or left to die again just for being a girl. She wonders why the captain has ordered her and William to stay apart, but hopes they can later leave the ship and be together. But then Catherine learns that the captain wants William for herself, regardless of his wishes, because he reminds her of her first love, who had deserted her. Catherine can't bear the thought of being parted from William, but their only hope is to watch and wait for a chance to escape.

After the cliffhanger ending of The Pirate Captain's Daughter, I couldn't wait to read the sequel to find out if Catherine and William escaped the island, since their survival was uncertain at the end of the first book. Overall, I enjoyed this book slightly more than the first book, mainly because it had a more conclusive ending. The ending leaves open the possibility for another book about Catherine and William, but it's a satisfying ending to the story if there isn't another book. If you enjoyed the first book, I think you will enjoy this book as well, but if the story interests you and you haven't read The Pirate Captain's Daughter yet, I recommend reading it first before reading this book, because it will make a lot more sense if you do. Both books are enjoyable, quick reads, that show a more realistic, unpleasant, and unromanticized view of life as a pirate in the eighteenth century.

Disclsoure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin

Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin (Published by Doubleday UK, August 2, 2012)

As lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots, the beautiful Ginette - known as Jenny - is the young queen's closest childhood friend. Growing up in the elegant but ruthless French court, surrounded by enemies and traitors - not least the jealous, manipulative Catherine de Medici, and Mary's own scheming half-brother, James - Jenny has always been fiercely loyal to her mistress. But when she overhears a mysterious whispered plot, closely followed by several unexplained deaths at court, she puts her own life in danger and turns spy for Mary.
Jenny quickly realises not a soul at court can be trusted, and when she and Mary return to their Scottish homeland for Mary to claim her throne, they face even greater peril. Desperate to protect her friend from those who would slit her throat to steal her crown, while battling her feelings for the charismatic nobleman Duncan Alexander, Jenny becomes embroiled in a dangerous web of secrets, betrayals and lies.

I love this time period and historical setting, so I'm really looking forward to reading this book.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

In My Mailbox - 4/14/12

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

Here are the new books I got this week:

Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

Meg Lytton has always known of her dark and powerful gift. Raised a student of the old magick by her Aunt Jane, casting the circle to see visions of the future and concocting spells from herbs and bones has always been as natural to Meg as breathing. But there has never been a more dangerous time to practise the craft, for it is 1554, and the sentence for any woman branded a witch is hanging, or burning at the stake.
Sent to the ruined, isolated palace of Woodstock to serve the disgraced Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and half-sister of Queen Mary, Meg discovers her skills are of interest to the outcast princess, who is desperate to know if she will ever claim the throne. But Meg's existence becomes more dangerous every day, with the constant threat of exposure by the ruthless witchfinder Marcus Dent, and the arrival of a young Spanish priest, Alejandro de Castillo, to whom Meg is irresistibly drawn - despite their very different attitudes to her secret.
Thrilling and fast-paced, this is the first unputdownable story in a bewitching new series.

The Horse Road by Troon Harrison

Kallisto loves her horses. She is an excellent horsewoman, as she has been taught all her equestrian skills by her nomad mother. One day she is returning from racing her horses when she sees from a mountain pass that the Chinese army is approaching her city - clearly planning to steal their horses! She races back home to find a deserted city and her favourite horse, Swan, taken by the Chinese, along with all the other horses.
Kallisto is determined to get the horses back for her city, including her beloved Swan. She bravely approaches the Chinese general and challenges his best horseman to a duel of horsemanship and skill - if she wins, she will get Swan back. Kallisto loses (she is only 13!) but the general is so impressed by her audacity and bravery that he gives her Swan anyway, on condition that she sends him a foal every year.
Set in Ferghana, Central Asia, in 102 BC, this is a thrilling tale that weaves in real events. The Chinese did invade and besiege towns to acquire the famed and beautiful Akhal-Teke horses - which led eventually to horses being traded for silk and the Silk Route being formed.
A fascinating taste of another culture and another time, couched in a richly descriptive and very pacy narrative.

Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything begins to change when she turns sixteen. Along with her best friend Dante and their quiet and brilliant classmate Lance, she is awarded a prestigious internship in the big city— Chicago—and is sent to live and work at a swanky and stylish hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous and shockingly young-looking strangers: powerful and alluring hotel owner Aurelia Brown; her second-in-command, the dashing Lucian Grove; and their stunning but aloof staff of glamazons called The Outfit.
As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that these beautiful people are not quite what they seem. With the help of a mysterious book, she uncovers a network of secret passageways from the hotel’s jazz-age past that leads her to the heart of the evil agenda of Aurelia and company: they’re in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them in their recruitment efforts, or will she be able to thwart this devilish set’s plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?
Illuminate is an exciting saga of a teen’s first taste of independence, her experience in the lap of luxury, and her discovery she may possess strength greater than she ever knew.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Awesome prom-themed book contest from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Thanks to the wonderful publicists at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, I have an awesome prize pack for one lucky winner, just in time for prom season! The winner will win all four of the books listed below. To enter, just fill out the form at the end of this post. And to learn more about Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's awesome young adult books, you can follow them on Twitter, or visit their Facebook page, where they will soon be hosting their own contest with more awesome prizes including books and gift cards.

Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

Prom night at the posh Lexington Hotel sounds like a dream come true,
but Haven Terra soon learns all is not what it seems. Can she save her
classmates souls from a group of glamorous yet diabolical angels in
training? “Equal parts romantic and mysterious!”—

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

Perry finally has a gig scheduled with his band in the Big Apple, but
it’s prom night and he is forced to take quiet, geeky exchange student
Gobi. Turns out, though, Gobi is a trained assassin and the night turns
from deadly dull to just plain deadly.
A laugh-out-loud page turner.

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Not everybody finds out during their senior year that they are a
Romanian vampire princess by birth. But being bloodsucking royalty gets
more complicated for Jessica Packwood when she finds out her betrothed
is the annoyingly hot Lucius Vladescu. Will they happily dance the
night away or will a devious cheerleader succeed in stealing Lucius

The Fashion Coloring Book by carol + lulu

Thinking about designing your own prom dress? This coloring book by
artist Carol and fashion blogger Lulu features pages inspired by some
of today’s hottest designers and will get your inner fashionista

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Books to read for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic. The ship left England on April 10, 1912, and sank five days later. There have been many TV specials, an anniversary cruise retracing the route the Titanic would have sailed had it completed its voyage to New York (and I am super jealous of everyone on it!), and of course, lots and lots of new Titanic-related books. I have been fascinated by the story of the Titanic since I was a child (even before the popular movie was released), so I decided to do a post on Titanic-related books I've read to mark the anniversary.

Many of these books I've reviewed on my blog, and so the titles link to my reviews. A few of the books I read many years ago and so never reviewed on my blog, those links go to Goodreads. And if you have any favorite Titanic-related books, I'd love to hear about them!

Titanic books I've reviewed on my blog:

Dear America: Voyage on the Great Titanic by Ellen Emerson White
No Moon by Irene N. Watts
Titanic, Book One: Unsinkable by Gordon Korman
Titanic, Book Two: Collison Course by Gordon Korman
Titanic, Book Three: S.O.S. by Gordon Korman
Fateful by Claudia Gray
Dear Canada: That Fatal Night by Sarah Ellis
I Am Canada: Deadly Voyage by Hugh Brewester
Forget Me Not by Sue Lawson

Titanic books I read and enjoyed before I started reviewing books:

Titanic Crossing by Barbara Williams
S.O.S. Titanic by Eve Bunting
Titanic: The Long Night by Diane Hoh
Remembering the Titanic by Diane Hoh
Nicole by Candice F. Ransom
A Titanic Journey Across the Sea by Laurie Lawlor
Survival: Titanic by Kathleen Duey and Karen A. Bale

Waiting on Wednesday: The Debutantes by Cora Harrison

The Debutantes by Cora Harrison (Published by Macmillian UK, August 2, 2012)

It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away. Luckily the girls each have a plan for escaping their humdrum country life: Rose wants to be a novelist, Poppy a jazz musician and Daisy a famous film director. Violet, however, has only one ambition: to become the perfect Debutante, so that she can go to London and catch the eye of Prince George, the most eligible bachelor in the country. But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans - ruin everything - forever.

I am guessing this is another one of the new books taking advantage of the popularity of Downton Abbey. I hope there are lots more of them, since I enjoy reading about that historical era.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Book review: Catla and the Vikings by Mary Elizabeth Nelson

Catla and the Vikings by Mary Elizabeth Nelson (Published by Orca Books, March 1, 2012)

Thirteen-year-old Catla is an Anglo-Saxon girl living in England in the fall of 1066. Life in her small, isolated village has been peaceful for many years. Catla's biggest worry is her possible marriage to Olav, a much older merchant that Catla doesn't like. Her father will only change his mind about the marriage if Catla gives him a good reason why she shouldn't marry Olav. Catla is taking a walk to think about her dilemma when Viking raiders suddenly attack her village without warning.

As the only person from the village who escaped, Catla must go to find help. The nearest village is over a day's walk away, and Catla must travel there all on her own, with the threat of being attacked by other raiders or wild animals. Luckily, halfway through her journey Catla meets up with Sven, a boy from her village who was returning home after a trip to York, the nearest city. Together, the two teenagers must come up with a plan to defeat the Vikings and convince the other village to help them.

I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I learned some interesting facts about life during this time period that I didn't know, such as the fact that in times of war the women in small villages often had to fight alongside the men, and that gender roles were more varied than I would have expected. However, I found the ending to be unsatisfying since a lot was left unresolved. Near the end, it's suggested that an even larger attack by the Vikings is coming, and I wish that the ending hadn't been left so open. Perhaps there will be a sequel, but I hate being left with a cliffhanger when a book appears to be a standalone novel until right before the ending.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In My Mailbox - 4/7/12

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

I only got one new book this week, I am expecting others but the mail is being slow. :(

Destiny's Path: Caradoc of the North Wind by Allan Frewin Jones

As the war with the Saxons reaches its darkest hour, Branwen is taking on 'suicidal' missions. Disaster strikes, and a valued friend suffers a devastating injury, testing the loyalty of her band of followers to the limit. Branwen must trust in the power of her destiny more than ever - and when she discovers her greatest ally has entered a secret alliance with her greatest enemy, she decides enough is enough.
But a deadly trap awaits, and Branwen finds herself the prized prisoner of a man half-blinded by a thirst for revenge ...

{By the way, this series was previously published in the US and titled Warrior Princess. The last book was cancelled in the US but finally was published in the UK. So if you read the Warrior Princess series and wondered what happened to the last book, you can buy it online from the UK.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book review: Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Gilt by Katherine Longshore (Published by Viking Books, May 15, 2012)

Gilt, the debut novel by author Katherine Longshore, tells the story of the rise and fall of Catherine "Cat" Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII, from the point of view of her friend, Kitty Tylney. Kitty was a real person who grew up with Cat and accompanied her to court when she became queen, but not much is known about her, so the author imagines what her life might have been like. The two girls were raised together from the age of six in the household of the Duchess of Norfolk. Cat was always the beautiful, popular one, who ruled over all the girls in the household. Kitty was pretty much dependent on Cat and very passive, which was frustrating to read at times. I hated seeing Cat use her and wanted to yell at her to grow a backbone.

Cat, who had always loved attention and beautiful gowns and jewels, and wanted to marry a rich man who could give her everything she wanted, is thrilled to catch the attention of King Henry VIII, who soon marries her. But being Queen is not all that Cat hoped it would be. She's stuck with an old, overweight, smelly husband. Kitty can only watch as Cat destroys her life, and risks the lives of everyone in her household, by having an affair. Meanwhile, Kitty herself is in love with a man she isn't sure will ever love her back, while Cat tries to push her towards an affair with a man who is attractive but whom Kitty doesn't love. Cat was quite cruel to Kitty about this, and it was again hard to read. The rather one-sided friendship between Kitty and Cat is quite similar to the popular girls in high school today, who often use the less popular girls who are desperate to be friends with them. Cat's cruel personality and thoughtless actions made it extremely difficult to feel any sympathy for her, even thought she had been pushed into an unfair situation by her family and never should have been expected to marry a man so much older than her, who had her cousin Anne Boleyn, one of his previous wives, executed. Cat willfully made one bad choice after another without considering the consequences her actions could have, not just for herself but for others. Ultimately, I liked Kitty, I just wish she had taken charge of her own life much sooner and not allowed Cat to use her so much.

Despite my frustration with Cat's character (which may have been intended by the author) and the fact that some of the word choices in the dialogue were extremely modern, overall I thought Gilt was a solid debut novel and I would definitely read more by Katherine Longshore. I believe she is planning to continue this series with novels about other characters at the Tudor court and I definitely plan to try them. I think other readers who like me are fascinated by anything set in the Tudor era would enjoy this book, and because there's a lot of parallels to contemporary society in the story, readers who don't normally read a lot of historical fiction might enjoy the book as well.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book review: Pendragon Legacy: Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts

Pendragon Legacy Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts book cover
Pendragon Legacy: Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts (Published by Templar Publishing, February 1, 2012)

Sword of Light is the first of a four book series based on Arthurian legends that imagines what might have happened had King Arthur and Queen Guinevere had a child. That child, a daughter named Rhianna, has been raised in secrecy on the magical island of Avalon, in order to keep her safe. Rhianna always knew she was different from the other children in Avalon, because she was human and they were fairies, but she never knew who her real parents were. Then Merlin comes to the island with the body of King Arthur, with hopes that if his body rests in the magical caverns of Avalon, he can someday be reborn. He also tells Rhianna the truth about who her parents are, and of the quest she must undertake in order to save the kingdom from her wicked cousin, Mordred, who killed her father.

The first task Rhianna must complete is to find her father's magical sword, Excalibur, which was thrown into a lake after his death. Only a Pendragon can wield the sword, so Rhianna must find it before Mordred, who was badly wounded in his battle with with King Arthur, recovers enough to search for it. On her quest, she faces many dangers and makes new friends, and has to prove that although she is a girl, she is brave and strong and can be a a worthy successor to her father.

Sword of Light was a quick, enjoyable read, but it's definitely middle grade and not young adult. I don't think Rhianna's exact age was ever stated, but I think she was probably around twelve years old or so, since she often seemed very young and acted quite impulsively and foolishly - but then again, so do many much older characters in other books, so at least this character is young enough to have an excuse for it! If you like middle grade fantasy and are interested in reading a new take on the Arthurian legends, then I recommend giving Sword of Light a try, I definitely liked it enough to want to read the rest of the series. This would also be a good book to give to younger readers, particularly girls, who love fantasy novels, since it's not too dark or scary and there's nothing in the story that would be inappropriate, and there's a lot that would appeal to young readers - magic, fairy horses, friendships, and a young main character who is strong and brave.

Book review: The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats (Published by Harcourt, April 17, 2012)

The Wicked and the Just is set in late thirteenth century Wales and is told from the alternating perspectives of two teenage girls, Cecily and Gwenhwyfar. Cecily is English, and grew up back in England on the family estate, Edgeley, until her uncle returned from the Crusades. Because her father was the younger son, they had to leave after that, and her father decided to move to Wales, which was recently conquered by the English, because it is easy to become a landowner there. To say Cecily was angry at this would be an understatement - she thought her father had completely ruined her life and her chances for a decent marriage. Cecily is a character I both liked and hated at the same time. Her narration and observations were hilarious at times, and I did feel sympathy for her being completely uprooted, but she also acted like a completely spoiled, entitled brat a lot of the time.

The other main character is Gwenhwyfar, who I will refer to by Gwinny, Cecily's nickname for her, because her full name is quite difficult to type and read. Gwinny is Welsh and her life is awful because of the English occupation. Her father was killed, and her family lost their home and now must live in a tiny, dirty cottage. Her mother is slowly dying, and Gwinny and her brother must care for her and keep themselves from starving. As a result of the English occupation, the Welsh must now pay unfair taxes and many laws restrict what they can do. So naturally, Gwinny hates all English people, including Cecily, but she must work as a maid at Cecily's home so her family doesn't starve. As with Cecily, my thoughts about Gwinny are complicated. I felt more sympathy for her, because what her life had become was just awful, but she was so angry and bitter. These feelings were completely justified, but hard to read about sometimes.

The Wicked and the Just is a very character-driven story - you may notice that unlike most of my reviews, I haven't written very much about the plot. That is because the characters (and their struggles) basically are the plot. There's a backdrop of growing unease in their city, Caernarvon, which culminates in a violent rebellion near the end of the book. This definitely isn't the book for everyone - if you don't love historical fiction with complicated characters that are neither good nor evil, you probably won't get very much out of this book. But if you love history and books with complex characters and situations that really make you think, I definitely recommend trying The Wicked and the Just.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

Waiting on Wednesday: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier (Published by Knopf Books, September 11, 2012)

Shadowfell is the first installment in a new fantasy trilogy of exciting rebellion, wonderous magic, and forbidden romance.
Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill—a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk—Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.
During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death—but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban’s release from Keldec’s rule. Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.

This book sounds AMAZING. I love high fantasy (especially when it includes romance) and I read elsewhere that the setting was inspired by Medieval Scotland, which sounds awesome.
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