Posts tagged historical

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assasin Book I)

French History, the Lord Death, and a Convent of Assassins

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin, book one)

Review based on an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC).

Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae has had a harsh life: born the daughter of death, her “mortal” father fears and hates her, and after years of beatings and abuse, she is sold into an arranged marriage. When strangers help her to escape, she finds herself taken to the convent of St. Mortain, where she learns that she is not only Death’s daughter but also a tool of Death’s revenge. At the convent Ismae becomes strong, learning everything from poisons and hand-to-hand combat to societal etiquette and effective spying techniques. Over the years, she develops friendships, new skills, and a place she calls home. (All of this takes place in 15th-Century Brittany.)

Several years later and in the midst of her first assassination assignment–her job is to find a man “marked” with Death’s fingerprint and perform His will–she encounters a handsome but frustrating nobleman, Duval, and he becomes a complication that follows her into her next trip and provides riddles as to the protection of the Duchess of Brittany, Death’s true intent, and the way the world truly functions. As the political intrigue grows, Duval and Ismae grow closer, supposedly working together while struggling to trust one another. When the convent determines it is Death’s will that Duval be assassinated, Ismae finds herself in an emotionally tumultuous position, unsure of her loyalties and her developing feelings. All the while Brittany is threatened by attack from France and the young Duchess is in ever-growing danger and in need of Ismae’s protection. Without giving away too much of the plot or romance, let’s just say it’s a really good page-turner! (more…)

A Spy in the House

Mystery and Murder in Victorian London

A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee

It is Victorian England, and Mary Quinn, a savvy twelve-year-old orphan with a secret, has been caught stealing food and is sentenced to hang. Through good graces and a series of sneaky maneuvers, she is rescued by a stranger and taken to the Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls for a proper upbringing where she will learn a lady’s traits.

Fast forward a few years, and Mary–now a well-respected and well-cultured young woman–is grateful but frustrated, unsure what she’s fit for and bored of needlework and polite conversation. When she finds out the academy is also a cover for the Agency, a women’s secret spy corporation, she’s swept up in the journey and learning, determined to further prove herself to those women who saved her that day on the street years ago. Sent on her first mission to listen in on conversations and observe while a more accomplished insider takes control, Mary quickly finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery and throws herself into the case, deeper than her peers would like. To add to the trouble she’s already in, a dark, mysterious man–a little broody, but rather like other romantic interests in the historical genre–keeps getting in her way and observing her attempts at infiltration. Mary quickly realizes that she must agree to partner up for the information they both so desperately seek. Romance, though forbidden, is in the air… And all the while, a murderer and master thief is on the loose. (more…)

Annexed

Anne Frank’s World Re-Visited

Annexed by Sharon Dogar

In Amsterdam in the middle of World War II, two Jewish families–the Franks and the Van Pels–hide away in an annex above an office, praying for survival and the downfall of the Nazis. In Annexed, Dogar has created her vision of what it was like in the annex with Anne Frank from Peter van Pels’ point of view. To take a time and character so closely scrutinized by the world and so well documented–by the world-renowned diary of Anne Frank–is a challenge, to say the least, but Dogar has done a good job at not over-sensationalizing the material. She also manages to stay true to what she believes might have gone through the mind of a teenage boy in a time of personal and world-wide crisis. Following Peter from the morning before seclusion to his death (potentially, according to records, in a concentration camp sick bay), readers see the hope and the despair, two sides of many moments he experienced as his memories are shared in the book.

Full of hate and fear, love, shame, sexual longing, wavering faith, and all the “why” questions one could ponder, Peter examines life both inside and outside the walls of the annex and tries to make sense of it all, all the while experiencing the morphing relationships inside the hideout as tensions flow between the families and genders. Why, Peter asks, must I hide instead of fight? Why do we have to be the chosen people? Why does being Jewish have to define everything about me? Will I ever experience life beyond this point? (more…)

Revolution

An Amazing Whirlwind of Emotions and History

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

(Review based on ARC of the book.)

You’ve got to respect a historical fiction novel for teens that has three pages of bibliography.

In this emotional whirlwind of a book, an American high school student–lost in despair over the death of her younger brother and the mental instability of her mother–finds herself through music and the history of the French revolution.

Andi is the equivalent of a musical prodigy, and when her brother dies, music is the only thing besides caring for her mother that keeps her going. (The anti-depressants help, but only just.) She’s flunking out of her private school, and she gets an ultimatum: complete a well-orchestrated senior thesis or don’t graduate.

Andi’s dad sweeps her off to Paris, hoping she can focus on graduation while he tests a 200-year-old heart for proof that it belonged to the dauphin, son of Marie-Antoinette. In the process, Andi discovers a hidden diary belonging to another 17-year-old girl, Alexandrine Paradis, the daughter of a puppeteer, who finds herself companion to the dauphin right before the start of the French revolution. Andi’s depression continues to rise and fall, and she gets pulled into Alexandrine’s story of pain, faith, and hope as Alex tries to survive the bloody massacres of her time and save the child prince. As Alex writes, “They are a truthful account of these bitter, bloody days.” Andi finds herself absorbed in the past, so much so that one night she finds herself thrown into the horror of Alexandrine’s world, unsure of what is dream and what is reality. (more…)

Emily's Fortune

A “Rootin’ Tootin’ Good Time” for Girls!

Emily’s Fortune by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

A word of warning: don’t let the cover fool you–this book is really fun!

Newbery Award-winning author Naylor sets off on a tale in the untamed west where Emily, a recently orphaned girl who has inherited an unexpected fortune, attempts to escape her greedy, conniving Uncle Victor. Though timid and used to sitting quietly indoors all day, she grits her teeth and sets off in a coach (with her trusty pet turtle in hand), hoping to live with her distant but kind-hearted aunt. Along the way Emily meets Jackson, an orphan and a street urchin, and together they find themselves running for their lives and working together to befuddle Uncle Victor. In Emily’s adventures she learns how to climb tall trees, sleep outdoors, and disguise herself as a boy, all the while growing from meek to self-sufficient, and it’s a fun transition to witness.

Fun illustrations appear throughout the text, as do enlarged captions and Wild West “rootin’ tootin’” phrases (such as “blinkin’ bloomers”) that lead readers from one chapter to the next. Naylor keeps the action fun and her characters funny, elaborating on genteel ladies as they complain about bumpy wagon rides and overly ambitious child-services agents. With smart, quirky character names like “Miss Catchum” of the Catchum Child-Catching Services and Emily’s helpful neighbors—Mrs. Ready, Mrs. Aim, and Mrs. Fire—Naylor maintains the ride throughout, keeping it entertaining. With the southern dialogue and western “slang”, it would make for a great class read-aloud. It’s a book that shows just how strong and smart a little girl can become without being too girly—and really, anyone who learns to appreciate a good tree climbing while “hootin’ and hollerin'” is a-okay by me! (more…)

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