Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

Review of Maud, by Melanie J. Fishbane

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

Maud

by Melanie J. Fishbane

Penguin Random House, 2017. 400 pages.
Starred Review

Maud is a novel based on the teen years of Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon.

I actually didn’t expect to like this book too much. I’ve read all of her journals, and they are wonderful – and I was skeptical that they could be written as a novel even close as good as the journals themselves. I have read a biography of L. M. Montgomery, written by Harry Bruce, and it was dissatisfying after reading the journals.

But though I still think the journals are better and L. M. Montgomery’s writing itself is unsurpassable, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Now, I knew what was going to happen, and the characters felt like old familiar friends. It’s been awhile since I’ve read that first journal, so I didn’t necessarily remember every detail, either. It was like someone telling me a favorite story I’d almost forgotten.

And I did really enjoy this book. It’s easier reading than the journals, told in a coherent story, with some themes throughout – Maud looking for a place where she belongs and determining to make her mark as a writer – and being willing to sacrifice the normal ambitions of her friends – finding a husband – in order to follow that dream of being a writer.

It has been awhile since I read the journals, but I do believe that Melanie Fishbane stuck very close to the actual details of Maud’s life. So readers can enjoy this book with the knowledge that it’s true and really happened.

And the novel did help me understand why Maud turned down her suitors, including boys she actually loved. Getting married young, in those days, really would have cut off her chance to go to college and to become a writer. I understood better the choices she made when they were presented in novelized form.

Bottom line, this book presents a lovely and inspiring story of L. M. Montgomery’s teen years and the rise of her ambitions to make her name as a writer – ambitions that she went on to fulfill. If you don’t know her story, I highly recommend this book. And it turns out, even if you do know her story, you will thoroughly enjoy this retelling.

@MelanieFishbane
penguinrandomhouse.ca

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth Wein

Friday, August 4th, 2017

The Pearl Thief

by Elizabeth Wein

Hyperion, 2017. 326 pages.
Starred Review

The Pearl Thief is a prequel to the brilliant Code Name Verity. You can read the books in any order. They don’t overlap at all. You’ll learn more about the character of Julia Beaufort-Stuart, who took the code name Verity during World War II.

In this book, Julie comes home to Scotland from boarding school during the summer she is to turn sixteen. Her grandfather the Earl of Strathfearn has recently died, and her grandmother had to sell the estate to pay bills. So workmen are all over the grounds, preparing to turn it into a school, and the family is packing up their things and spending one last summer at Strathfearn.

Julie arrived home a few days early, when no one was expecting her. The house is empty, so she put on some old clothes and went down to the river – and there she got whacked on the head and left unconscious.

When Julie wakes up in the hospital, the nurses think she’s a Scottish Traveler, a Tinker. Some Travelers found her and brought her in, and no one knew that she was coming home so early.

The man who was in charge of cataloging the Murray collection went missing the same day Julie got hit on the head. As Julie’s memory comes back, she remembers seeing him in the river. Did he commit suicide? Or was he murdered? And who hit Julie?

Meanwhile, Julie makes friends with the Traveler family and sees how everyone in the neighborhood would like to pin the crimes on them.

In this book, it’s fun to again enjoy carefree and bold Julia Beaufort-Stuart. But there’s also plenty of mystery. Also missing from the Murray collection are some Scottish river pearls. And there’s an ancient log boat in the river that the workers carelessly start dredging up – then revealing parts of a body.

We’ve got a story dealing with assault, murder, theft, ancient treasures, and prejudice. And the mystery wraps up with some thrillingly dangerous moments as well. It’s also a coming-of-age story, as Julie experiments with kissing, learns to drive, and wants to be seen as an adult.

I like everything Elizabeth Wein writes, so I have some bias by now. I thought the mystery was a little bit rambling, but mostly it was great to again be in the company of the delightful Julia Beaufort-Stuart.

elizabethwein.com
hyperionteens.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Shadow Land, by Elizabeth Kostova

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

The Shadow Land

by Elizabeth Kostova

Ballantine Books, 2017. 478 pages.
Starred Review

When Alexandra Boyd gets off the plane in Sofia, she’s jet lagged, exhausted, and not even thinking straight. She’s in Bulgaria to begin teaching English, but came a month early to do some sight-seeing. First, the taxi driver brings her to a nice hotel, instead of the hostel where she has a room booked – and drives off before she can fix it.

While she’s trying to figure out what to do, she sees an elderly couple and a younger man come out of the hotel. As the younger man is helping the older man in a wheelchair get into a taxi, the older lady stumbles. Alexandra catches her arm and helps her. And then she passes their bags to them and helps them settle in the cab.

The younger man thanks her, and chats with her about her travel plans. She asks if she can take their picture – the first people she’s spoken to in Bulgaria.

Then Alexandra gets into a taxi and heads for her hostel. But as they are driving away, she suddenly notices that she has the tall man’s satchel. When she opens it up, it contains an urn with ashes and a name on the urn, Stoyan Lazarov. She asks the taxi driver to stop and bursts into tears.

When Alexandra opened the urn, she began to cry not because she was afraid of human remains but because it was just too much, the last straw. She was in a strange country, she was exhausted, her plans had already gone awry, and in the dramatic way of the young she felt herself in the grip of something larger — destiny, or some plot that could as easily be evil as good.

Alexandra has the driver, who says she can call him Bobby, take her back to the hotel, but there’s no sign of the people who lost the urn. She goes to the police, which Bobby doesn’t think is a great idea. But the police give her an address to try. First, though, she and Bobby drive to the monastery where the tall man said they’d be traveling.

In the monastery, Alexandra and Bobby get locked into a room, but it turns out Bobby has lockpicking skills.

By now Bobby is interested in Alexandra’s quest, so they continue on the trail of the Lazarov family. Each place they go, they find the family is not there, but get another lead of a place where they might be found. Along the way, they find out more about Stoyan Lazarov as well. But at the same time, as they travel, Bobby’s car is vandalized and they get threatening notes. Someone besides the Lazarov family seems to want the urn.

This book has a chase saga and a mystery, as well as being a story of a young American woman traveling in Europe on her own for the first time. Just when I thought it was especially lovely, pleasant reading, the book starts delving into the history of Bulgaria – particularly Stoyan Lazarov’s time in a prison camp – particularly brutal and awful.

But the overall feeling of the book is hopeful and surviving through art and through love. The story is compelling, as Stoyan Lazarov’s past has repercussions in the present.

This is a very personal story, despite having large themes. Alexandra has some of her own issues to deal with, but she cares about the people she meets along the way, and the reader can’t help but care, too. The author weaves in flashbacks well, never interrupting Alexandra’s story long enough to make us impatient.

I still say it’s a lovely book, even though it has some very hard chapters. The author brings Bulgaria to life so vividly and so lovingly, I wasn’t surprised to read at the back that she’s married to a Bulgarian. The plot is gripping, yet she manages to weave in lots of background material without letting up on the tension. On top of all that, these characters – from Alexandra and Bobby all the way to the man in the urn – are people you come to love.

elizabethkostova.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Duels & Deception, by Cindy Anstey

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Duels and Deception

by Cindy Astey

Swoon Reads (Feiwel and Friends), April 2017. 345 pages.
Starred Review

Oh, these Cindy Astey Regency romances are so much fun! In this one, we meet Lydia Whitfield, a friend of our heroine from Love, Lies and Spies, but you don’t have to read the first book to enjoy this one.

Lydia thinks of herself as not romantic at all. Before he died, her papa picked out the man she should marry, Lord Aldershot, so their estates could be joined. Lydia wants to draw up a contract about the arrangements between them – and gets kidnapped! Her carriage is diverted, while the handsome young law clerk is in it. He is shortly thrown out, but after Lydia is imprisoned in an abandoned barn, Mr. Newton comes to rescue her.

Together they seek to investigate who was behind the nefarious plot. But whoever it was wants to destroy Lydia’s reputation with knowledge that she was out all night in the company of a young man. Unless she will give in to blackmail.

Meanwhile, Lydia’s drunken uncle is guardian of her estate together with a lawyer who’s showing signs of senility. And Mr. Newton’s friend got himself embroiled in a duel.

Lydia’s a delightful heroine and it’s lovely to watch her figure out she might think romance is a good thing, after all.

Here’s how the book begins. You get a nice taste of Lydia’s character. It also leads up to the carriage accident, caused by her uncle, which is where she first meets Mr. Newton.

Had Miss Lydia Whitfield of Roseberry Hall been of a skittish nature, the sound of a rapidly approaching carriage would have caused considerable anxiety. As it was, the driver behind her did nothing to stay her steps. Besides, she recognized the bells on Esme’s harness and Turnip’s nicker of protest – poor creature hated to canter. The vehicle could be none other than the family landau.

However, as the nickering changed from protest to panic, Lydia was certain the carriage was now descending the steep hill too quickly. The road from Spelding was rocky and rutted, especially in the spring, and it made for a rough ride. Most drivers took it at a walk.

But not this driver.

This book was simply tremendous fun. If you like Jane Austen at all, this is more fast-paced, but still gives you a lovely taste of that world, with remarkable characters you’ll enjoy spending time with.

swoonreads.com

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Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Cloud and Wallfish, by Anne Nesbet

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Cloud and Wallfish

by Anne Nesbet

Candlewick Press, 2016. 385 pages.
Starred Review

One day both Noah’s parents come to pick him up from school. He is informed that they are taking a sudden trip to Germany, leaving now. And not West Germany, the one they’d talked about going to for vacation some day, the other Germany. Noah’s Mom is going to continue her PhD research, looking at education for people with disabilities on both sides of the Wall.

That’s only the beginning for Noah. They also tell him that he’s going to be called Jonah and he has a different birthday than the one he’s always used. They even made a book for him, showing him the history of his life – with fake elementary school pictures and fake places they supposedly lived.

It’s 1989, and Noah and his parents – now the Brown family instead of the Keller family – are going to live in East Berlin for six months.

They’ve got a set of Rules. They must not draw attention to themselves. They must smile. They must not talk about serious things indoors, where they’ll be bugged. If Noah absolutely must talk about the past, he must stick to the Jonah Book.

Noah has a stutter, which makes German, with all its consonants, even harder for him than English, even though he has a gift for languages and can understand. But the authorities don’t think he can speak it well enough to go to school. He meets a girl named Claudia (pronounced “Cloud-ee-a”) who lives in their apartment building with her grandma and missed school because she was sick.

Before contact is forbidden, Noah/Jonah and Claudia, who both feel like Changelings, invent a fairyland and draw pictures of that place on a map of Berlin. On the map, West Berlin is blank, so they fill it in as fairyland.

The adult reader will know this was an interesting time to be in Berlin – and sure enough, things progress as events move toward the Wall coming down. To fill in historical details, every chapter has a “Secret File” giving some background. I was a little ambivalent about those being included. But since it was information I had already, it seems only fair that kids should have that information, too.

I was pulled into this book right away, as Noah was bewildered by his parents’ news of the sudden move and name change. The characterization is brilliant as his parents take on East Germany, and Noah observes, follows the Rules, and makes a Changeling friend.

Of course, I’ve got a soft spot for this book since I lived in Germany for 10 years, though it was after the Wall fell. There was even a Sonderschule mentioned. It’s a school for special needs kids, but hey, it’s part of a special book.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Inquisitor’s Tale, by Adam Gidwitz

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

The Inquisitor’s Tale

Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

by Adam Gidwitz

illuminated by Hatem Aly

Dutton Children’s Books, 2016. 363 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Newbery Honor Book
2017 Sydney Taylor Book Award Gold Medalist
2016 Capitol Choices selection
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Children’s Fiction

This book is marvelous! Set in France in the year 1242, it tells the story of three children with miraculous powers. Jeanne, a peasant girl, has fits during which she can see the future. William, an oblate at a monastery whose mother was a Saracen from Africa, has strength like Samson. And Jacob, a Jewish boy, has miraculous healing powers. Their other companion is a holy dog. This dog saved Jeanne’s life when she was a baby, but died. Now the dog, Gwenforte, has come back to life.

The dog started the trouble, really. People of the village had been venerating her grave. Jeanne finds Gwenforte alive in the Holy Grove where she’d been buried just before a group of knights arrives to destroy the grove, because obviously venerating a dog is false worship. When Jeanne saves the dog and the knights learn that she has visions, she becomes a target, too.

We know at the start of the book that in the last week, the three children have become famous through all of France and that now King Louis himself is after them. Their story is told at an inn outside Paris. Our unnamed narrator wants to find out about the children. He finds people at the inn who can tell their stories. So the chapters of the book have titles that remind one of The Canterbury Tales, “The Brewster’s Tale,” “The Nun’s Tale,” “The Librarian’s Tale,” and the like.

We hear the stories of all three of the children and how their paths intersected. They end up on a mission together to save books from burning.

Each of the children is a victim of prejudice. Jeanne because she’s a peasant, William because of his dark skin, and Jacob because he’s a Jew. Jacob’s is by far the most serious, as his whole village was burned. They find a kinship together, and maybe their tolerance for each other is slightly anachronistic — but it’s beautiful enough, this can be forgiven. William has done much reading in the monastery, so he knows about the wisdom found in Jewish books.

The story is told with plenty of humor. And it’s a wonderful story, with miracles and twists and turns and people chasing the children and plots and quests. All throughout the book, we have illuminations. Here’s what it says about that at the beginning:

This book has been illuminated — as a medieval text might have been — by the artist Hatem Aly. Some of his illustrations will reflect the action, or the ideas, in the story. Some will be unrelated doodles, just as medieval illuminators often doodled in the margins of their books. There may even be drawings that contradict, or question, the text. That, too, was commonplace in medieval manuscripts. The author and the illuminator are unique individuals, with unique interpretations of the story, and of the meaning behind it.

There are almost thirty pages of notes and bibliography at the back — Adam Gidwitz did plenty of studying about medieval times. I love the way he based the children’s miracles on actual medieval sources. He also wove in actual historical characters and places. I love the way Mont St. Michel is featured. (I really want to go there some day.)

The story’s engaging, exciting, and funny, but it also has a lovely message about tolerance which feels very timely. This is from the Author’s Note at the back:

It was a time when people were redefining how they lived with the “other,” with people who were different from them. The parallels between our time and theirs are rich, poignant, and, too often, tragic. As I put the finishing touches on this novel, more than a hundred and forty people were killed in Paris by terrorists. It turns out they planned the attack from apartments in the town of Saint-Denis. The tragic irony of this haunts me. Zealots kill, and the victims retaliate with killing, and the cycle continues, extending forward and backward in history, apparently without end. I can think of nothing sane to say about this except this book.

This book is marvelous — both filled with marvels and magnificently carried out.

adamgidwitz.com
metahatem.com
penguin.com/youngReaders

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

Friday, October 14th, 2016

everyone_brave_is_forgiven_largeEveryone Brave Is Forgiven

by Chris Cleave
read by Luke Thompson

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2016. 12.75 hours on 10 discs.

First, let me say that Chris Cleave’s writing is magnificent. His use of language is rich and evocative. Narrator Luke Thompson’s voice and dreamy accent is wonderful — the voices of the different characters were distinct and clearly distinguishable throughout.

This is another World War II novel — but showed me aspects and details of World War II that I knew nothing about — the siege of Malta, the fate of children who were not evacuated from London, the treatment of Negroes in England, and what it was like to be in London during the bombing.

But — it’s another World War II novel. Yes, I was enthralled. Yes, I was never tempted at all to stop listening. (Did I mention the author’s magnificent and evocative use of the language?) But I’m afraid, sadly, I’m getting tired of World War II stories. I’ve read so many good ones in the last year: All the Light We Cannot See, Anna and the Swallow Man, Salt to the Sea, and The War That Saved My Life.

This one, I’m afraid I never was very fond of the characters. They were interesting. I liked Alistair best — but mostly it was sympathy for all he had to go through. (And his voice was the dreamiest.) The rest were all right, but not necessarily people I’d ever be friends with if they were real.

And the main love story didn’t quite work for me. As far as I could tell, it was some sort of spell cast on them when they laid eyes on each other. Despite obstacles. I just couldn’t quite get behind that, even though they kept telling me how strong that attraction was. I didn’t feel like they actually knew each other well, despite some flirtatious letters (which were fun to listen in on).

And Chris Cleave can think up horrors like no one else! He still hasn’t topped the scene in Little Bee for the most horrific scene I’ve ever read. But this was a book about war, and there were several truly awful moments. They were warranted — this is a war story. But that may be partly why I’m getting tired of World War II stories.

So — I can’t stress enough that this is a well-written book that shows you the daily lives of a group of people caught up in World War II. It lets you peek into their hearts. But those are a few reasons why I personally liked and admired it but didn’t love it. If you take it up, be sure you’re ready for a story about war.

chriscleave.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk

Monday, October 10th, 2016

wolf_hollow_largeWolf Hollow

by Lauren Wolk

Dutton Children’s Books (Penguin Random House), 2016. 291 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s the Prologue of this book:

The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.

I don’t mean the small fibs that children tell. I mean real lies fed by real fears — things I said and did that took me out of the life I’d always known and put me down hard into a new one.

It was the autumn of 1943 when my steady life began to spin, not only because of the war that had drawn the whole world into a screaming brawl, but also because of the dark-hearted girl who came to our hills and changed everything.

At times, I was so confused that I felt like the stem of a pinwheel surrounded by whir and clatter, but through that whole unsettling time I knew that it simply would not do to hide in the barn with a book and an apple and let events plunge forward without me. It would not do to turn twelve without earning my keep, and by that I meant my place, my small authority, the possibility that I would amount to something.

But there was more to it than that.

The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered.

So much, sometimes, that I wasn’t sure I wanted such a burden.

But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best I could.

At the end of the book, Annabelle says:

But Wolf Ho

So this is a story about Lies and about Truth, about basic questions of Right and Wrong.

It’s not a World War II story, even though that’s the backdrop. Annabelle lives on a farm in Wolf Hollow. She attends a one-room school and looks out for her little brothers.

The story involves a dark-hearted girl who comes to Wolf Hollow, and who looks sweet and pretty to the adults, but is a cruel and relentless bully.

It also involves a homeless man named Toby, a veteran of World War I, who roams the hills with three guns on his back and camps out in an abandoned building. Again, to adults Toby looks scary, but he’s open-hearted and kind.

Annabelle has a window on both those people that isn’t shared with most of the folks in Wolf Hollow.

This book isn’t light-hearted and doesn’t really have a happy ending. But it’s a book about doing what’s right and seeing who people really are.

But it’s also a lovely book about love and friendship that leaves you uplifted in spite of the tough issues it uncovers.

penguin.com/youngreaders

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Love, Lies and Spies, by Cindy Anstey

Friday, September 16th, 2016

love_lies_and_spies_largeLove, Lies and Spies

by Cindy Anstey

Swoon Reads (Feiwel and Friends), New York, 2016. 344 pages.
Starred Review

This book had me from the first paragraph, which is:

“Oh my, this is embarrassing,” Miss Juliana Telford said aloud. There was no reason to keep her thoughts to herself, as she was alone, completely alone. In fact, that was half of the problem. The other half was, of course, that she was hanging off the side of a cliff with the inability to climb either up or down and in dire need of rescue.

A page later, Juliana does hear someone approaching.

Please, she prayed, let it be a farmer or a tradesman, someone not of the gentry. No one who would feel obligated to report back to Grays Hill Park. No gentlemen, please.

“Hello?” she called out. Juliana craned her neck upward, trying to see beyond the roots and accumulated thatch at the cliff’s edge.

A head appeared. A rather handsome head. He had dark, almost black, hair and clear blue eyes and, if one were to notice such things at a time like this, a friendly, lopsided smile.

“Need some assistance?” the head asked with a hint of sarcasm and the tone of a . . .

“Are you a gentleman?” Juliana inquired politely.

The head looked startled, frowned slightly, and then raised an eyebrow before answering. “Yes, indeed I am –”

“Please, I do not wish to be rescued by a gentleman. Could you find a farmer or a shopkeep – anyone not of the gentry – and then do me the great favor of forgetting you saw me?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I do not want to be rude, but this is a most embarrassing predicament –”

“I would probably use the word dangerous instead.”

“Yes, well, you would, being a man. But I, on the other hand, being a young woman doing her best not to call attention to herself and bring shame upon her family, would call it otherwise.”

Well, it soon becomes apparent (as the roots give way) that Juliana must settle for the help of this gentleman and his friend. However, it so happens that the gentlemen also don’t want their presence on the cliff generally known, so all parties agree to pretend to be unacquainted, should they encounter one another again.

You will not be surprised that they do encounter one another again.

Juliana is an 18-year-old young lady getting ready for her first Season in London with her cousin. But Juliana is determined that she is not looking for a husband. No, her time in London is a cover for an opportunity to find a publisher for the research she and her father have done on lady beetles. Juliana has no intention of getting married and forsaking her father to do his research without her.

Meanwhile, someone is passing messages to Napoleon, and the handsome gentleman of the cliffside is on their trail. That trail increasingly brings him in proximity with Juliana, since the noble family she’s staying with has some not very noble members.

This book is tremendous fun from start to finish. Juliana is capable, independent, and intelligent – yet somehow manages to get into multiple situations where she needs to be rescued. Those situations ended up being so delightful, I couldn’t hold them against her.

This is a Regency romance with a little spying thrown in. The clause on the cover puts it well: “In which plans for a season without romance are unapologetically foiled.”

swoonreads.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

glamour_in_glass_largeGlamour in Glass

by Mary Robinette Kowal

TOR, Tom Doherty Associates, 2012. 334 pages.
Starred Review

A big thank-you to my sister Melanie for giving me this book, which I finally got around to reading.

I have trouble getting around to reading books I own – they don’t have a due date. I read the first book, Shades of Milk and Honey, on a plane trip, and enjoyed it, but wasn’t terribly impressed. I didn’t like the jealousy between the sisters and the tribute to Pride and Prejudice made it quite predictable.

So when I finally read this second book on a plane trip, I thought only to pass the time – and then I loved it!

Jane and her husband Vincent are newly married. They are now working together as Glamourists – people who use magic to create illusions. As the book opens, they have just finished working months on a commission for the Prince Regent.

From there, they decide to go to Belgium as a sort of honeymoon, celebrating the end of the war. Vincent is going to consult with a glamourist there who is developing a new technique that allows one to walk around a glamour and see different things from different sides. There Jane gets an idea of a way to record a glamour in glass so that you can carry it along with you. As they experiment together, they manage to record an invisibility glamour.

However, before long Jane’s activities as a glamourist are put to a halt when she becomes pregnant. The work of creating glamours is too taxing for pregnant women, and she has to sit on the sidelines for a time.

But then word comes that Napoleon has escaped his island exile and is coming back to France, via Belgium. Vincent is more embroiled in events than Jane had realized. Between spies on both sides and the military advantages of the invisibility glamour, Vincent gets into trouble, and it’s up to Jane – who can’t perform glamours – to find a way to get him out.

I thought this book was delightful. Jane’s younger sister wasn’t in it, so there was none of the jealousy or sibling rivalry I didn’t like in the first book. I liked the easy affection between the couple, with natural worries and stumbles as they figure out how to work together and merge their lives together.

This time, I didn’t expect the magic to be earth-shaking – it’s only about glamour, after all – but I think I enjoyed all the more the way it turned out to have military applications. Even before that bit, I liked the way creating glamours was presented as a skill that requires practice and study and invention – and the way Jane and Vincent both brought their talents to this work together. It was a lovely picture of a marriage – yet in a world quite different from our own. The plot wasn’t at all predictable, and I enjoyed the suspenseful elements and political intrigue – all with our heroine mixed up in the middle of it.

I’m going to have to catch up on this series!

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Source: This review is based on my own copy, a gift from my sister Melanie.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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