|Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer, narrated by Phyllida Nash|
Category: historical fiction
Merlin’s Blade, by Robert Treskillard
Merlin’s Blade, by Robert Treskillard
Reason for Reading: A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Genre: Young Adult Christian Fantasy
Merlin has been living peacefully as the blind son of a village blacksmith when druids invade the area with an evil stone that usurps the minds of the villagers and turns them against God. Merlin is the only villager who is unaffected by the stone’s powers. His problems become worse when the High King Uther and his infant son Arthur arrive in the village and are attacked by the druids. Merlin must save his village as well as the young prince. This was a fun retelling of the young Merlin’s back-story. It’s marketed as a Young Adult Christian Fiction, though I think it could be enjoyed by a wider audience. Merlin’s Blade isn’t “preachy,” which is a complaint of many Christian Fiction books, though it does (understandably) perceive the worship of a stone to be an “evil” act. The druids are portrayed as mostly bad (or at least mislead) people, but I appreciated that some of the druids were actually rather likable. I’m a fan of Christian fiction writers who are able to see the humans behind the non-Christian characters. So, if you’re a fan of retellings (especially YA retellings), I think this is a book you might enjoy. It took some interesting liberties with the story of Merlin and Arthur, but it was also rather fun to see how that sword got stuck in the stone to begin with. 🙂
I’ll be waiting for the next book in the series!
Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear
Written by Jacqueline Winspear, Narrated by Rita Barrington
Reason for Reading: Real Life book club
Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery / Women’s Fiction
Maisie Dobbs is disappointed when her first case as a PI is to investigate a potential infidelity; however, things get a little more interesting when her investigation brings to light a suspicious death in a home for soldiers injured in WWI. But investigating the home turns out to be more dangerous than she’d thought.
This book was WAY outside my box. I generally don’t read women’s fiction or books that have a feminist leaning – though sometimes I enjoy such books. So this mystery wasn’t for me. The mystery part of the story was very light – she investigated a potential infidelity at the beginning, and at the end she investigated a suspicious home for injured soldiers. The middle half of the book was all Maisie’s background and character development, which I found off-topic and a bit contrived. Maisie is one of those WWI women who did absolutely everything the stereotypical WWI literary woman does. She got caught up in the feminist movement (somewhat), was educated beyond her class and gender, lied about her age so she could be a nurse in France, etc. etc. It’s like Winspear took a list of WWI woman stereotypes and checked them all off. Thus, I felt absolutely no empathy for Maisie’s character because she felt so fake to me. The little touch of mystery at the beginning and the end wasn’t enough to save the book.
I can see that many readers would love this book – if you like women PI’s, especially of the historical variety, then this is probably a good book for you. The series IS popular. It just wasn’t for me. *shrug*
Against the Tide, by Elizabeth Camden
Reason for Reading: I’m leading the discussion of Against the Tide for the ACFW Bookclub on 5/27 – 5/31. If you would like to join the discussion (or see what else the bookclub is doing) you can join the Yahoo Group. There’s still time to read this fantastic book!
Genre: Christian Historical Romance
Lydia Pallas grew up surrounded with instability, but she is finally content with her comforting home and rewarding job as a translator for the U. S. Navy. She meticulously organizes her surroundings so that, for the first time in her life, she feels she’s in control of her life. However, her landlords are now threatening to throw her out of the only stable home she’s ever had. She needs to raise several hundred dollars to buy her home by December. Seemingly fortuitously, Alexander Banebridge (Bane), a friend of her boss, offers to pay her a lot of money for some free-lance translation work. Even though Lydia begins to question the odd requests of Bane, she finds herself attracted to his cleverness, charm, and sense of humor. Soon, she is swept up into a dangerous world of opium smuggling.
I have a lot of good things to say about this book. I loved the late 1800’s Boston setting – it’s a time which lends itself easily to romance. Although there were a few moments that I wondered if the language was historically accurate, I felt Camden did an excellent job with her research into opium trade. Despite (or possibly because of) Lydia’s OCD quirks, she was very lovable. I really found myself empathizing with her pain – losing her family, the stress of raising money to buy the only home she’s ever felt safe in, and her feelings for Bane. On the other hand, I inwardly groaned at her devotion to Bane and his cause. I totally understood WHY she was in love, but cringed at the foolishness of loving a man who claims he has no interest in marriage, but doesn’t mind a bit of flirting. But love is foolish, often, isn’t it? 🙂 I was sort of torn – I empathized with her frustrations with Bane, but I also wished she would find herself a nice dedicated man. This is a similar conundrum I felt while reading Jane Eyre – I wanted her to live happily ever after with the man she loved, but I thought she was risking too much by loving him. I guess that makes it more romantic, in some ways?
The other thing that I really appreciated about this book (though my attention was only drawn to it because I’m about to lead a book discussion): the questions that Camden provided at the end of the book were really deep! I didn’t realize how many sticky philosophical and spiritual questions were brought up in the story until I read the discussion questions. And they’re not spiritual questions that have an obvious “right-if-you’re-REALLY-a-Christian” answer, which is what a lot of end-of-book discussion questions in Christian Fiction seem to be. Personally, I don’t see the world in black and white, so I love the opportunity to discuss grey. 🙂
Airman, by Eoin Colfer
Reason for Reading: Seemed like a good idea
Genre: YA Steampunk
Conor Broekhart has grown up as the best friend of the princess of the Saltee kingdom (an imaginary kingdom off of Ireland). But when he discovers a conspiracy to kill the king, the real traitor captures him and sends him to a prison camp to mine diamonds in obscurity. Conor must use his genius for flight to escape the prison and rescue the princess. Conor is much like a 19th century steampunk Artemis Fowl. Colfer delivers his usual book – fun, delightful, and humorous. Definitely a treat for fans of non-dystopia non-paranormal-romance YA. (YAY! for something different!) I’d say this book is appropriate for 5th – 8th graders.
Interview with Elizabeth Camden
Hi everyone! I’ll be leading a discussion of Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden for this month’s ACFW Bookclub. The discussion will take place from May 27 – 31st on a Yahoo groups email list. Everyone is welcome to join, and there’s plenty of time to read the book! Elizabeth will be participating in the discussion as well. I’ve included an interview with Elizabeth to entice you.
The Aviary, by Kathleen O’Dell
Reason for Reading: Real life book club
Clara Dooley has lived her whole life in the decrepit Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is the care-taker of the elderly Mrs Glendoveer. Clara’s mother keeps her hidden away from the outside world, claiming that Clara’s health is fragile. At 12, Clara has come to an age where she wants to test her boundaries – and just such an opportunity arrives when her elderly patron passes away, a new girl moves into the neighborhood, and the birds in the aviary begin to speak to her. With her new friend, Clara must discover the secrets of the Glendoveer mansion, and decide whether the birds are friends or foes.
This was a cute little ghost story / mystery for children (probably girls) ages 9-12. It used the basic adults-don’t-want-to-share-secrets format, while keeping the adults likable and intelligent. The two little girls were adorable and fun. And the birds, once they started developing characters, were a very interesting twist. I found this book an engaging and quick read. Highly recommended for lovers of middle-grade ghost stories / mysteries.
The Fairest Beauty, by Melanie Dickerson
The Fairest Beauty, by Melanie Dickerson
Reason for Reading: I led the book discussion for ACFW this month.
When Gabe Gerstenberg learns that his brother’s fiance – who everyone thought had died – was very much alive and being held hostage by an evil duchess. Gabe’s brother is down with a broken leg, and his father is busy, so he decides to rescue her himself. He bites off more than he can chew with this rash act, and ends up running desperately from the duchesses men – with a woman that he finds very attractive and very unavailable.
This sweet Christian historical fiction retelling of Snow White, has all the recognizable elements of the fairy tale, but is set in a realistic world. There were a few really creative twists – like the “seven dwarves” that made this story a fun creation. There were a lot of ethical questions brought to light – the main theme was: when do you know you’re following God’s wishes rather than your own? This is a good book for readers of fluffy/sweet romance, fairy tale retellings, or Christian historical fiction. Personally, I found Sophie’s character to be just a little too sweet and perfect, but I think that’s the nature of the snow white fairy tale. As far as I’m concerned, that was the only flaw in this cute retelling.
Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata
Written by Cynthia Kadohata, Narrated by Elaina Erika Davis
Reason for Reading: This book won the Newbery Medal in 2005
In this endearing book, the Takeshima family moves to Georgia so that Katie’s parents can work in the chicken factory. There, young Katie learns about Southern racism and the practically-slave-labor conditions of factory workers. But when Katie’s older sister Lynn becomes sick, Katie learns the hardest lesson of all…This is a sweet story – and pretty typical for Newbery winners. (Newbery judges certainly like bereavement, racism, and Southern settings!) The character in the book ranges from about 5-7, I’d say, but I think the subject and reading level is more appropriate for a 10-12 year old.
Let the Circle Be Unbroken, by Mildred D. Taylor
Let the Circle be Unbroken, by Mildred D. Taylor
Reason for Reading: This was one of the books that I planned on reading in my February Social Justice Theme Read and decided I would have to read later this year. (I really WILL read them all, I’m determined!)
Cassie and her brothers are sent reeling by a shockingly racist trial – the culmination of events from the first book in the series, Roar of Thunder Hear My Cry. In addition, Cassie’s growing up, so she learns a lot about inter-race relations and the often humiliating effects. This is a heart-rending (though sometimes slow-moving) children’s historical fiction. The story deals with complex issues and is character-driven, so even though the reading level is approximately 5th-7th grade, this is not a book for reluctant readers unless they have a particular interest in race relations. It’s a book for children who love to read – and to absorb ideas. It’s definitely a good addition to the Roll of Thunder Series, and I find myself curious to follow the family’s saga to the end. 🙂