08. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill by Megan Frazer Blakemore, 320 pages, read by Angie, on 10/07/2014

Hazel lives with her parents in the small Vermont town of Maple Hill. Her parents are the caretakers of the local cemetery and Hazel has free reign over the cemetery. It is 1953 and the height of the Joseph McCarthy Red Menace where communists seem to be everywhere. Hazel believes what she hears. She is building a bomb shelter in one of the mausoleums and investigating the new gravedigger Mr. Jones. She believes that since the FBI is investigating the local factory there must be other commies in town. Hazel thinks Mr. Jones is suspicious and wants to catch him in the act. She enlists the help of her new friend Samuel who is new in town and has a mysterious past. Together they have to figure out the mystery of Mr. Jones and the communist threat.

I liked this book. Hazel is spunky and smart and a bit full of herself. She loves the mysteries of Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon and wants to solve mysteries herself. Since she lives in a small town there aren’t really a lot of mysteries, which doesn’t stop Hazel. She sees things as she wants them to be in a lot of ways. She doesn’t have a whole lot of parental supervision, but this is the 1950s so maybe parents were a bit more lax back then. I like the fact that this book is set in a time period that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention with middle grade novels. There is also McCarthyism which is not something a lot of kids know about it. It is a fascinating time in our history when there was a lot of fear-mongering going on. While the Mr. Jones mystery wasn’t really that interesting, Samuel’s story was as was how Hazel resolved it.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz, 260 pages, read by Leslie, on 09/11/2014

15756277

Survive. At any cost.

10 concentration camps.

10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.

It’s something no one could imagine surviving.

But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.

Based on a true story, this book brings a story that young people can read and maybe gain some insight into a part of history that takes us where no one should ever have gone.  This may be what interests boys in the way that Anne Frank’s diary interested girls.  While brutal in nature, it is written so that young people can read it and maybe learn from it in the hopes that history will never repeat itself.  Recommend for both boys and girls.

 

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Leslie

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, 257 pages, read by Leslie, on 09/06/2014

One Came Home

In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly.

But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn’t, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of “pigeoners” trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha’s blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

While set in the 1800s and the setting seems western in nature, it really isn’t a western.  Georgie, the main character, refuses to believe that her sister is dead, despite the evidence pointing to her demise.  She sets off, determined to find her.  While she is out looking, she runs into more than she anticipated and even though she still doesn’t believe her sister is dead, Georgie begins to resign herself to that conclusion.  What intrigued me about the story, were the pigeons and pigeoners, due to the fact that I had just been reading stories about the extinction of the passenger pigeon and the huge flocks of them that would migrate across the country.  I think this is a story that will find both boys and girls enjoying.

06. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Steam-punk, Teen Books

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, 378 pages, read by Courtney, on 09/09/2014

Joel has always wanted to be a Rithmatist, but he wasn’t chosen. He still gets to go to the prestigious Armedius Academy and, while he can’t take the courses that the Rithmatist students do, he can still sneak into the occasional class. His obsession with Rithmancy earns him a summer assistantship with his favorite Rithmancy professor, Fitch. When students studying Rithmancy start disappearing with no trace save for some drops of blood, the whole school is in an uproar. It’s believed that someone or something is targeting Rithmatists. The likely weapon is a set of oddly drawn Chalklings that have the ability to attack physical forms rather than chalk lines, the sort that are typically only seen far away on the war-torn isle of Nebrask. Professor Fitch is charged with assisting in the investigation and Joel is eager to help. The artistically-gifted-but-geometrically-disinclined Melody, also assigned to help Professor Fitch over the summer, teams up with Joel as they work to solve the mystery of their missing classmates.

Author Sanderson has created a fascinating and original world where battles are drawn in chalk. A working knowledge of geometry is every bit as important as a steady hand. Joel excels in geometric strategy, but ultimately can do little more than watch from the sidelines. The ability to become a Rithmatist is not one that can worked towards; either one is a Rithmatist or one is not. The setting is the United Isles of America (a detailed map of which appears at the beginning of the book). The Rithmatist is interspersed with illustrations featuring chalk-drawn defenses and Chalklings. Joel and Melody both break the mold of the middle-grade magic novel. Joel has no magical abilities. Melody, while a Rithmatist, is at the bottom of her class. She doesn’t particularly enjoy being a Rithmatist either. She is, however, an excellent artist, which winds up being far more useful than she had previously believed. This book works on a number of levels: it’s a mystery/fantasy/steampunk/action/adventure story. And it does all of these things quite well.

29. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Tracy

Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square by William Sutton, 528 pages, read by Tracy, on 09/25/2014

Murder. Vice. Pollution. Delays on the Tube. Some things never change…

London 1859-62. A time of great exhibitions, foreign conquests and underground trains. But the era of Victorian marvels is also the time of the Great Stink. With cholera and depravity never far from the headlines, it’s not only the sewers that smell bad.
Novice detective, Campbell Lawless, stumbles onto the trail of Berwick Skelton, an elusive revolutionary, seemingly determined to bring London to its knees through a series of devilish acts of terrorism.

But cast into a lethal, intoxicating world of music hall hoofers, industrial sabotage and royal scandal, will Lawless survive long enough to capture this underworld nemesis, before he unleashes his final vengeance on a society he wants wiped from the face of the Earth?

Lawless & The Devil of Euston Square
 is the first of a series of historical thrillers by William Sutton set during the mid-nineteenth century, featuring Metropolitan policeman, Campbell Lawless, aka the Watchman, on his rise through the ranks and his initiation as a spy.

Before Holmes, there was Lawless…

Before Campbell Lawless, the London streets weren’t safe to walk.

19. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry

Voices from the March on Washington by J Patrick Lewis, George Ella Lyon, 128 pages, read by Angie, on 09/18/2014

This is a collection of poems that capture the spirit of the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. The voices range from young to old and from black to white. They capture the commitment of those determine to make a change in their world. While these are all fictional people it isn’t hard to believe there were those in the crowd who felt the way these characters felt. The poems are interspersed by verses by famous people who were actually at the March. This is an excellent collection of poems that really illustrate just how powerful that day was for those who were there.

16. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery · Tags:

The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell, 164 pages, read by Angie, on 09/15/2014

The Arbor Dance Hall exploded in West Table, Missouri on a summer night in 1929. No one knows for sure who or what caused the explosion, but 42 people lost their lives and many others were destroyed by grief. Many years after the events, Alma DeGeer Dunahew tells the story to her grandson Alek. She lost her beloved sister in the fire and has always believed she knew who did it. No one was ever prosecuted for the explosion or the deaths. Was it because the person responsible was a powerful man in the community and those in power protected him?

I am not really sure what I think about this book. It is a very short book, but yet it took me a long time to read. It is a meandering story that floats from the present to different parts of the past and back again. It is primarily told from Alek’s point of view, but skips narrators throughout. You are never really sure what is going on or how the different view points will relate to the whole story. I was never really able to get sucked in to the tale nor relate to any of the characters. By the end of the book I really just wanted to finish it and be done. Then the last chapter departed from the rest of the book and basically just told us what happened. So strange. Definitely not my favorite.

15. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age by David Zeltser , 192 pages, read by Angie, on 09/14/2014

Lug isn’t like the other caveboys in his village. He doesn’t care about headstone or getting the biggest jungle llama. He really likes spending time in his art cave and drawing pictures on the cave walls. He is also concerned about the fact that it is getting colder. He is banished from the village along with Stony, a boy more interested in his frog than anything else. He meets Echo, a girl from the rival village who wants him to help her with Wooly, a young mammoth. Wooly and Lug train to be the best headstone pair so they can get back in the village. Unfortunately, the cold has sent more than mammoths south. A group of saber-tooth tigers is also on the prowl and wants to take over the village’s caves. The two villages have to work together to survive.

This was a fun book, a bit silly perhaps, but with a nice message about accepting people’s differences and not having to conform. It was a bit different to read a book about cavepeople where they spoke in modern language for the most part. It makes it more relatable for young readers anyway. I thought the story was fine, but did think it was strange when the fantasy element of talking animals was introduced. I wish that element could have been left out, but with it in I wish it would have been used consistently. In the beginning Lug and Echo are special because they can understand animals, but by the end the animals are talking to everyone.

11. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

Grounded by Kate Klise, 208 pages, read by Angie, on 09/10/2014

Daralynn Oakland survived because she was grounded. She had gone fishing at Doc Lake without permission so her mom grounded her and she didn’t get on the plane that crashed and killed her dad, sister and brother. After the funeral, her mom starts doing hair at the funeral home and takes over the local hair salon. Her mom becomes more and more withdrawn as time goes by and everything seems to irritate her. The biggest irritant is Aunt Josie. Aunt Josie runs the Summer Sunset Retirement Home for Distinguished Gentlemen out of her home and is always taking care of old men with no family. Her new beau is Mr. Clem who has just opened the new crematorium in town. Daralynn and her mom are unhappy because Mr. Clem steals their idea for living funerals and they are afraid he will put the funeral home out of business.

This book contains an interesting case of characters. They are all eccentric and just a little bit different. The story is a bit over the top but it is fun and definitely keeps you interested. I thought the reveal about Mr. Clem was easy to spot and just a bit predictable but kids might not be able to spot it. I did like the glimpse into how people deal with grief in different ways. It would bring up several good discussion points for parents and kids to talk about. I think my favorite moment in the book was when Daralynn was talking about her brother and his love of peanut butter and tomato sandwiches. I had no idea anyone outside of my family ate such a thing! Guess it must be a Missouri thing.

28. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel by Alice Hoffman, 368 pages, read by Noelle, on 08/14/2014

Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.

Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.

27. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lisa

Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf, 272 pages, read by Lisa, on 08/26/2014

An intriguing novel with a classic feel, featuring three vividly alive young sisters, an eccentric family struggling against the odds, and the slowly revealed story of a house with a past.

At the end of the world, near the border with Germany, stands a house as long as nine open arms. Half hidden behind trees and shrubs rises a wide brick wall, topped with two attic windows, each no bigger than a dishcloth. The walls have been whitewashed and the wooden floor is bare, as if the house is waiting. Waiting for someone to move in. 

It is the summer of 1937, and it hasn’t rained for seven weeks when Fing and her family of nine move into Nine Open Arms, along with their handcart of meagre belongings. ‘The Dad’ is a man who does all kinds of jobs and none of them well, while Oma Mei courageously holds everything together, including the family’s history in her Crocodile bag full of pictures and stories. But as the year progresses, the family just gets poorer.

Meanwhile, Fing and her two sisters, wild Muulke and fearful Jess, begin to discover strange mysteries…a bed that looks like a tombstone, and an unmarked grave in the cemetery.

Nine Open Arms is an exceptional imagined historical mystery – the story of a very special home, the eccentric families who have lived within it, and the unexpected ties that emerge between the two..

21. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, 384 pages, read by Angie, on 08/20/2014

Splendors and Glooms is a 2013 Newbery Honor Book and kind of reinforces my idea that the Newbery Award is not about books that kids would choose to read themselves. It is about books that adults think kids should read or need to read. Which means the books are generally not popular and are not going to be books kids will pick up on their own. Splendors and Glooms is a heavy book that deals with some very tough topics like child abuse, unwanted male attention, death and evil all the while set in Victorian England. It is a long read with a lot of descriptive language reminiscent of Victorian literature. It is a book that I would actually say is more geared towards older kids because of the situations and language (there are a couple of swear words). 

Splendors and Glooms is the story of three children: Clara, Lizzie Rose, and Parsefall. Clara is a privileged girl who is the only surviving child of a cholera epidemic that killed all her brothers and sisters. Her house is one of mourning even years after the fact. Lizzie Rose is a child of the theater who was orphaned when her parents died who plays at being a lady. Parsefall is another orphan who was rescued from the workhouse, loves being a puppeteer and picks a pocket or two. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall live with Grisini the puppeteer. He doesn’t treat them very well, barely feeds them and makes them work for him. The three meet when Clara begs to have Grisini do a show at her birthday party. She disappears the next day with no trace. Then Parsefall and Lizzie Rose discover a new puppet who looks just like Clara and come to believe that Grisini is a magician who turned her into a puppet. Grisini disappears leaving the children on their own until they discover a letter from Cassandra asking them to come live with her. Cassandra is a witch who has visions of being consumed by fire because of the fire opal she possesses. Grisini tells her that a child must steal it from her in order to free her (thus the request for the kids). The kids arrive at her country castle and start trying to figure out what is going on and how they can get out of it. 

So not my favorite book. The story was overly dramatic and gruesome at times for a children’s book. The ending was way too simple to be realistic and diminished the drama of the previous 400 pages. And the plot got a little convoluted and a bit boring to tell you the truth. 

16. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, 373 pages, read by Angie, on 08/16/2014

Sarah Grimke is the daughter of a prominent Charleston family and on her 11th birthday is given Handful as her own personal slave. Sarah doesn’t like being a slave owner. She is intelligent and wants to be the first female jurist. Unfortunately, her family doesn’t support either her ambitions or her feelings on slavery. Sarah grows up to be an old maid, a Quaker and an abolitionist, all things her family can’t stand. She heads off to Philadelphia and his followed by her sister Angelina. Together they embark on an abolitionist speaking tour around New England. Their views are radical and dangerous, but they persevere as two of the first women to speak about the rights of women and slaves. 

Sarah’s chapters are interspersed by Handful’s story. Handful and her mother are slaves of the Grimke’s and seamstresses which make them very useful to the family. Her mother Charlotte has an independent streak and sneaks out of the house repeatedly meeting up with a free black man and eventually becoming pregnant. When she gets in trouble she runs away, is eventually caught by a slave stealer and sent to a rice plantation. Handful develops her own independent streak which lands her in the workhouse and lame. Eventually, after many years, Charlotte makes her way back to the Grimke house with her teenage daughter Sky. The family is more determined than ever to get free one day. 

Sarah and Handful’s friendship crosses social and racial lines but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Sarah teaches Handful to read and Handful helps give Sarah the conviction she needs to find her own path. I enjoyed this story even more after I realized it was about real people. Sarah and Angelina Grimke are actual historical figures and Sue Monk Kidd tried to stay as true to their stories as possible. While Handful is a fictional character her story rings true as well. This is a powerful story and two women and their desire to be free. 

16. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Steam-punk, Teen Books · Tags:

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress , 440 pages, read by Angie, on 08/16/2014

Three female assistants in 1900 London come together over a rash of murders and burglaries. Cora is the assistant of Lord White, a prominent member of the House of Commons and an inventor. Nellie is the assistant of The Great Raheem, a premiere magician and illusionist. Michiko is the assistant of Sir Callum Fielding-Shaw, a self-defense instructor who thinks he knows more than he does. They first meet at a gala where they all perform and then again on a foggy London street at the scene of a murder. They keep meeting again and again and finally join forces to investigate the murders and strange happenings around town. 

This was a really fun book to read. I thought the steampunk atmosphere was subtle yet fit right into the story that was being told. I liked that the historical period was present but not overwhelming as well. It made it easier to focus on the outstanding characters. Cora, Nellie and Michiko were fabulously written and a lot of fun to read. They each had their own voices and motivations which came clearly through on the page. I did think the mystery got just a bit wonky, but it all worked out in the end. 

15. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould, 262 pages, read by Angie, on 08/14/2014

Laura has been living in a convent ever since her father put her there. She is surprised when he pulls her out and sends her back home. Turns out her beautiful sister Beatrice has drowned and Laura is to take her place. She is to marry Vincenzo, Beatrice’s betrothed, who turns out to be an old, lecherous man. She is recruited by The Segreta. In return for a secret, they will help her get out of her betrothal to Vincenzo. The plan works, but Laura feels like she might now be in an even worse situation. The Segreta is a group of women who control the secrets of Venice. If they can topple great men like Vincenzo what else can they do? Laura also finds herself drawn to an artist she meets. Giacomo makes her think about love, but a marriage can never happen as long as her father wants to use her to make connections. 

This was a fast-paced, fun novel. I liked the glimpse of Renaissance Venice and actually wished there would have been more. I also enjoyed the idea of The Segreta and the power the women yielded. The story does get a bit complicated by all the twists and turns and some of those are a bit far-fetched, but the story is still fun. The one thing that kept throwing me off however was the name of the main character. Everyone in the book has names like Bianca and Vincenzo and Giacomo and Allegra, but the main character is named Laura which seems so far from a traditional Italian name. Even changing it to a more Italian sounding Loretta would have helped. A name is a picky thing but it did seem very English in an Italian setting.

08. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Steam-punk

The League of Seven by Alan Gratz, Brett Helquist (Illustrator), 352 pages, read by Angie, on 08/08/2014

The League of Seven is an alternative history steampunk adventure. It is 1875 and the world is much different from the one we are familiar with. The east coast of America is the United Nations: seven tribes united together (six of the Indians and the last Yankees). The old world of Europe has been lost to darkness. Everything runs on steam mainly because lektricity wakes the monsters. That’s right there are monsters imprisoned in the earth. The Septemberist Society keeps the knowledge alive even though most people just think of history as myths and legends. It seems the mangleborn feed of lektricity and every thousand years or so they break out of their prisons and destroy the world. It is up to the League of Seven to imprison them again. The League is always made up of seven heroes: a tinker, a law-bringer, a scientist, a trickster, a warrior, a strong man, and a hero. 

Archie Dent’s parents are members of the Septemberist Society and have been brainwashed by manglespawn as have all the other members of the society. Instead of working to prevent the rise of the mangleborn they are working to free one of them. It is up to Archie and his two new friends Fergus and Hachi to stop the mangleborn and save his parents. Archie believes they are the new League of Seven. Fergus is the tinker, Hachi is the warrior and Archie thinks he is the hero but he doesn’t feel very heroic. Their quest takes them from the swamps of Florida to the streets of New Rome to the ruins of Atlantis under Niagara Falls and back again. They are fleeing from Thomas Edison, who is mad with the power of lektricity, and his evil tik tok ninja (think robot). They are helped along the way by Archie’s tik tok Mr. Rivet, Tesla (who is a Septemberist and quite mad) and a variety of other fun characters. 

This was a great start to this trilogy. The world building is very comprehensive and wonderful. The steampunk is really well done with airships and aether guns and mechanical men and pneumatic tubes. I also thought the alternative history stuff was very well thought out. I love the thought of all these great societies rising and falling because of the mangleborn (Atlantis, Rome, Cahokia, etc.) We don’t learn why Europe has gone dark or who the other Seven are, but those things will probably get covered in the next books. The heroes defeated one mangleborn but there are lots more out there and they are going to need help. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

07. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction · Tags:

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire, 496 pages, read by Angie, on 08/06/2014

Elena is a poor girl from the Russian countryside. Her dad is dead, her mom is sick and her brothers have left. One day a train stops in her poor village and she meets Ekaterina (Cat). Cat is a privileged girl heading to St. Petersburg to meet the tsar’s godson. The train is stalled while a bridge is repaired. Cat is showing Elena the gift for the tsar (a Faberge egg) when the train starts up again. Cat and the egg are thrown from the train and Elena is left on it. The girls have suddenly switched places and have to make a go of it. Cat sets off to try and get to St. Petersberg and runs into Baba Yaga. Elena tries to hide until she is found out and then pretends to be Cat. She also finds a firebird’s egg in the forest and tries to use it as a replacement for the Faberge egg. Baby Yaga agrees to take Cat to the tsar after Cat gives her the egg. Turns out the firebird’s egg was supposed to hatch and since it hasn’t magic is all out of whack. After the group is reunited and Anton the tsar’s godson joins them, they head north to figure out what is wrong with magic. 

There is a lot of craziness in this story. There is the ibza of Baba Yaga (her chicken house who forgets where she puts things), the matryoshka dolls who unnest themselves and marry the tooth soldiers of the ice dragon, there is the monk narrator who witnesses everything through the eyes of birds, and of course there is Baba Yaga herself. She is perhaps the best thing about this book. She is completely insane but hilarious. She has knowledge of the future and the past and brings it all up with the knowledge of the present.

This is a very complicated story. I am not quite sure who the intended audience is. It is a little long for a middle grade book and the story tends to wander a bit. There is a lot going on in the story and I think younger readers might be a bit confused by it all. It was an enjoyable story but I will admit that I couldn’t read it for long at a time. I kept putting it down and going to something else. It is kind of a convoluted plot. It all ties together at the end, but it took a lot of effort to get there. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Eric, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Sharpe's Triumph by Bernard Cornwell, 291 pages, read by Eric, on 07/26/2014

Private Richard Sharpe remains stuck in India, and things could not be worse for him in the British ranks. Hakeswill lives, and is doing his best to get him lashed to death on trumped up charges. Worse, Major Dodd’s traitorous actions have allowed Sharpe’s enemies a chance to get their revenge on him. Luckily, the nastier things get, the more Sharpe is in his element. Soon, he is teamed with Colonel McCandless, tracking Dodd down.

India remains a wonderful setting for these military adventures, and Cornwell’s writing (especially when describing sieges) is second to none. He is meticulous in his research, and honest (in endnotes) when taking liberties with history. Revisiting this series continues to be a blast, even though I have to admit it isn’t for everyone.

05. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Eric, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Sharpe's Tiger by Bernard Cornwell, 385 pages, read by Eric, on 07/19/2014

Richard Sharpe is Bernard Cornwell’s most famous creation, a very flawed British war hero of the Napoleonic era. Following the wild successes of other Sharpe novels, Cornwell decided to jump back in time, and provide some of Sharpe’s back story, mentioned in bits and pieces throughout the series, but not fully fleshed out. This, then, became the “first” Sharpe novel, when he is less than twenty years old, and miserable within the British ranks serving in 1799 India.

For fans of the Sharpe novels, being reintroduced to those pivotal in Sharpe’s later life (especially the detestable Hakeswill) is a joy, and I found the writing nearly as effective as the core Sharpe favorites. India is a fantastic setting, even under horrific conditions during a questionable campaign. Sharpe finds himself in the usual mess, but this isn’t a bad thing, especially when armed with the knowledge of where it all eventually leads. This series isn’t for everyone, but a must-read for those interested in painstaking recreation of actual battles, handled by a master of the genre.

04. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Tracy

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon, 768 pages, read by Tracy, on 07/30/2014

With her now-classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon introduced two unforgettable characters — Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser—delighting readers with a story of adventure and love that spanned two centuries. Now Gabaldon returns to that extraordinary time and place in this vivid, powerful follow-up to Outlander….

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones … about a love that transcends the boundaries of time … and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his….

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart … in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising … and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves.