Monday, March 30, 2015

Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

Buy here*
Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Point
Pages: 321
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 12+

Lady Charlotte has everything that could be desired. She's beautiful, rich, and is expected to make a good match. But at sixteen, all she wants is adventure, freedom, and love. Janie is a kitchen maid, who only wants a home and a family. When they try to become friends, they are faced with prejudice from both below and downstairs. And then there is the matter of Charlotte's mysterious Aunt Beatrice, who appeared rather suddenly after having never been in England since Charlotte was born.

This book would be great from younger teens with an interest in historical romance and drama, taking place in the time period of Downton Abbey. However, for myself and maybe older teens, it might be a bit predictable. Within 20 pages I knew how the book would turn out. Having said that, the story was interesting enough to keep me reading this.

The writing is good, and Charlotte's world is well described. The upperclass world is bright and colorful, while the world below stairs is smoky and gloomy. The characters seem well developed, for the audience it seems intended for.

There is no language or sex, which makes it perfect for younger readers, though it does have themes of romance, family, and friendship.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett

Buy Here*
Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 260
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 13+

What was once the grand Halsey Hall has fallen into ruin, forcing Jane, her mother, and her sister, Maude, into just a few rooms. Though Mamma pretends that they are still living like ladies, Jane and Maude work hard to put a little food on their table and clothes on their back. When Mamma returns from a visit to the city with a husband, Harry, and new stepdaughter, Isabella, things start changing. There is a promise of a return to the life they had lived so long ago Jane can barely remember it. Then Harry dies and the winter is long and cold. Isabella doesn't help, and Jane wants to give up . . . and then the invitation to the ball arrives.

I love retold fairytales, and Cinderella has always been one of my favorites. Barrett's re-envisioning of the "wicked" stepmother and "ugly" stepsisters brings life and charm into the story. She keeps the basic elements, then adds in so much more to the story. I like how by the end, you like everyone. Everything was based off of a misunderstanding between people who came from different backgrounds and are proud.

Though the publisher might make you think differently, there is no sex, nor any mention of sex. I have read a few books published by Harlequin Teen and some of them have been good (like this one) with very little mention of sex, if any at all. Great for those teens that want some romance, but don't (or their parents don't want them) to be subject to sex.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Devil's Intern by Donna Hosie

Buy here*
Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Holiday House
Pages: 229
My rating: 2.5 stars
Ages: 14+

Mitchell became The Devil's intern shortly after his death four years ago. Though crowded and hot, Hell is made bearable by Mitchell's three friends: Alfarin, Elinor, and Medusa. But when Mitchell discovers that there may be a way to leave Hell and change his death, he and his friends start making plans.

The concept and execution of this book was pretty interesting. Though dead, the souls in Hell aren't immune to hunger, sickness, zits, love, etc. They have cell phones and computers and worked jobs. That was interesting. And the idea of if you would change your death if you had the chance is something to think about. Also, the time travel was done so well. There are very few things I've read that have done time travel well--working with the paradox and the time travelers doing things that have "already" been done. I applaud Hosie for that.

I also like that the ending left me wanting more, but not necessarily needing more. If it has a sequel, I don't feel that I need to read it to find out what happens.

But there were little things that just bugged me and threw me out of the story. For example, Mitchell texts his friends to meet him, then when he meets them he mentions that Alfarin doesn't have a cell phone. Even though he just texted him. Then just a few pages later, Mitchell texts Alfarin again. I had to flip back and make sure that I had read it correctly. These little inconsistencies, as well as how hard it was to get into the book in the first place, is why I've given it the rating I did.

There are mentions of sex, but nothing on the page. There was no language that I can remember.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo

Buy here*
Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 334
My rating: 3 stars
Ages: 14+

Leigh sells graves. Her father bought a cemetery and has put her to work in the office, though she's only fourteen. With a sister who defied death, moving, and dealing with grieving families, Leigh is disconnected from the rest of the world, making it difficult to make friends. Then she meets Elanor and Dario and she starts wanting to move on.

This book was surprising. It has dark humor that really brings some light (ironically) to the stories of death of heartache. Throughout the year of the story, Leigh really grows and changes and learns that she doesn't have to carry her entire family on her shoulders. It's a story about death, friendship, family, and how the simplest of things can confuse what they are.

Longo's family actually did own a cemetery and she had worked there on occasion, so the information given about working in a cemetery is probably pretty accurate. And it was interesting to learn about, actually.

There isn't any sex and the language was mild.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Not My Father's Son: A Memoir by Alan Cummings

Buy here*
Publication date: 2014
Publisher: Dey St.
Pages: 290
My rating: 4 stars
Ages: 18+

When his father tells Alan that he isn't his son, Alan is thrown back to his childhood and his father's constant verbal and physical abuse. As he discovers more about his maternal grandfather, everything seems to mean even more as he contemplates what it means to not be his father's son.

Cumming's memoir is told using his childhood and about two months from 2010, which is partly what made this so fascinating to me. It showed how much something that happens to you as a child can influence who you are and what you do as an adult.

The writing has a nice mix of humor weaved into it, which makes the reading of this book a lot less depressing. But the tender way that he speaks of his mother and learning about her father is beautiful. Knowing one's family can be a blessing, one that Cumming, his mother, and his brother fully realize.

*I do not receive compensation from Amazon.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Fifty-Year Silence by Miranda Richmond Mouillot

More info*
Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Crown Publishers
Pages: 263
My rating: 4 stars

"Armand and Anna fell in love, bought a house, and never spoke again." Their granddaughter is determined to find out why. Having borne the memories that come from being the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Miranda goes to France to discover more about her grandparents' lives during the war and what it was that drove them first together and then apart--never to speak again.

I have just recently become obsessed with the UK version of "Who Do You Think You Are?" For those not familiar, on the show they have someone famous tracing their genealogy and family history. It's amazing to watch them learn things that they never knew before and to come to love these people that they never met, or to understand something they never did.

The reason I bring this up is because this book seemed to come at the right time. Though Mouillot knew both of her grandparents, she didn't know about their past. But the book isn't just a family history, but also a memoir. Mouillot talks about the fear she had as a child that came from being the only grandchild of Holocaust survivors, and how that led to her obsession in learning what happened and trying to make her grandparents' story into something romantic.

I have been finding it interesting that there are things from our family's past that can have an influence on us. Mouillot's journey shows both how it can influence us and how it can set us free. Her grandparents have two different ways of dealing with the past: her grandmother moves forward, and her grandfather holds it close.

This book is amazing and moving. It's about survival, which makes it different than a lot of stories about WWII where we are dragged through all the horrible things that happened and left wondering if everything will be okay. Instead we are presented with people who continued to move forward and find ways to keep living a somewhat normal life despite the horrors surrounding them.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.