Four more reviews to finish catching up on my backlog.
CBR11Bingo squares for I Love This (Enchantee), Award Winner (Speak), Far and Away (the Lady Rogue) and Reader’s Choice over Own Voices (The Lovely War).
Enchantee (apologies, but I can’t figure out how to accent the ‘e’) is a beautifully written young adult romance. Set in Paris during the final days of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI’s excesses, it shows both the splendor of the rich and the desperation of the poor. Camille has been using magic to survive since the death of her parents. She has an abusive older brother who drinks away whatever money she can get and a younger sister still recovering from the smallpox that killed their parents. Camille is pushed to do larger feats of magic to make up for her brother’s expenditures while trying to balance this secret life with a new flirtation. She has met and become infatuated with Lazare when she helped save his balloon from crashing in a field. This book is lovely and I highly recommend. Four stars.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is a book I had heard much about but never read. This book was nominated for and received numerous awards. Melinda Sordino is starting her freshman year of high school and over the summer she has become estranged from her middle-school friends. She arrives at her new school already weighted down with a reputation that she hasn’t earned and in a quickly worsening depression. Melinda is funny and bright but spends the year skipping classes and hiding in an unused janitor’s closet. Her parents are uninterested in having a conversation about her dramatic change, and the one person she does finally confide in tells her she is lying. Despite this, she climbs out of her depression only after having told someone else about the cause of her silence and depression. This is a fantastic book and one I will be giving to my daughter to read. Five stars.
The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett was a bit of a disappointment. I had read a lot of hype about this book and had liked the previous title from this author. The bones of a good story were there, but the finished result left some to be desired. Theo Fox is a 17 year old girl with an adventurous spirit. She sometimes travels with her father for his work acquiring rare artifacts. She wants to be included in her father’s travels but is a) a child who hasn’t finished much in terms of an education and b) seemingly incapable of getting herself out of trouble for most of the book. She is pining over Hux, a boy who was essentially raised as her sibling until he was thrown out of the house when her father caught them having sex. Hux and Theo are thrown back together when Theo’s father abandons her in Istanbul and disappears. They are meant to go back to Theo’s home in New York but decide instead to travel to Hungary and Romania to find Theo’s father all based on whatever clues Theo can glean from his travel diary. Along the way they are threatened numerous times by a group of men who are somehow involved in a Dracula cult of sorts. The characterization is thin (Theo’s defining trait is liking crossword puzzles; Hux’s is being Irish) and would have worked better if this book was a sequel and the characters had been fleshed out more in a previous entry. The convoluted plot involves Theo making a poor decision and then being bailed out by someone else (a group of traveling merchants, Hux, a witch, Hux, etc) until the finale when she becomes all-powerful for about five minutes. Narratively, the first-person voice of Theo is intercut with diary entries from her father which give some background information in a lazy way. The romance is so poorly fleshed out that I honestly didn’t care if the two main characters got together or not. This is potentially set up to be a series but I won’t be reading further. Two stars.
The Lovely War by Julie Berry is somehow both frothy and serious at once. The Greek Gods have gathered during World War Two to put Aphrodite and Ares on trial for their deception of Aphrodite’s husband, Hephaestus. Aphrodite, in her defense, tells the story of four people she had guided through the first World War. Hazel and James meet one night at a town dance- James is about to depart for his tour of service and Hazel catches his eye as she plays the piano for the assembled dancers. Over the following months, across distance and hardship they develop a relationship that is first strengthened, and then threatened by, the events of the war. Entangled in their story is the romance of Colette, a Belgian woman displaced by the violence that killed her entire family, and Aubrey, a black soldier and musician. The Greek deities each have a hand in shaping their stories, as the gods of Love, Death, War and Music are all called on to describe their roles in not only the lives of the four main characters but in the larger conflicts of the world. This is a lovely read. Four stars.