The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colors of Madeleine #2)

The Cracks In the Kingdom

The Cracks in the Kingdom  by Jaclyn Moriarty is the second book in the Colors of Madeleine series.  I read the first book, A Corner of White, ages ago and I was super excited to find out the second was out.  I’m a little late on the draw – I guess it was released in March.  Better late then never, right?

Elliot Baranski is still determined to find his father – especially now that it seems that Abel was working for the Loyalists and not just running away with the physics teacher. Unfortunately for Elliot, he’s committed to helping Princess Ko find the rest of the royal family.  Ko’s under a strict deadline – she needs the King back in precisely three months to avoid a catastrophic war.  She pulls together the Royal Youth Alliance – which includes Elliot, a boy from Old Quaint, a girl from the Jagged Edge, and her best friend the Stable boy.  Elliot’s value is clear -his contact in the World.

Enter Madeleine, a girl from Cambridge, England who still struggles with her absent father and recovered-but-still-odd mother and finding her place among friends.

Elliot and Madeleine continue their correspondence through the Crack, and must find a way to travel across worlds and rescue the royal family.

Some thoughts:

  • I’m glad I re-read A Corner of White  before delving into this one. It was good to brush up on the events of the first book. I loved it just as much the second time!
  • I love the developing relationship between Elliot and Madeleine.  You’re slowly getting to know each of them more and more. They still have flaws and personality, and are still growing which I just adore. Plus they are still very much teens.
  • This book felt much more about Elliot, and was very much driven by Princess Ko’s need to return her family.
  • There are lots of dips into Newton and random musings about physics and light and such.  I did feel like it tried a little too hard to make sense from a real-world perspective… and I admittedly glossed over those bits.
  • There’s plenty of action and suspense, particularly near the end.
  • You know that feeling when you are SO excited to read a book you can hardly stand it?  I’m feeling that way about getting my hands on the NEXT book! This book ended on a more suspenseful note – curse it!

I’m very happy to have picked this one up!  It was perhaps not AS good as the first, but I still really enjoyed it.

4/5

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making

Finally!!! I have had The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making  by Catherynne M. Valante on my to-read list for so long – for a while they had the audiobook available through the library but not the ebook. I just discovered that they did get the ebook after all – and I devoured it!

With a narrator who swoops in and out with comments on the story, this book is the tale of an intrepid little girl and her adventures in fairyland.

September is twelve years old.  She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and lives a dull, ordinary life.  Her father is off at war and her mother works as a machinist fixing engines. While September washes teacups (yet again) by the window in her kitchen, the Green Wind invites her on an adventure.  September jumps so quickly at the chance she leaves one of her shoes behind!

The Green Wind takes September to Fairyland, where September discovers there is much adventure but also many who need her help.  Before long, she encounters the Marquess, the fickle and cruel ruler of Fairyland.  September is coerced into retrieving a valuable item in order to save her new-found friends, a literary Wyvern and a mysterious blue boy named Saturday.

This was a charming read, with enough magic and adventure to satisfy.  The characters are delightful, especially A-through-L, the Wvyern.  The story suits and adventure, but dips into heartache, loss, and growth.  It’s whimsical and fancy, with lots of delicious vocabulary (e.g. widdershins).

I thought it was a delightful story and I am so glad there are more to follow!

4/5

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The Mark of the Dragonfly

The Mark Of The Dragonfly

The Mark of the Dragonfly  by Jaleigh Johnson was a random read for me – I was browsing the “available now” section of the library’s ebook collection under “young adult + fantasy” and I liked the look of the cover.

Piper is a scrapper – eking out her living by salvaging the remnants left over from the mysterious Meteor showers (that rain both meteors and strange goods). She supplements this meager living with her skills as a Machinist – she has learned to fix mechanics and her skills with machines put food on her table.

Piper’s life changes with one meteor shower.  Among the wreckage of a caravan, Piper finds a girl, Anna.  Anna can’t remember anything about her life but she wears the intricate Mark of the Dragonfly – a special tattoo that means that she is both from the Dragonfly Territories and under the protection of it’s king.

Piper decides to help this strange girl – even if it means leaving her home and everything (and everyone) she knows.

She and Anna must catch the 401 – a massive old train that weaves its way south, to the Dragonfly Territories.  Getting on (without a ticket) is just the first hurdle – and the start of a magical, dangerous, and life-changing adventure.

Piper is a great character.  She shows just enough change and growth, and just enough flaws to be realistic.  She’s stubborn (VERY stubborn), quick to anger, but a fierce protector of her friends and family.  She may be young but she’s a pretty strong character.

Anna is a mystery – a naive but brilliant girl whose memory seems to be returning in odd snatches.  She’s bubbly and friendly and super chatty – it’s no mystery why Piper feels so protective about her.

The three main characters from the train (Gee, Trimble and Jeyne) also add flavour and depth to the story.  I love the similarities between Gee and Piper – both so prickly on the outside but fiercely loyal and protective once they’ve claimed something as their own.  I would love to read more about the whole crew – I hope that more books are forthcoming.

This is probably more of a middle-grade / tween book than a teen / young adult book, but for it’s genre I thought it was a fantastic mix of steampunk, magic, and science fiction all rolled into one.  It’s a fast read and pretty light – but still enjoyable.  It moves fast but there’s enough background that it doesn’t just skip from action scene to action scene with no plot or glue to hold it together.

I’ll give it a 4/5 – quite a pleasant book to pick up and just what I was looking for!

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The Silent Governess

The Silent Governess

The Silent Governess  by Julie Klassen is admittedly another re-read for me.  I own a copy, and it’s been sitting collecting dust on my shelf for a while.  I decided I felt like another go, so here we are!

Olivia Keene, forced to flee her home unexpectedly, ends up in a predicament she could never have imagined.  Having inadvertently overheard a very important secret, Lord Bradley is determined to keep an eye on her.  Since the revelation of his secret would cause him to lose everything, Lord Bradley bullies Olivia into taking a post at his home.

With little choice, Miss Keene takes on her role in the Nursery at Brightwell Court, and she soon discovers that her young charges are delightful and that life there is not so bad after all – even if she is temporarily mute.

This is an agreeable historical fiction.  It is by no means dramatic and the plot is not overly complicated and mostly relies on revealing everyone’s secrets oh so slowly.  Of course things are more and less simple than they seem.

Olivia is playing the price for her over-active curiosity.  She is stubborn, a bit independent, and has a temper – but none of these measures in the extreme. She is also kind and not immune to the charms of the children in the nursery.

Lord Bradley is conflicted, broody and suspicious, but not without moments of happiness (mostly when interacting with his young cousins).

The story is sprinkled liberally with religion, and as much as I’m not normally one to enjoy Christian fiction, it does fit with the era I suppose.

Overall, this is an enjoyable, not overly complicated book that fits my desire for a relatively light historical fiction (19th-century) with a bit of romance.  (There is only a BIT of romance – I wouldn’t say it is the main focus, even though it’s sort of trying to be).

3.5/5

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Deadly Games (Emperor’s Edge #3)

Deadly Games

My perusal of the Emperor’s Edge series continues with book #3, Deadly Games.  It’s been a slow process – I can’t really account for the delay between reading the second book, Dark Currents, and this one.  After the break, it was nice to get back into the characters, and I found the book went much faster and flowed well.  Maybe it’s just an improvement in her writing style, or maybe the focus on Basilard was more interesting to me than Books.

Amaranthe Lockdon is still trying to prove herself (and her team) are on the Emperor’s side.  Constantly looking for good deeds, their self-imposed holiday is interrupted when athletes begin disappearing from the Imperial Games.  Things are never as easy or as smooth as planned, of course, and members of Amaranthe’s team are secretly plotting against each other, a potential new ally tries to turn her in, and Sicarius disappears.  There’s also the ever-present avoidance of the Enforcers, which adds even more spice to the story.

Bonus for fun fight scenes! Amaranthe seems to be constantly butting heads with vicious creatures, and this time a Kraken comes between her and her goal.  Amaranthe just kicks butt.  I love how she’s a strong character, who believes she can talk her way out of numerous situations – but she knows how to fight when she needs to.

I just love the interactions between these characters, as their relationships grow and change and strengthen.  I also love that the story is not all about the developing feelings between Amaranthe and Sicarius – there’s a plot to focus on after all!

I love the slow slow thawing of Sicarius, and the slowly revealed back stories of each team member (Basilard in this one). I think I do like Basilard better than Books – I guess I have more patience for Basilard’s internal moral dilemmas than Books and his lack of confidence.

An action-packed steampunk adventure!  I think I even enjoyed it better than book #1, The Emperor’s Edge.

5/5

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Lady Thief (Scarlet #2)

Lady Theif

After finishing Scarlet  by A. C. Gaughen, of course I picked up Lady Thief. I do love a sequel!

Now that Scarlet’s true identity has been revealed, her future seems even less certain.  Lord Gisbourne is back, only to blackmail her into staying by his side and acting the dutiful wife while the royal court comes to Nottinghamshire for the appointment of a new Sheriff.  Prince John, angered over Scarlet’s defiant past and the secret of her lineage that even she doesn’t know, has plans for both Scarlet and Nottinghamshire.

If Scarlet can play her part, she might have a future with the man she loves.  If not, she might lose the chance of any future at all.

Warning: if you haven’t read Scarlet and want to avoid spoilers for THAT book, don’t read ahead.

….

….

Okay, you’ve been warned.

So this book obviously takes up where the last one left off, and Rob is dealing with the trauma of his recent torture while Scarlet seems to be trying to figure out what the heck will happen to her and with them.  Particularly since Rob is struggling with violent nightmares that have the unintended consequence of him beating on her when he’s still sleeping / not himself.  Romantic, eh?

Scarlet seems to lose a lot of her tough outer shell in this book. It’s almost like as she puts on a dress she loses her strong-girl persona.  Sure she’s making a huge and dangerous personal sacrifice, but now she needs to find time to cry in the arms of her true love when the going gets a little tough.  It doesn’t suit her.  She’s like a fly caught in a spider’s web, or a puppet with someone else controlling the strings.

The story is now focused on the nobility swarming around, and Scarlet’s past and present, and much less on helping the people of Nottinghamshire. It was a whole book of “women have no power, men have all the power and evil men have the most power and are probably gonna screw you all over”.

I think I’ll give it a 3.5/5.  I will read the last one, but I don’t know how excited I am about it!  (Plus it’s not out yet, so there will be a wait).

 

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Scarlet (Scarlet #1)

ScarletUS.indd

Robin Hood has never been one of my all-time favourite tales. (Neither has King Aurthur, so maybe English heroes don’t really do it for me?)  I do have a soft place in my heart for both the Disney animated feature, and for the movie Robin Hood, Men in Tights, and I’ve read at least one decent Robin Hood Adaptation (The Outlaws of Sherwood  by Robin McKinley, which I read ages ago).  So I didn’t have high expectations when it came to Scarlet  which is, naturally, a Robin Hood retelling.

Scarlet, known to most as Will Scarlet, has been careful to keep her true identity a secret.  Only Rob and his band know that Scarlet, a skinny, agile, and quick thief is actually a woman.  But even they don’t know where she is from or who she truly is.

Robin Hood and his band are trying desperately to keep the people of Nottinghamshire from starving under the steep taxation imposed by the Sheriff.

When Gisbourne, a thief hunter with a special interest in Scarlet, comes to town, only her fierce loyalty to Robin keep Scarlet from running, and keep her fighting.  Scarlet’s true identity will come out – for better or for worse.

This is a pretty dark retelling, which suits it’s times better I think.  It really underlines the power struggles of the times, including the gross power imbalance between men and women.

Both Scarlet and Rob have haunting secrets in their past.  Scarlet makes a fine addition to the band – although there is a weird John – Scarlet – Rob love-triangle which is kind of annoying. (That could just be my dislike for love triangles in general speaking). Scarlet is tough, which I appreciate, and she is incredibly stubborn. She’s strong, but so very vulnerable, and pretty naive when it comes to love.  She’s  flawed and she’s got issues, including feeling guilty for a lot of things she can’t control. Although I liked Scarlet, I could see how she could be a very annoying character to read.  I do take issue with the fact that there is zero explanation for how she became this apparently crazy talented thief who can move about the shadows like she owns them.  With her background, it’s a little unbelievable that she suddenly develops all these mad skills.

Rob is brooding and pretty full of this burning anger he apparently picked up during the crusades. He is fierce in his defense of the people, but his noble sensibilities seem out of place with the rest of his personality.

John is a large also-somewhat-moody ladies man, and I can’t tell if he’s supposed to be humorous. I found him annoyingly overbearing. Both Rob and  John are annoyingly overbearing, come to think of it, just in different ways.

All in all, it was an interesting book and worth the read!  Especially since there is a sequel!

4/5

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Young Adult Books