Archive | June, 2014

Book Review: A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz

11 Jun

ImageMaud Mary Flynn is an orphan. She’s also a liar. She hates Barbary Asylum where she doesn’t get to wash enough, the headmistress is strict, and the girls are annoying. So when Hyacinth Hawthorne turns up looking for a child, Maud will do anything–even be polite and run up the back stairs in her stocking feet every time there’s a caller. Maud is a “secret child” and no one must know about her. But when Maud learns exactly what she’s a secret for, even her lying skills might not carry her through…

I couldn’t put this book down. I knew I’d probably like it, having liked another of the author’s books and reading a review of this book by my friend at Nine Pages. This was the sort of book whose story captivated me and I regretted every time I had to put the book down.

The characters were brilliant. Maud is feisty and lovable. Her growth and development through the book was quite well done, and I enjoyed rooting for her affections to change and cheering as they did. She maintained her “sauce” throughout the book, but she wasn’t without emotions other than anger and mischievousness, either. Overall, well-rounded, likable, and defiant. I kept my fingers crossed for her happy ending.

The rest of the characters were an intriguing mix. I hated Hyacinth from the get-go; Judith and Victoria I could give or take most of the time, until the very end when the former became hated too; Mrs. Lambert was more or less unexpected at certain points, which made her surprising when her overall purpose wasn’t hard to guess. (This is a really tough book to review without spoilers!) Muffet, of course, was my favorite character of them all with her quick learning and big heart.

The one character I thought the book could do without? Samm’l. Samm’l is Maud’s long-lost brother who has a bit part I didn’t quite understand. I didn’t feel Maud needed the additional back story to show why she was the way she was; being an orphan is enough to do that. I don’t think he added anything to the “secret child” story. I don’t think Maud needed that extra push to be a bit more curious about her situation… in any case, the appearance of Samm’l didn’t detract from the story, it just didn’t add anything to it.

The story itself is fast-paced, suspenseful, and thoroughly enjoyable with wonderful descriptions and a brilliant cast of characters. The pages will keep turning, and before long you’ll be looking at Goodreads wondering what else Laura Amy Schlitz has been writing. Recommended to all YA readers! 

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Book Review: Copper Magic by Julia Mary Gibson

7 Jun

ImageThe summer of 1906 wasn’t supposed to be one of grand adventure. Violet Blake’s mother and brother have gone away, and may very well be dead. Her father has retreated to their failing farm, immersing himself in cherry trees. The church people have taken over Blue Lake. Violet’s busy-body aunt is trying to turn her into a lady. But then Violet finds the copper Hand, which seems to have magical powers. When Violet wishes with the Hand, her wishes come true. The Hand gives her hope she hasn’t had since her mother left, but soon Violet learns one very important rule: be careful what you wish for…

The summary might make this book sound a bit childish, but really it’s much more of a YA/Adult crossover. It’s about so much more than a magic hand–it’s about racism, the divide between the rich and poor, how everyone needs to take responsibility for their own actions. It’s more history and superstition than fantasy, but magical enough for everyone to enjoy.

The story is set in Michigan–my home state–and on a recent trip home I was informed that the author is actually stopping by my hometown bookstore where I worked throughout high school and college. Pretty cool! I wish I could be there for the signing, but alas. Anyway, the book screams Michigan–the water, the forests, the disgruntlement with tourists. I felt right at home reading this book.

But it was the characters who really drove this book. I loved Violet for her spunkiness, her willingness to make mistakes, her ability to set it all right–eventually. I loved Miss Nadia’s passion for photography. I loved Mercy’s desire for friendship and her ability to believe in the magic, and in Violet, til the end. Even some of the characters who weren’t exactly likable were good characters. Everyone was motivated by something, and even if you wouldn’t make their same choices, you could respect that they at least had a motivation.

All in all, I loved this book, but then, character-driven books are my thing. The plot itself moves a bit slowly, so if you’re looking for action you might want to turn elsewhere. Still, I think this book has a little something for everyone: history, culture, fantasy. Great for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Did this book catch your interest? Check it out here!

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