YA- Historical Fiction

All posts in the YA- Historical Fiction category

Catherine, Called Birdy

Published October 26, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

catherine called Birdy cover

Review of Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

Overview from www.goodreads.com: Catherine feels trapped. Her father is determined to marry her off to a rich man–any rich man, no matter how awful.

But by wit, trickery, and luck, Catherine manages to send several would-be husbands packing. Then a shaggy-bearded suitor from the north comes to call–by far the oldest, ugliest, most revolting suitor of them all.

Unfortunately, he is also the richest.

Can a sharp-tongued, high-spirited, clever young maiden with a mind of her own actually lose the battle against an ill-mannered, piglike lord and an unimaginative, greedy toad of a father?

Deus! Not if Catherine has anything to say about it!

My Review:

The story of Catherine, a girl of fourteen who comes from a moderately wealthy family, is told to the reader from the diary she writes in every day. The first entry records the fact that her brother is responsible both for her being able to read and write and for the fact that she is being forced to write her thoughts down. The diary itself takes us through a year of her life.

I got this book out of curiosity after I spied on the website that the library has for those who want to borrow e-books. I never imagined that I would like it so much. I thought of it only as a short book to pass the time until I found another one.

I not only liked it though, I absolutely loved it. I think it has been a while since I read a book that I could honestly say that I loved but this one was great. Not only did I appreciate the author’s attempts to portray the Middle Ages as realistically as possible but I was also surprised by how funny it was. The main character is not type of girl who stays out of trouble and she is not exactly an all-out rebel either but she does get into some scrapes once and while and they are hilarious. Not only that but hearing her thoughts about people and some of the things that she does to show her displeasure with her lot kept made me laugh out loud. And there are very few books that can make me do that.

Here is an example:

“More lady-lessons. It is impossible to do all and be all a lady must be and not tie oneself in a knot…A lady must have six hands! She must not look proud nor yet too humble, least people say she is proud of her humility. She must not talk overmuch yet not be silent, lest people think she does not know how to converse. She must not show anger, nor sulk, nor scold, nor overeat, nor overdrink, nor swear. God’s thumbs! I am going out to the barn to jump, fart, and pick my teeth!”

The main conflict in the story, besides Catherine’s desire to escape being a lady, is her attempt to keep her father from marrying her off to some old weirdo for money. She prefers not to marry at all but if she must marry then she would rather marry someone close to her own age. This is where many of her troubles come from as well as her desire to help others, such as some of the villagers that are under her father’s thumb.

If there is any downside to this story, I can’t see it. I didn’t even find any swear words unless you count Catherine’s own attempts at swearing by saying “God’s thumbs” or “Corpus bones” which just make me laugh. She is one of the most likeable characters I have read about for a long time. I think I will order the e-book version of this so that I can have this one permanently. I think I could read it again and again.

P.S. This will probably be the last time I will be posting on this site. I am moving over to http://myliteraryleanings.blogspot.com for future reviews since there seems to be more interest there and more flexibility.

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Venom

Published September 14, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

venom cover

Review of Venom by Fiona Page

Overview from www.goodreads.com: Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin… and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.

My Review:

I was intrigued about the YA novel Venom the moment I read the description on a website that features reviews of Historical Fiction books. It takes place during the Renaissance (or should I say Rinascimento) in Venice. Just knowing that part alone made it sound intriguing but it gets better.

The story centers around a young girl from a high-born family of Venice named Cassandra Caravello. Her troubles begin when she goes to the graveyard at night to visit the body of a recently deceased friend.

When she arrives at the cemetery, she finds someone else’s body in her crypt and what’s more that someone else seems to have been brutally murdered. So where is her friends body? Who is this girl who is currently resting in her grave? These are the questions she must find the answers to with the help of her new friend Falco who has also seen the dead girl.

The stakes are raised however when she receives an anonymous note from the killer saying that she is next. Now she must find the killer before she becomes one of his or her victims while still fulfilling her social responsibilities to her fiancé, her best friend, and her aunt. Furthermore, how many times can she sneak out at night without getting caught before she gets in trouble for her investigation in a city where the authorities cannot always be trusted?

Okay so now for my two cents. The story was intriguing. I liked Venice as the backdrop of the story and felt that the mystery surrounding the city added to the mystery surrounding the story. As we see further into the plot, the dark waters of the canals at night make for the perfect place for the killer to dispose of bodies as they also make for a dangerous place for a young girl who likes to wander off on her own to survive.

Cassandra doesn’t know who she can trust, for no one is what they seem. Even her old Aunt Agnese seems to have a hidden side that she knows nothing about. I liked that aspect of the plot about people not being what they seem. Sometimes we think we know the people who are closest to us—the people that we live with or work with—but do we really? Perhaps there not all as mysterious as the killer in this novel but like Agnese and Cass’s fiancé Luca, they might not be all that we think they are. They could be a cold-blooded killer. Or maybe they just have a secret talent that we never knew about like playing a musical instrument or painting.

On the negative side, there were a few things that I didn’t like. The first was that I didn’t know that this was part of a series and that the ending wouldn’t wrap everything up. I don’t want to spoil anything but there was one big decision that I was hoping that Cassandra would make at the end and when she didn’t I was disappointed. And the mystery wasn’t completely solved at the end. We get an idea of how did it and part of the reasons why but we are not sure of all the motivations involved nor the extent of the involvement of a certain powerful person. Presumably we will have to wait for the next book for that. Too bad.

The other thing was that there was one scene that was a bit uncomfortable for me and that was the scene in the house of the courtesans (I don’t know what it is called) where some of the hanky-panky that was described was a bit more than I was expecting for a YA novel. I’m not saying it will bother everyone but it did make me a bit uncomfortable.

However, overall I liked it. As I said, I loved the backdrop, as well as the characters. The mystery was certainly entertaining. The history seemed to be mostly accurate from what I can tell and I loved how the author brought in the Venetian masked ball as a scene in the story. I think that part was probably my most favorite in the novel and I guess it will probably be enough to make me want to read the next book in the series. If any of these points sounds as fascinating to you as it was to me, I think you will like this book.

The Lens and The Looker

Published September 15, 2012 by myliteraryleanings

Review of The Lens and the Looker by Lory S. Kaufman

Overview from www.bn.com: It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences, (A.I.s) have finally created the perfect society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full-sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiences the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.
Like in all groups of youth, there are those who rebel, “hard cases” who just don’t get it. In this first installment of a trilogy, three spoiled teens from the year 2347 are kidnapped back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy. There they are abandoned and left with only two choices: adapt to the harsh medieval ways, or die.

My Review:

I had high hopes for this Free Friday offering, I really did. Unfortunately it fell short for me. It is a YA/Sci-Fi/Historical Fiction/Romance all rolled into one. What intrigued me the most about it was that much of it takes place in fourteenth century Italy for most of the story and this time period has always fascinated me.

The trouble is—it is just so over the top, the things that happen in the plot. Our first character is a guy named Hansum. His name is a play on words as he is, in fact, handsome. This was a little too cheesy even for me but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had already given their kid this name.

But back to the plot. It begins when Hansum is sent to History Camp for his bad behavior. Although this punishment might scare most other kids his age, Hansum has the inside scoop since his mother works for the History Camp and knows that regardless of what the leaders may tell their charges, there are limits to the things that they can do to the kids. Although the workers try to make the experience as authentic as possible, they are not allowed to cause them harm or even be really mean to them. Their job is to make the children see how good they have it in modern times so that they won’t go back to their bad behavior.

As Hansum arrives at camp, he meets up with two other attendees—a boy named Lincoln and a girl named Shamira. The others, at first, are scared by what the head of the camp tells them but when Hansum tells them the truth and that he has managed to sneak a “genie” on board the plane to camp with him. This genie is actually a robot with a penchant for helping the kids cause trouble. And boy does he help them cause a lot of it.

After giving a history camp actor the runs with a medieval herb, the kids are whisked away to the real fourteenth century Italy by another councilor and left to fend for themselves. The man promises to come collect them in a month but never does. The possibility of being stuck in this century forever makes the kids more and more daring. They “invent” new machines that weren’t supposed to exist for hundreds of years after their century. This gives them and their new “master” favoritism with the city’s ruling elite but it also makes them targets of others who become jealous of their new elevated positions in the city. And, Hansum finds himself falling in love and considering marriage.

The book ended in a kind of cliff-hanger which didn’t exactly surprise me but it bothered me nonetheless. I just don’t know if I care about these characters enough to read the next book in the series. They just seem too stupid and careless, especially in the beginning. I don’t think I will read the next one, though I did learn a lot from this book.

Contains:some foul language

Below is a video from the author that summarizes the book: