Review: The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts

Title: The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts
Author: Avi
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

High adventure from a master storyteller about one boy’s attempt to fend for himself among cruel orphan masters, corrupt magistrates, and conniving thieves.

In the seaside town of Melcombe Regis, England, 1724, Oliver Cromwell Pitts wakes to find his father missing and his house flooded by a recent storm. He’s alone in his ruined home with no money and no food. Oliver’s father has left behind a barely legible waterlogged note: he’s gone to London, where Oliver’s sister, Charity, is in trouble. Exploring damage to the town in the storm’s aftermath, Oliver discovers a shipwreck on the beach. Removing anything from a wrecked ship is a hanging offense, but Oliver finds money that could save him, and he can’t resist the temptation to take it. When his crime is discovered, Oliver flees, following the trail of his father and sister. The journey is full of thieves, adventurers, and treachery–and London might be the most dangerous place of all.

In the tradition of his Newbery Honor book The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Avi mixes high adventure and short, page-turning chapters with a vivid historical setting featuring a cast of highwaymen, pickpockets, and villainous criminal masterminds.

Review:

This is an exciting, fast-paced story.

Oliver’s story starts out as a series of unfortunate events. His sister goes to London to find a better life, but it isn’t the life she thought it would be. Then his father disappears to go save his sister. Oliver is caught at a shipwreck, suspected of stealing, and then sent to a poorhouse. Then he has to travel to London with highwaymen who steal from carriages along the way.

This story was very fast-paced. Oliver never stayed in one place for very long, so the setting was always changing. He met many different people throughout the story and most of them were connected in some way.

I liked the ending of the story. There was a lot of tension while Oliver was in London! I’m excited to see where the story goes in the next book, The End of the World and Beyond.

What to read next:

The End of the World and Beyond by Avi

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Have you read The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts? What did you think of it?

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Review: The Golden Tresses of the Dead (Flavia de Luce #10)

Title: The Golden Tresses of the Dead (Flavia de Luce #10)
Author: Alan Bradley
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: January 22, 2019
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Although it is autumn in the small English town of Bishop’s Lacey, the chapel is decked with exotic flowers. Yes, Flavia de Luce’s sister Ophelia is at last getting hitched, like a mule to a wagon. “A church is a wonderful place for a wedding,” muses Flavia, “surrounded as it is by the legions of the dead, whose listening bones bear silent witness to every promise made at the altar.” 

Flavia is not your normal twelve-year-old girl. An expert in the chemical nature of poisons, she has solved many mysteries, sharpening her considerable detection skills to the point where she had little choice but to turn professional. So Flavia and dependable Dogger, estate gardener and sounding board extraordinaire, set up shop at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, eager to serve—not so simple an endeavor with her odious little moon-faced cousin, Undine, constantly underfoot. But Flavia and Dogger persevere. Little does she know that their first case will be extremely close to home, beginning with an unwelcome discovery in Ophelia’s wedding cake: a human finger.

Review:

I didn’t know what to expect from this book, since it’s the 10th in a series and I haven’t read any of the others. It was so good! The Boston Globe described Flavia as Eloise meets Sherlock Holmes, and I think that’s a perfect description of her.

Flavia is a great character. She’s a twelve-year-old who loves chemistry and solving crime. Along with her family’s butler, Dogger, she sets out on solving murders. Though Flavia is mature since she is solving the crimes in her small English town, she is still a kid. She personifies her bicycle, called Gladys. That gives her an innocence and reinforces the fact that she’s still a little girl. Though she’s a child, the subject of this book is for adults, not kids.

The ending of the story was good. Some clues were left unsolved, however I think this makes it realistic rather than unfinished. In real life, not every clue will lead to the solution, so I think this is reflected in the end of this mystery.

I loved this book and I will definitely read more books in this series!

What to read next:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley

The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place (Flavia de Luce #9) by Alan Bradley

Have you read The Golden Tresses of the Dead? What did you think of it?

Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1)

Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1)
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Gift
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Review:

This book was such a fun adventure.

Monty was the main character and narrator. He made so many bad decisions, but they were made out of love. I kept wanting to shout at him “Don’t do that!” but it would have stopped the story pretty quickly if he had made safer decisions.

I love the diversity in the story. Monty is bisexual and in love with his mixed race, male best friend. Felicity is an intelligent young girl who wants to study medicine rather than go to finishing school. Percy is mixed race and he lives with a chronic illness. I loved this diverse cast, especially set in eighteenth century Europe.

This is a great book! I can’t wait to read the next one!

What to read next:

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings #2) by Mackenzi Lee

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

Have you read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue? What did you think of it?

Review: The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1)

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Title: The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen  #1)
Author: Alison Goodman
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Viking Books
Source: Library
Release Date: December 14, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

London, April 1812.

On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

Review:

I really enjoyed this book! I love stories set in the 1800s.

This story started out slow, but the pacing was good for the story. It took a while to get used to the characters and their situations. Helen lives with her aunt and uncle because her parents died. Her mother had a scandalous past, which her aunt and uncle fear has been passed on to Helen.

I loved the fantasy elements of the story. It contrasted with the Regency atmosphere of the book. I couldn’t guess what was going to happen. It was also quite intense at times.

I was sad to see this story end because I really liked it, but I’m glad that it’s a series!

What to read next:

  • The Dark Days Pact (Lady Helen #2) by Alison Goodman

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  • The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

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Have you read The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1)? What did you think of it?

Review: The Unbinding of Mary Reade

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Title: The Unbinding of Mary Reade
Author: Miriam McNamara
Genre: Historical, Young Adult
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Source: Thomas Allen & Son (book distributor)
Release Date: June 19, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A clever, romantic novel based on the true story of a girl who disguised herself as a boy to sail with the infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Calico Jack—and fell in love with Anne Bonny.

There’s no place for a girl in Mary’s world. Not in the home of her mum, desperately drunk and poor. Not in the household of her wealthy granny, where no girl can be named an heir. And certainly not in the arms of Nat, her childhood love who never knew her for who she was. As a sailor aboard a Caribbean merchant ship, Mary’s livelihood—and her safety—depends on her ability to disguise her gender.

At least, that’s what she thinks is true. But then pirates attack the ship, and in the midst of the gang of cutthroats, Mary spots something she never could have imagined: a girl pirate.

The sight of a girl standing unafraid upon the deck, gun and sword in hand, changes everything. In a split-second decision, Mary turns her gun on her own captain, earning herself the chance to join the account and become a pirate alongside Calico Jack and Anne Bonny.

For the first time, Mary has a shot at freedom. But imagining living as her true self is easier, it seems, than actually doing it. And when Mary finds herself falling for the captain’s mistress, she risks everything—her childhood love, her place among the crew, and even her life.

Breathlessly romantic and brilliantly subversive, The Unbinding of Mary Reade is sure to sweep readers off their feet and make their hearts soar.

Review:

I really enjoyed this story. There was lots of romance, and a bit of suspense too.

I flew through this story. It was very fast paced. The chapters alternated between different years. Some flashed back to Mary’s young years, or her first journey on a ship, while others returned to her current pirate life. This made the Mary’s past more mysterious because some parts of her past life are saved until the end.

As soon as I started reading this, I had to look up Mary Reade, who was a real pirate. I could could tell from the way the story was written, that it was based on a true story. Mary’s story is fascinating. She was a woman who dressed up as a man so she could be a pirate. Her mother raised her as a boy because her son, Mark, died after Mary was born. Her son was the grandson of a very rich woman, and she wanted her illegitimate daughter to inherit the woman’s wealth instead. It is a crazy premise for a story, but it is what actually happened to Mary.

I’m curious about Mary Reade now, so I will keep my eyes open for more of her story. I highly recommend this book.

What to read next:

  • Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

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  • Isle of Blood and Stone (Tower of Winds #1) by Makiia Lucier

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Have you read The Unbinding of Mary Reade? What did you think of it?

 

Review: Another Woman’s Husband

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Title: Another Woman’s Husband
Author: Gill Paul
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Headline Review
Source: Purchased
Release Date: November 2, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Another Woman’s Husband is the latest gripping novel from Gill Paul.

Two women who challenged the Crown. Divided by time. Bound by a secret…

1911

At the age of fifteen, carefree Mary Kirk and indomitable Wallis Warfield meet at summer camp. Their friendship will survive heartbreaks, separation and the demands of the British Crown until it is shattered by one unforgivable betrayal.

1997

Rachel’s romantic break in Paris with her fiance ends in tragedy when the car ahead crashes. Inside was Princess Diana. Back in Brighton, Rachel is haunted by the accident, and intrigued to learn the princess had visited the last home of Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, only hours before the crash. Soon, the discovery of a long-forgotten link to Wallis Simpson leads Rachel to the truth behind a scandal that shook the world…

Richly imagined and beautifully written, Another Woman’s Husband is a gripping, moving novel about two women thrust into the spotlight, followed by scandal, touched by loss.

Review:

I love the British monarchy, so I was curious about this story about Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana.

This story has two narratives, one that begins in the early twentieth century and another that begins in 1997, with Diana’s death. The narratives do not focus directly on the two women. The first narrative is about Mary, a friend of Wallis Simpson. The second is about Rachel, a woman who witnessed the crash that killed Diana. Rachel’s boyfriend produces a documentary about Diana’s death, so they have to investigate the crash and the end of her life.

I liked how the story didn’t tell the women’s stories directly, but instead it is told through the eyes of people who watched them, either personally or publicly. The two stories were also tied together to make the narratives complete, though the connection between the women was fictional.

I also liked that there was an explanation of the historical facts at the end of the book. When I read historical fiction, I’m always curious to see what events really happened and what was made up for the book. A lot of this book was made up from facts, though parts that I suspected were fiction, because they made the narrative complete, were made up.

What to read next:

  • Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words by Andrew Morton
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  • Wallis in Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy by Andrew Morton
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Have you read Another Woman’s Husband? What did you think of it?

 

Review: Queen’s Progress (Kit Marlowe #9)

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Title: Queen’s Progress (Kit Marlow #9)
Author: M.J. Trow
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: July 1, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

As advance guard for the Queen’s Progress, Christopher Marlowe tackles murder and intrigue within some of England’s grandest stately homes.May, 1591. When Queen Elizabeth decides to embark on a Royal Progress, visiting some of the grandest homes in England, her new spymaster, Sir Robert Cecil, sends Kit Marlowe on ahead, to ensure all goes smoothly. But Marlowe’s reconnaissance mission is dogged by disaster: at Farnham Hall, a body is hurled from the battlements; at Cowdray Castle, a mock tournament ends in near tragedy; at Petworth, a body is discovered in the master bedroom, shot dead.

By the time he reaches Chichester, Marlowe fears the worst. Are the incidents linked? Is there a conspiracy to sabotage the Queen’s Progress? Who is pulling the strings – and why? To uncover the truth, Marlowe must come up with a fiendishly clever plan.

Review:

This is the first book I’ve read in the Kit Marlow series, and I loved it. Even though I haven’t read the other books, I still understood everything. Some of the characters weren’t described in detail, because they were probably introduced in past novels, but it wasn’t a big problem.

I loved the mystery elements of the story. I had no idea what the solution would be. Each of the stops on the planned route of the Queen’s Progress had to be cancelled due to a commotion or death on the property. Each situation seemed so unique that I wondered how they could be connected. The mystery came together in a great ending.

Some of Christopher Marlow’s contemporaries were in the story. Robert Cecil, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, was an important character. Will “Shaxsper” also made a couple of appearances in the Rose theatre. I loved how he made up words when he spoke to other people, because he created many of the words that we use today.

I loved this story, and I will definitely look for more in this series in the future!

Have you read this book or the series? What did you think?