The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

23592175

In a time when young women are expected to act like proper ladies and aspire only to an advantageous marriage, Faith wants to be a scientist. Fascinated by the natural world, Faith takes pleasure in accompanying her father to fossil digs, even though she is not taken seriously because of her gender. When a scandal breaks in the scientific world involving Faith’s father, her family flees to a remote island. There, secrets about her father’s past begin to come to light, and Faith discovers that he may have brought an even bigger, more dangerous secret with him to the island. Using her deductive reasoning skills, Faith must uncover the truth of what’s happening on the island — before she gets sucked into its mysteries.

I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed this book. It’s historical fiction, but it’s completely accessible and a super fast paced read. I especially love how this book tackles women’s rights, women in STEM, and fake news — all wrapped up in a murder mystery! You will definitely be eager to find out how the story ends. Characters are entertaining and well-rounded, and I liked that the author gave particular depth to the character of Faith’s mother. If you like historical fiction, mysteries, STEM, or are just looking for a good read, give this one a try. Worth it!

*Costa Book of the Year, 2015

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Court of Fives by Kate Elliot

18068907

 

Though Jessamy’s mother is of “common” birth, Jessamy and her sisters are raised as ladies. Ladies are expected to remain pleasant and demure until they marry. Jessamy hates the life of a lady. Instead, she wants to run the Fives — and obstacle course on which both high-born patrons and commoners can win glory through victory. But, as a lady, Jessamy is not allowed to run the Fives and must do so in secret. When the hierarchy of the court shifts and Jessamy’s family finds itself in a precarious position, her father must make an impossible choice. The fallout from his choice changes Jessamy’s life forever, and she must use the Fives to save her family at any cost.

While the world-building in this book is truly remarkable, the plot itself is kind of boring. I think the problem is that the author tries to incorporate too much into this one story. There are two major plot-lines, both of which are exciting, good plots. But including both in this book gave me a bit too much to keep up with. The ending is great, though, and gives an excellent set-up for the second book. There are also very relevant undertones of racial/class/gender discrimination that could be tied to events of today.

*Lonestar, 2017 

Rating: 2.5/5

 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

11925514

Captured and held as a British spy in Nazi occupied France, Queenie, after weeks of torture, has finally broken. In order to avoid further interrogation and to have some hope of survival, Queenie must tell the Nazis everything — every piece of code she remembers, the location of every air base she can think of, every person she came into contact with — everything. In her desperate confession, Queenie tells the story of her unlikely friendship with Maddie, a female pilot. As details of the two girls’ experience in the war surface, it becomes more and more likely that their paths may be severed forever, and Queenie’s chances of survival grow smaller by the day.

Wow! I was truly impressed with this book. There are so many unexpected twists and revelations, and I certainly wasn’t ready for the story to be over. I listened to the audiobook for this one, and so I got even more of the emotion and suspense portrayed through the readers’ words. I highly recommend it. If you’re a fan of historical fiction at all, or if you love books with a lot of depth and suspense, give this one a try. If you love it, there’s a sequel!

* SLJ Best Book of the Year, 2012

* Edgar Award, 2013

*Printz Award Nominee, 2013

*YALSA Teen’s Top Ten, 2013

Rating: 4.5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

13516846

When street urchin Dodger sees a young woman being beaten in the street during a storm, he must intervene. Though he saves the girl, Simplicity, the danger she is in is far from over. Dodger, aided by a couple of rich gentlemen (one of whom is the pre-famous Charles Dickens), discovers that Simplicity’s life is far from simple. She is being chased by powerful men from another country — men whose job it is to ensure Simplicity’s death. Using his own street-smarts and his new friends’ money, Dodger must solve the mystery of Simplicity’s past and figure out a way to ensure her safe future.

I really enjoyed this book! Dodger is funny, crafty, and incredibly fun to follow in this story. Though it can be a bit predictable, it was still exciting, and I loved getting a look at all the different perspectives in 19th century London. What I enjoyed best was the discussion of “the fog” — that people only see what they want to see in a situation and not the reality. I think “the fog” happens a lot in society, and it was interesting to see Dodger struggle with public opinion. Aside from deep thoughts, the book also had a ton of action, adventure, and sneaky plans. Pick it up if you’re a fan of historical fiction or action/adventure stories!

Rating: 4.5/5

*Printz Award Nominee, 2013 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Brazen by Katherine Longshore

18668016

Married to the King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy (Fitz), at just fourteen, Mary Howard has long been used as a political pawn by her family. But, though it is a marriage of political advantage, Mary finds herself falling in love with her husband. While she should be happy that her arranged marriage resulted in love, the teenagers are not allowed to be alone together or to consummate the marriage. What’s more, Henry VIII’s court is constantly shifting, with nobles falling out of favor as quickly as they’d risen. If Mary wants to be with Fitz, she must navigate her way through the endless court turmoil, shifting alliances, and, above all, stay in the good graces of the king.

As I’ve mentioned many posts before, I love Tudor fiction. So I fully admit to being completely biased toward this book. It is, though, really awesome and a unique point of view on the Tudor drama. Normally, Tudor books are told from the point of view of one of Henry VIII’s wives, or Henry himself. Margaret Howard is merely a minor Boleyn cousin married to Henry’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy (Fitz). Choosing this narrator gives the reader the advantage of seeing all the Henry wife drama play out from a distance, as well as spinning a new story in the Tudor court. Longshore also paints an interesting characterization of Anne Boleyn — one in which she definitely has stubborn qualities, but does not deserve her fate. I appreciate this rendering, as I don’t believe Anne to be the villain others portray her to be. If you’re a fan of romantic drama, court intrigue, or just historical fiction in general, definitely give this one a shot. Be sure to read Tarnish first, though, as it depicts Anne Boleyn’s rise to power and thus a more in-depth picture of the Tudor court.

Rating: 5/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

9565548

Ostracized by her family and village, Ismae is forever punished for her mother’s dalliance — with Death himself. A daughter of Death, Ismae is given special, if morbid, gifts which are feared by the world around her. Sold into marriage to an abusive husband, Ismae flees to the convent of St. Mortain where the sisters carry out Mortain’s (god of Death) wishes. Leaving her old life behind, Ismae is trained as a deadly assassin and sent to avenge traitors to the country. But, as satisfying as her new life is, Ismae soon learns that Mortain’s wishes are not always easy to decipher. What’s more, lies and deception plague Ismae’s most important mission, causing her to question everything she thought was true.

I really liked this one. It has a female character taking over her own life, making her own decisions, developing serious ninja skills — it’s awesome. Unfortunately, I read Throne of Glass before I read this piece, and the two are almost exactly the same. The one difference is that Throne of Glass is way better. Though it’s not a bad story, Grave Mercy is a historical fiction as well as fantasy, and the time period LaFevers chose is rough. Politics of 15th century Britain aren’t always easy to follow, and what would pass for normal happenings in society back then (i.e. a twelve-year-old getting ready to marry) are hard to believe now. If you like historical fiction and you like action, give this one a shot. It has some interesting views on religion/theology that Throne of Glass does not tackle, and I truly enjoyed reading those themes. I liked it enough that I will probably read the companion novels.

This one has a great book trailer!

Rating: 3/5 

*School Library Journal, Best Books of the Year, 2012

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

Tomboy by Liz Prince

20256612

Labeled as a “tomboy” from a young age, Liz struggles to find a place in a hyper-gendered world. In this unique graphic novel memoir, Prince chronicles her battle with mainstream society in all its awkward glory. With each humiliating, painfully real episode, Liz sheds much needed insight into the consequences of forcing gender on individuals, as well as highlights the need for each person to determine his/her gender identity independently.

I LOVED this book! It’s a graphic novel, so that automatically catches my attention, and it’s a memoir. I love hearing people tell their stories! Liz’s book was particularly good because she talks about what it’s like to not fit in because of the way others perceive you. Because of her looks, people call Liz a boy. Liz doesn’t see anything wrong with being a boy (in fact she likes doing “boy” things), but she’s still made fun of because of it. In short, Liz isn’t allowed to be herself because the way she is isn’t “normal”. It was sad to read some of the parts of her story, but I feel like this is also an important book. Through Liz’s story, readers can really see what it’s like for someone who doesn’t fit into a predetermine role — whether gender or otherwise. This book really got me thinking about how I look at and treat other people, as well as the ridiculous standards society/the media places on gender.

Rating: 5/5 

*Maverick, 2014

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.