The Hollow City

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, #2)Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ll continue to be generous with this series and give it 3 stars, which is still a huge drop from the first book. I didn’t dislike it, but it had none of what made the first book such a memorable experience. I suppose for one thing, the world-building has been established, so we don’t have the mystery of figuring out what is going on. And while I still find the odd photos intriguing, the story is too much contrived by the photos instead of being an accompaniment to the story. While Jacob seems a little older and wiser in this book, there is not really any character development. The whole love story angle is very flat. I’m not a fan of cliff-hanger endings. It worked in the first book, and despite being a cliffhanger there was a sense of completion. This book just feels like “filler” material to me – enough to make a movie out of, but a pretty shallow plot for a book. Ransom Riggs writes well enough, and the historical setting is good, but I hope he will give more attention to plot and characters in the 3rd installment.

Description: Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. There, they hope to find a cure for their beloved headmistress, Miss Peregrine. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. And before Jacob can deliver the peculiar children to safety, he must make an important decision about his love for Emma Bloom.

A Conspiracy of Kings

A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen's Thief, #4)A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I guess this completes the series in a satisfactory way, since we were left with the disappearance of Sophos in a previous book. Perhaps I was getting tired of the series, but this just didn’t hold my interest very well. Yet another point of view – Sophos this time – but he is nowhere near the hero that Eugenides was in the first three books. In fact, there seems to be very little of him here at all. So unless you are dying to know what happened to Sophos, this book seems like just an afterthought to tie up the loose threads. There is none of the trickster quality that made Gen so endearing. Just a lot of political maneuvering. Sophos seems a bit plodding, and I’m not sure what Gen and the Queen of Eddis saw in him. It did pick up again toward the end when Sophos finally decides to fight for his right to rule Sounis.

Book Description: Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father’s villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace. In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again. Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the magus—and Eddis—sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever.

The King of Attolia

The King of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #3)The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is fun to have a new perspective here – someone who does not know Eugenides. Of course, if you have read the first two books in the series, then you know that Eugenides is not the buffoon that he seems to be. Just as much fun as the other books in the series.

Book Description: By scheming and theft, the Thief of Eddis has become King of Attolia. Eugenides wanted the queen, not the crown, but he finds himself trapped in a web of his own making. Told from the point of view of a naive young guard awaiting execution for striking the despised new king. Inexplicably, Eugenides pardons the young squad leader on one condition: Costis must faithfully serve as his personal assistant and bodyguard. But it’s not until assassins unsheathe their glittering blades that Costis realizes how much the quirky king means to him.

Audio version: Jeff Woodman’s superb narration highlights all the compelling action and subtle humor of a spellbinding novel with enough twists to suggest that things aren’t always what they seem to be.

Gilt

GiltGilt by Katherine Longshore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Setting: England, London, Greenwich Palace
Time: 1539-1542

Main characters: Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, Katherine (Kitty) Tylney, Jane Boleyn – Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.

First paragraph: “You’re not going to steal anything.” I left the question–Are you?–off the end of the sentence. But Cat heard it anyway.

Favorite lines: “We spent yet another rainy day endlessly sewing. I wondered at all the shirts we sewed. For the poor. For Cat’s husband. How many shirts did he need? Or was it like the fairy tales, and the things unsewed themselves every night? Was she forever sewing the same shirt, like Sisyphus pushing the rock up a mountain for all eternity?” p. 279

I was pleasantly surprised by this first book in the Gilt Novels series. Told from the point of view of a lady in waiting to Catherine Howard, the 5th wife of Henry VIII. Although Catherine is vain, selfish, spoiled, ambitious and reckless, Kitty is loyal to her friend. At first we see the fun-loving (but reckless) side of Catherine Howard. This can be forgiven while she is a “nobody” in the employ of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. But once she has caught the eye of Henry VIII and become the Queen of England, her recklessness puts the lives of those around her at risk. You won’t lose much sleep over the eventual fate of Cat, but will Kitty survive and learn to stand on her own two feet? Kitty is based on a real person, but not much is known about her. Ms. Turner has given her a bit of a love interest. The ending is bittersweet – we don’t know whether or not there will be a happily ever after for her. The historical setting of the book seems well researched, but the use of contemporary teenage attitudes and mannerisms makes it clear the series is aimed at contempory teens. That might be off-putting for adults used to more “authentic” historical fiction, but it wasn’t as off-putting as I had thought it might be from the description of this series as “Gossip Girl meets the Tudor Court.”

The books in this series are not chronological and stand alone. They can be read in any order.

Description: When Kitty Tylney’s best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII’s heart and brings Kitty to court, she’s thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat’s shadow, Kitty’s now caught between two men–the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat’s meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

About the author: Katherine Longshore grew up on the northern California coast. At university, she created her own major in Cross-Cultural Studies and Communications, planning to travel and write. Forever. Four years, six continents and countless pairs of shoes later, she went to England for two weeks, stayed five years and discovered history. She now lives in California with her husband, two children and a sun-worshiping dog.

The Queen of Attolia

The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #2)The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nothing much to add that I didn’t say in my review of The Thief. Another enjoyable installment of the world created by Megan Whalen Turner – part fantasy, part adventure, part romance. Narrated by the wonderful Jeff Woodman.

Book Description: Picking up where the Newbery Honor Book “The Thief” left off, “The Queen of Attolia” finds Eugenides detained inside a dank torture chamber, where the Queen orders that his hand be cut off to punish him for his past trangressions. After his release, mischievous Gen retains his sense of adventure, but is haunted by his loss and a growing attraction to the ice-cold Queen of Attolia. But he remains fiercely loyal to his cousin, the Queen of Eddis. When war breaks out between Attolia and its two neighbors, Eddis and Sounis, Gen must use all of his smarts to devise a plan for getting the rulers together to end the conflict — and perhaps sweep the Queen of Attolia away for himself.

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The Thief

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been meaning to read this series for quite a long time now. And I love anything narrated by Jeff Woodman. The world created by Megan Whalen Turner here is a blend of medieval fantasy (kingdoms and castles, but no magic or dragons) and ancient Greek mythology (tales of gods and goddesses). I picture Gen as a young Matthew Broderick (Ladyhawke), with the same knack for getting himself in and out of trouble. Turner has created the background mythology of this world and woven the stories of the gods into the adventure. But are they just stories, or do the gods still have a hand in the fates of mankind? The plot twists will keep readers in suspense until the very end. I had to go back and listen to it a second time once I knew the ending. Recommended for age 12 and up, but I think younger children would also enjoy it.

Book Description: Gen, the young thief, spends his time pacing restlessly in the king’s prison. Chains on his arms and legs don’t permit him to move very far. If only he hadn’t bragged about stealing the monarch’s ring, he wouldn’t be here now! When the royal magus summons Gen to his office, he has a surprising proposal for the prisoner – steal a marvelous treasure for the kingdom and earn his freedom – but fail, and pay with his life. Escorted by four hostile guards, Gen sets off on a thrilling journey so filled with adventure and intrigue that the gods themselves must be involved.

Enthusiasm

EnthusiasmEnthusiasm by Polly Shulman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by this sweet little book. It’s a quick read about friendship, high school crushes, school activities, embarrassing parents, and other teenaged angst. The love story aspect is a little weak, but this is high school after all, and it’s G-rated, so okay for younger teens. I enjoyed the interplay between the two girls. I was the quiet bookworm among my more outgoing friends. I would have liked a take-charge friend like Ashleigh, but Julie seemed much too passive about everything. I probably was like that in high school, too. It takes time and experience to learn to be assertive and stand up for yourself. Not that Julie is bullied – it’s just that her agreeableness and fear of hurting someone’s feelings are bound to do more harm than good in the long run. The boys were far more charming and thoughtful than I remember any boys being in high school! Heck, I’m still looking for my poetry-writing, fencing and sailing enthusiast Mr. Darcy myself! I enjoyed the side-plot of the high school musical, and Julie’s relationships with her parents, the mother coping with unemployment, and her remarried father and the attempts (unwelcome!) of his new wife to ingratiate herself into Julie’s life. I might have rated this higher if I weren’t so far removed from my teenage years! Still, it was a nice bit of fluff in-between more serious reads, and I enjoyed the Jane Austen angle.

Book Description: Julie is a quiet bookworm. Her best friend Ashleigh, on the other hand, is an “Enthusiast.” As long as they have known each other, Ash has been obsessed with one thing or another. Now it is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which just happens to be Julie’s favorite book. Before Julie knows what hit her, she and Ash are decked-out in 19th-century garb, smelling like mothballs, and crashing the all-boys prep school formal dance. Their mission is to find their personal Misters Darcy. But when they set their sights on the same young gentleman, their journey into the world of proper English courtship looks like it might cause a broken heart or two.