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Sigrun's Secret
Sigrun's Secret
by Marie-Louise Jensen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful YA historical from Marie-Louise Jensen., 3 July 2011
This review is from: Sigrun's Secret (Paperback)
Fifteen-year-old Sigrun lives a peaceful life with her family on their farm in Iceland in the 9th century. All she knows about her family's history is that her father was once a chieftain in Norway and he and her mother moved to Iceland twenty years ago to start a settlement. Sigrun is happy because her brother and her best friend, Ingvar, have just returned from a year spent traveling to Ireland to trade. At first she barely recognizes Ingvar, who has grown into a young man during the past year. Sigrun is confused by the new feelings she has for her childhood friend.

Just as Sigrun begins to realize how she truly feels about Ingvar, her world falls apart. Her father is accused of being a murderer and an imposter and is banished from Iceland for three years, and Sigrun and her brother must go into exile with him while their mother stays behind to look after their farm. Sigrun is heartbroken at leaving behind her home, her friends, and Ingvar, when she has only just realized that she has fallen in love with him. After leaving Iceland, Sigrun, her brother, and their father travel to the city of Jorvik (now York, England), which was ruled by Scandanavians in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. Jorvik is very different from Sigrun's peaceful countryside home in Iceland, and she doesn't like living in a noisy and dirty city. I found this part of the story particularly interesting as I always had thought of the Vikings as just being raiders who attacked and then left and I didn't know they had controlled such a large part of what is now England.

I have loved everything I have read by Marie-Louise Jensen and Sigrun's Secret is no exception. All of her books have wonderful main characters and interesting and unusual historical settings. This book is a sequel of sorts to her previous book Daughter of Fire and Ice, which told the story of Sigrun's parents and their journey to Iceland. However you do not need to have read the previous book to enjoy or understand this one. If you enjoy historical fiction and historical romance I highly recommend this book and others by the author, and I can't wait to read her next book.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.


Chocolate Cake with Hitler
Chocolate Cake with Hitler
by Emma Craigie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tragic tale of a childhood lost to war., 21 Mar. 2010
During the final days of World War II in April 1945, twelve-year-old Helga Goebbels, daughter of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, is brought to Berlin, along with her younger brother and four younger sisters, to stay with her parents in Hitler's bunker in Berlin. Having spent much of her childhood sheltered from the horrors of the war, Helga can now see that something is terribly wrong. She is old enough to know that despite attempts to maintain a sense of normalcy for the children, the adults are hiding something terrible from her - the war will soon be over, and Germany has lost.

During the last ten days of her life, Helga looks back on the happier days of her childhood and the memories of good times with family and friends as day by day, things become worse in the bunker. Every day, the adults grow more tense, and more and more people leave in hopes of escaping from the advancing Russian army. Every day, more and more, Helga is faced with the terrible truths that the adults have tried so hard to hide from the children. What Helga doesn't know, however, is that those she fears - the conquering Russian army - will not be the ones to take her life. Instead, she will lose her life at the hands of the person who should have protected her - her mother.

Chocolate Cake with Hitler is a haunting look at the final days in the life of Helga Goebbels, oldest child of one of the most notorious Nazis, Joseph Goebbels. Helga and her five younger siblings were murdered by their mother shortly before the Russians captured Berlin in early May of 1945. The author conveys the tragedy of a fanaticism so great and evil that a parent would kill her children before allowing them to live in a world in which the Nazis had lost. This is a short but powerful novel that shows all too clearly that in war, all children are victims.


Highway Girl: an English girl's diary 1670 (My Story)
Highway Girl: an English girl's diary 1670 (My Story)
by Valerie Wilding
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read from the My Story series., 15 Mar. 2010
When Susannah Makepeace's mother dies, she and her older brother, Dominic, are left orphaned and homeless in late 17th century England. Dominic decides to travel to the New World of America in hopes of making his fortune, and so Susannah must go to live with her wealthy, distant cousins, the de Gracys, who have a large estate, Gracy Park. Susannah hates having to live off of the charity of relatives she has never before met, and knows it may be a long time before she is reunited with Dominic.

The de Gracys provide Susannah with a comfortable cottage to live in, but she misses her brother and feels terribly lonely. Her cousin Juliana, who is close in age to Susannah, is haughty and unkind, and Susannah's only friends are Bid, the maid provided for her by the de Gracys, and Ned, a young man who was a friend of her brother and who used to work for the Makepeace family. When Susannah learns that her brother has arrived in America but is very ill, she decides she must somehow obtain enough money to travel there and help him, even if the only way is becoming a highwayman and stealing the money.

Highway Girl is written as Susannah's diary, making it a quick and easy read. Overall it was an enjoyable book, though it does have a few flaws. Despite the title, Susannah becoming a highwayman doesn't occur until late in the book, and so it doesn't play a significant role in the plot of the book, which is mostly about her everyday life in Gracy Park. It was also a little unbelievable how quickly Susannah turned to robbery to help her brother, since it seemed a bit out of character for her, and the ending was a bit abrupt and too perfect. However the book was overall a pleasant read. Although this book is not one of my top favorites from the My Story series, fans of the series should enjoy it.


Daughter of Fire and Ice
Daughter of Fire and Ice
by Marie-Louise Jensen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical fiction for teens., 19 Feb. 2010
Fifteen-year-old Thora is a gifted healer who has visions of the future. When her family's enemy, Bjorn Swanson, the chieftain of their district in Norway, kidnaps her, he plans to force her to accompany him on a voyage to Iceland, the new world. But a very different journey begins when Swanson's slave, a young man that Thora has seen in her visions, kills the cruel chieftain to avenge Swanson's murder of his sister. The slave takes on the identity of Bjorn Swanson, and Thora knows her destiny is to travel with this young man to Iceland.

During the voyage, Thora begins to care deeply for the young man she now knows only as Bjorn, and believes she is falling in love with him, and that he may have feelings for her as well. However, circumstances make it difficult for them to be together. And as Thora, Bjorn, and their fellow travelers struggle to build a home in the harsh and dangerous land that is Iceland, Thora realizes there is a murderer among them.

Daughter of Fire and Ice is a fascinating, exciting, and romantic young adult historical novel. I loved the unusual historical setting of ninth century Norway and Iceland, as I have not read much set in this time period. Thora is a wonderful narrator who brings to life the story and setting. I have loved everything I have read so far by Marie-Louise Jensen. I highly recommend her books to readers who love young adult historical romance, and I can't wait to read her next book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2013 2:17 PM BST


The Man from Pomegranate Street: Roman Mystery 17 (The Roman Mysteries)
The Man from Pomegranate Street: Roman Mystery 17 (The Roman Mysteries)
by Caroline Lawrence
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful conclusion to the series., 25 Oct. 2009
In this conclusion to the Roman Mysteries series, Flavia and her friends return to Rome in AD 81 to learn of the death of Emperor Titus. The death occurred under mysterious circumstances, and many wonder if Titus truly died of natural causes, or if he was assassinated by one of his many enemies.

This is the biggest mystery yet for Flavia, Jonathan, Nubia, and Lupus, but they are determined to solve it, hoping that doing so will clear their names with the new emperor, Domitian, who is Titus's brother. However, trying to clear their names by solving the mystery ends up putting the friends in more danger, and they may not like some of the answers they find.

The Man from Pomegranate Street is a wonderful conclusion to the Roman Mysteries series, full of adventure, danger, mystery, and for some of the characters, romance. I've been reading this series since the first book was published, so I was very excited to read this final book and find out what happened to all the characters. Particularly I wanted to find out who Flavia would marry and I was not disappointed in the answer! Fans of the series are sure to want to read this book, it is an excellent conclusion that will not disappoint. For new readers who think the series sounds interesting, I recommend starting with book one, The Thieves of Ostia.


Pimpernelles: 1: The Pale Assassin
Pimpernelles: 1: The Pale Assassin
by Patricia Elliott
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A good historical novel for young adults set during the French Revolution, 19 Sept. 2009
Although orphaned at a young age, fourteen-year-old Eugenie de Boncoeur has never known much hardship. Raised by a wealthy guardian, her life is carefree. She is more concerned with parties and dresses then the growing unrest around her. But in July 1779, she is suddenly and violently made aware when the French Revolution begins.

Eugenie is sent to a convent for her own safety, but even there she cannot escape the violence. And she soon learns that she is in danger from more then just the hatred the revolutionaries have for aristocrats like Eugenie and her family. Her guardian has betrothed her to a mysterious man named the Pale Assassin, a man who wants to marry her to get revenge for a wrong he feels her father committed against him years ago. Eugenie attempts to flee to safety with relatives in England, chased by both revolutionaries and the sinister Pale Assassin.

I had mixed feelings about this book. It starts out a bit slow, and Eugenie was a hard character to like at first - she is spoiled, selfish, and immature. However, as the book progresses the story picks up pace, and Eugenie becomes more likeable as she matures and develops an awareness of the world around her. Ultimately I did get into the story and am interested to find out what happens next in the sequel, which will be published next year. This isn't the best book I have read recently, but if you can overlook the slow start and enjoy historical fiction, I would suggest giving this book a try.


The Lady in the Tower
The Lady in the Tower
by Marie-Louise Jensen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful young adult historical fiction set in the Tudor era., 19 Sept. 2009
This review is from: The Lady in the Tower (Paperback)
Eleanor had a happy childhood in 16th century England, during the reign of King Henry VIII. Her loving and indulgent parents allowed her to ride horses, learn to joust with her cousin and younger brother, and did not scold her too much for her failure to learn ladylike tasks such as sewing. That all changed when Eleanor is eleven. Her father, suddenly a different man than the one she had known all her life, falsely accused her mother of terrible crimes and had her locked in a tower in their home.

The story picks up four years later. In the aftermath of these events, Eleanor has become estranged from her father, and from her younger brother who is close to her father and cannot remember the time before her mother was imprisoned. She secretly conspires with the servants and villagers to deliver food and messages to her mother, and to save her from her father's plots to have her killed. Her father had her betrothed to a much older man but he died before the wedding day, to Eleanor's relief. However, now that she is fifteen, he has chosen another man to be her husband. His choice, Lord Stanton, is young and handsome, but she believes he is on her father's side, and she knows if she marries and leaves her home, her mother will have no one left to protect her from her father.

The Lady in the Tower is a wonderful young adult historical novel set in the Tudor era, one of my favorite time periods. Eleanor is a lively and likeable character, and the book has a perfect blend of history, intrigue, and romance. I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy young adult historical fiction and I look forward to reading more from Marie-Louise Jensen, who is a promising new writer in this genre.


Alice in Love and War
Alice in Love and War
by Ann Turnbull
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent young adult historical novel about the English Civil War., 19 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Alice in Love and War (Paperback)
Alice Newcombe's father dies when she was eleven, leaving her an orphan. She is sent to live on her aunt and uncle's farm, where she feels unwelcome from the start. Five years pass, until Alice is sixteen in the year 1644. Civil war divides England, but Alice is most worried about fighting off the unwelcome advances of her uncle, and fears what will happen if one day, she cannot fight him off. So when Royalist soldiers come to their village, and Alice falls in love with one young soldier named Robin, she seizes her chance to escape, and leaves with Robin to join the other women on the baggage train following the army.

Life is hard, but Alice becomes friends with many of the women on the baggage train. And she loves Robin, and is sure he loves her too. But when he leaves her alone for the winter, she begins to wonder if he was honest with her, and if he really cares for her as much as she did. What will happen to her if he does not return? Can she make her own way in a country torn apart by a violent war?

Alice in Love and War is an excellent historical novel that brings to life the English Civil War, a time period I didn't know much about as an American reader. Alice is a well-developed and likeable character and the book kept me turning the pages eagerly to find out what would happen to her next. There are some mature themes in this book, although not described in graphic detail, so I wouldn't recommend this book for young readers, but it is an excellent book for teens - and adults too - who love historical fiction.


Nightfall: 1 (Vampire Diaries: The Return)
Nightfall: 1 (Vampire Diaries: The Return)
by L. J. Smith
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I tried to like it, but I just couldn't., 26 Feb. 2009
Like many other readers here, I first read The Vampire Diaries series as a teenager, and really enjoyed it. Although I am in my 20s now, I was excited to see a continuation of the story, and see what happened next to the characters I had loved so much. However, I ended up completely disappointed by this book.

The biggest problem I had was the characters and setting in this book just didn't seem like they fit with how they were portrayed in the first four books. This book supposedly picks up right where book four ended, but the characters are completely different, and the magical and horror elements are pretty different from those featured in the older books. Also, this book just seemed overly long, like the writer attempted to stuff too much into one book. I think it would have worked better as two books - especially since this is a series, there's no reason not to divide it into more books if it works better this way.

I do realize it's been a long time since the original Vampire Diaries, and I respect that the writing style of an author can change with time. But rather than continuing a series that readers loved so much, and taking the characters in a direction that just doesn't fit with the original books, why did the author not create new characters and a new world and write a new series that fits with her current writing style? Had she put her talents to that, I think a lot of her older fans would have been a lot less disappointed. I ended up giving up on fully reading this book about halfway through and skimmed through the rest, hoping it would look more promising, but it didn't. I may try again when I've gotten over the disappointment of the book being so different from the rest of the series, but I would encourage those who truly loved the earlier books to avoid this one. They will likely end up disappointed as well.


Ransom My Heart
Ransom My Heart
by Mia Thermopolis
Edition: Paperback

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun Medieval romance sure to be enjoyed by the author's older fans.,, 26 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Ransom My Heart (Paperback)
In England in the year 1291, Finulla Crass, the adventurous daughter of the village miller, is determined to help her older sister, Mellana, who is pregnant out of wedlock and needs a substantial dowry, as her child's father will otherwise be too poor to marry her. The sisters come up with a rather unconventional plan - Finnula will find a wealthy man, kidnap him, and hold him for ransom in order to obtain the money Mellana needs. Finnula decides her captive will be a young earl, Hugo Fitzstephan, who has returned from the Crusades with quite a large fortune.

Hugo Fitzstephan is nothing like Finnula expected, however. The young knight is disturbingly handsome, and Finnula, who prefers hunting and riding to household tasks and is determined to never marry again after her first husband died before their wedding night, finds herself fighting her attraction for Hugo. Meanwhile, Hugo could escape at any time, but plays along as Finnula's "hostage" because he is curious about - and rather fascinated by - this unconventional young woman.

Ransom My Heart is an enjoyable and lighthearted Medieval romance with an entertaining relationship between the main characters. It's not super heavy on historical detail, but I loved that it was different from most romances set in this time period, in that it had a unique storyline and featured a heroine who was a commoner rather than the typical sheltered young noblewoman. This book does have a bit more mature content than Meg Cabot's young adult books, however, so I wouldn't really recommend it to her younger fans. Historical romance readers as well as older teen and adult fans of the author are sure to enjoy this book, and I highly recommend it to them.


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