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VINE VOICEon 19 April 2012
This was an enjoyable young adult novel, set in Victorian Britain. It covered a number of fascinating topics, including the plight of London's cripplingly poor, class differences, and the mourning industry which was then at its hey-day.

Grace, who has become 'fallen' through no fault of her own, is making her way to Brookwood Cemetary in the opening scenes. She is carrying a bundle and is travelling on The Necropolis train. This was a train service that escorted London folk out of the city to a distant burial ground, established since the cholera epidemic had filled the cemetaries within London. At the cemetary she meets two characters who will prove crucial to the narrative - a pompous lady funeral director and a young lawyer's clerk.
Since Grace had been orphaned at a young age, she had been caring for her older, but somewhat 'simple' sister, Lily. Together, they lived in a crumbling appartment block in a very poor area of London and sold watercress on the streets to make a few pence. Unfortunately, circumstances left them homeless, shoeless and broke, and thus the scene is set for a slightly farcical adventure.

I thought the first part of the book was excellent, but wasn't so convinced by the 'goings-on' in the second half.
In spite of this, I did learn about the trade of mourning the dead in Victorian England and the book was well worth reading. There is also a brief section at the back of the book that explains some of the relevant historical background.
A great YA author, who I have read and enjoyed before.
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VINE VOICEon 22 February 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Fallen Grace is the tale of two orphaned sisters who are struggling to survive in Victorian London. Grace is the younger sister, at just fifteen, but is the one who assumes the motherly role due to her sister's childlike naivety. Grace has had more than her fair share of burdens placed upon her young shoulders, when she finds herself in the situation of trying to spare her stillborn child the disgrace of a pauper's burial. This is the crucial moment of the story, where a midwife takes pity upon her and gifts her the fare to travel the funeral train and hide her precious cargo inside the coffin of another. What happens next changes the future of Grace and her sister Lily forever, for she encounters some of the people who work the funeral industry and discovers that business is booming in the shadow of other's misfortune.

Grace is a strong, but loveable character, and you are really drawn into her fight to survive without falling below a certain point of respectability. She has no idea that her sister, and herself, are the centre of much interest amongst certain wealthy circles, or the fact that there is a very serious threat closing in on them.

The story is beautifully written, and well-researched. I loved the style as it is as sensational as a novel of this era has always been. This is why I believe that it is absolutely crucial that the tale has such a wonderfully dramatic 'race against time' type of finale. This is a story of Victorian life, with all the murky undercurrents that truly existed, but with the realistic feel of a tale written in that time, which is very skillfully articulated by the author.

I really enjoyed this book, and I hope that you will too, whether you are young or old.
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VINE VOICEon 26 January 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Fallen Grace" is a riveting read that throws the reader straight into London in 1861. The characters of the two sisters are distinctive and memorable, and appeal to the reader. The setting, and their experiences, are beautifully described, and the reader learns a great deal about life in Victorian London without actually feeling as though they are reading a pure history book. The descriptions of the funeral services and the workings of a typical funeral parlour and a large retail store of the time are fascinating. The plot is well paced, and there is plenty of it, written in a style that would have leant itself to serialisation if that had still been how novels were commonly published. I did wonder if the author had deliberately set out to emulate Dickens, and do a modern version with a storyline that would appeal to younger readers. There are elements of the plot that are fairly easy to guess from early on in the book. Whilst that may lessen its appeal to adults, I suspect it was deliberate on the author's part - both because this is aimed at younger readers, who might not find it so obvious, and also because I felt there was a certain suspense introduced in wondering if the outcome the reader hopes for is going to come to pass. In a book with limited characterisation, it wouldn't have worked - but I think it did here. I cared about the two sisters in the story, and making the reader aware of things the sisters themselves hadn't realised worked to enhance that sympathy for them. Also, two young women in that era would have been much more naive than their modern day equivalents, and so would have been more easily taken in - another point that telling the story in this way makes quite well. Overall then, a thoughtful and emotional book, that immerses the reader in the life of Victorian London.
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VINE VOICEon 1 January 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Orphaned sisters Grace and Lily Parkes face a tough life in Victorian London. Not knowing where their next meal will come from, and making a paltry living from selling watercress, they are on the verge of entering the workhouse. Grace has already suffered the trauma of giving birth to a stillborn child and now they face the prospect of an even bleaker future.

I enjoyed reading this book very much. There are twists and turns at every corner as we journey through the very difficult lives of the two sisters. Yes, sometimes the coincidences seem to be a bit too convenient, but that is the artistic licence of the author and does not in any way detract from what is a fascinating and gripping story.

`Fallen Grace' gives a fabulous insight into the (already well-documented) lives of children during Victorian times, but also the macabre and thriving funeral industry, of which I had no knowledge: the chilling sounding Necropolis Railway which ran until the Second World War and the craze for fashionable funeral attire which could be purchased in large warehouses in London's Regent Street. I know some reviewers feel there isn't enough substance to the characters or that the recounts of just how hard life was for children is a bit too sanitised, but in my opinion, Mary Hooper gets the balance just right for this novel and it will work well for a teen reader. Hooper also gives a bibliography at the end for more information, and notes on what inspired her to write the story. A great read which will keep you hooked and horrified in equal measure.
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VINE VOICEon 15 November 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I thought this book was simply excellent. As it aimed at a YA audience, I thought it may have glossed over some of the hardships of the Victorian era. However, the plight of poor/working class young people in Victorian England has been thoroughly researched and is highlighted beautifully in this novel.

The central character of Grace is very likeable, and you certainly come to admire her strength of character and sheer bravery as the plot progress'. Grace and her sister are subjected to numerous awful situations throughout the book, and the way the characters deal with those issues provokes such empathy and respect within the reader. Although the book is set in the past, it also emphasises that many of the problems faced by the girls are still around in modern society today; abuse, poverty and family/carer responsibilities to name a few.

The descriptions of Victorian London are very vivid and rich. At one point I almost felt like I could smell the streets around me, and feel the smothering smog blocking my way. The full descriptions really added to the depth and enjoyment of the novel for me.

The funeral practises of the Victorians are explored in detail within the book, and I actually didn't fully realise how over the top and gloomy they were! The role of the "mute" was new to me and completely fascinating. It was interesting to see where some of our funeral practises originated from, but I was pleased to see that certain other macabre traditions have thankfully died out!

The other aspect of the book that stood out for me was the begining of the chapters. Each starts with either a quote from a Victorian book or a fun little advertisement that adds to the story in some way. These added a lighthearted factor to the book that kept me wanting to read on the the next chapter.

Overall a very enjoyable read that surpassed my expectations.

Another more adult tale in this era that may appeal is Mistress of My Fate
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on 9 November 2011
I want to begin by saying how much I loved the cover for this book, it's elegant and pretty and captures the elements of the book that I loved. Grace's proud elegance and beauty and the nameless life she leads. She's just one of many poor that have to struggle just enough to survive each day but she is a symbol of the hard times of the Victorian period. The divide between the rich and poor is like a huge cavern that can't be crossed without fear of death.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this story; not because I was expecting to be disappointed or anything like that but I'm not naturally drawn to period fiction. I think it's a mental block I have that is down to my years of struggle with the `classics' like Dickens and the Bronte's but I'm getting past this block and it's down to excellent books like Fallen Grace. It evokes a time that is both glamorous and raw depending from which side of the divide you live on and because Grace and her sister have experienced life on both sides but are now stuck trying to just eat each day.

Mary Hooper's writing style made you feel like you were there in the room and the realism of the time when things were dark and dirty but also it was just how it was for a great deal of people. Women were seen as something to own or use and the poor were nothing more than leaches on society to be looked over and ignored if possible. The research for the story is part of what makes it such a good book for me because I love history and a good mystery so this ticked all the boxes from having key people and places highlighted and a tale of lies, crime and the heart woven into the backdrop of Victorian London.

Even though they are so bad and evil I think my favourite characters were the Unwins because I just love a really good bad guy that is so devilish and smart that you are just waiting for someone to find them out or for them to slip up and make mistakes. They are menacing but in a way that is disturbing because they are clever business people and know their trades; funeral services and crime.

A wonderful beginning for me into Mary Hooper's books and I look forward to her newest release Velvet.
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Mary Hooper is one of those YA historical novelists I have only recently discovered but I am already rapidly falling completely in love with what she writes and only wish I had discovered her work sooner.

Fallen Grace is a beautifully written novel which I devoured in a matter of hours.

The first thing I loved about this book was that each chapter was headed by a little note, be it a quote, business card or an advert which is linked to the story and added to the whole experience of the story. I loved seeing what was going to come up next.

I loved the setting for the story. The bookk gave the reader a real sense of what it would have been like to be poor living in the middle of London. The sheer detail about the squalid living conditions endured and the differing jobs people had to take on just to survive on a day to day basis was completely fascinating.

I loved everything about Grace, the main character of the book, and instantly felt for her as you saw what she went through on a daily basis to ensure that her sister Lily had everything they needed to exist. From the outset my heart broke a little bit for her when you see what she went through with the loss of her child and as her tale continued I wanted nothing more than to be able to pick her up and take her away from all the hardship she and her sister dealt with.

The story takes a slight twist when you learn that Grace and Lily are being searched for with regards to an inheritance which is due to them which they knew nothing about and end up feeling very angry at the family of undertakers who seem to be helping the girls out but actually are trying to use them to get their hands on the money. The villians of the piece are really underhand (if the book had been a pantomine there would have been hissing everytime they entered a scene) and it ends up making you root even more for Grace and Lily and hope even more that they finally get the justice they deserve and receive what is rightfully theirs.

All in all this book is a shining example of good YA fiction. Fast paced, engaging, well researched with intriguing characters and a fascinating storyline. Definitely a book I would recommend highly
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on 2 August 2011
This book is one of those that targets all your senses with it rich descriptions that bring Victorian London to life. From the very first chapter, you discover the unexpected and find yourself wanting more. The book is written in third person and you get to see the story from a range of characters viewpoints, with Grace being the most dominant character in the story.

Poor Grace has suffered for most of her life. She is strong and courageous,even when her life can't get any worse. Her mind is always jumping one step ahead, as she tries to calculate how she can improve their situation. She may be the younger of the two sisters, but she takes control of their lives, as poor Lily is not strong in her mind. In fact, Lily reminded me of Lenny from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, with her simple views on life.

Deceit plays a huge part of this story. You begin to be thankful that you didn't live during the Victorian era, where everyone appears to be on the make. The Unwins are the most devious and unscrupulous family I have ever come across. The lengths they will go to ensure their wealth expands are extreme. They basically conned many grieving families to purchase a funeral, far outside of their financial limits, by making them feel guilty.

I was fascinated by the descriptions of the full mourning period. It had never occurred to me that grieving families would go to such great lengths after a beloved family member had passed. I understood the need for mourning clothes, but to be worn for such a long time, seems absurd now.

I had never heard of mutes being part of a funeral before. I was fascinated by their roles in the proceedings. The following sentences piqued my interest and had me searching for more information.

'Mutes are very much in demand at society funerals,' Mrs Unwin said. They can come with hooded cloaks, or appear as Grace is now: with black bonnets and trailing ribbons. 'Weepers', we call the ribbons- they symbolize the tears shed.'

'They usually come in pairs,' Mr Unwin went on smoothly, ' and spaced each side of a front door can look very tragic.'

I love the way the author has intertwined so many facts within the story. I had no idea that Marble Arch had been moved from its original home. I was also surprised to discover that the Necropolis Railway actually existed. You can tell that this book was thoroughly researched, especially with the inclusion of extra historical information at the back, which I found fascinating.

At the beginning of each chapter, there were informative boxes which added to the story and showed examples of life in Victorian England. I was extremely pleased to discover the inclusion of Victoria and Albert in the story, which gave it an air of authenticity.

I really really loved this story. It was just so rich in description and atmosphere that I found myself lost in the Victorian streets of London. The story was well paced and developed with twists that I had not been aware of.

If you like historical fiction, especially books set in Victorian London, then I would highly recommend this book, which is full of Victorian flavour. A book that will find you researching to discover more. I honestly can't wait to read more of Mary Hooper's books.
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Grace and Lily are orphans who struggle every day to earn enough money to pay their rent and buy even the smallest meal. Life isn't easy but they have each other and Grace is determined to do whatever it takes to keep them out of the work house. An unfortunate change in circumstance forces them to turn to the Unwin's for help, Grace may not like working for the unscrupulous family's funeral business but it is her only option and at least this way Lily will be safe. But are the Unwins really all they seem or have Grace and Lily put themselves into their most dangerous situation yet?

I have been really enjoying historical fiction recently and Fallen Grace was definitely a book that had me hooked from the moment I picked it up. From the opening chapter it is easy to feel sympathy for Grace, my heart bled for her throughout the difficult task she has to perform and from that moment on I was willing things to work out for her. Although Grace is in a difficult situation she always does her best to stick to her principles and she has a strong will to survive. She is no weak heroine who sits around waiting for someone to rescue her and is very reluctant to ask for help even when she desperately needs it.

Lily may be the older sister but in reality she is a child trapped in a teenager's body and needs Grace to look after her. She is such a sweet character and someone you want to look out for but I was impressed with the patience that Grace shows towards her because she ends up getting into quite frustrating situations. Lily adores her sister and would be completely lost without her but in her own way Grace needs Lily just as much. I loved the relationship between the two of them and I also loved the way that Lily proved that she isn't quite as stupid as some people think she is.

The setting of the book is wonderfully described and you are transported back to Victorian London. Before reading this story I knew practically nothing about the lavish Victorian funeral traditions and found them fascinating to read about. I was thoroughly sickened by the Unwins and the way they took advantage of grieving relatives to earn as much money as they could from them. It is a testament to Mary Hooper's writing that I literally wanted to climb inside the book and punch someone, I love it when an author can make me feel that strongly about the bad guys!

Fallen Grace is a beautifully written story and one that I would highly recommend to fans of historical fiction. It is a book that shows just how difficult it was for the poor to survive in Victorian England and makes you feel relieved not to have lived in the 19th century. Overall though Grace and Lily's tale is one of survival and hope.
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Orphaned at a young age, Grace and Lily Parkes barely scrape by living off of the revenue from their watercress-selling operation. When Grace - barely sixteen herself - gives birth to a stillborn baby boy, she embarks on a train ride that causes her to crash head-on into two individuals who ultimately come to define the sisters' messy future.

And what a messy future it is, for the entirety of legal London is abuzz over Grace and Lily, two oblivious heiresses to a huge fortune left by their deceased father. A desperate race for the money ensues as the affluent families in London begin to plot for ways to take advantage of the Parkes sisters, and the trusting girls step right into these well-woven traps. Eventually, a boy will rescue one girl, and she will stop at nothing until her sister is by her side once again.

FALLEN GRACE is one of those novels you chew through slowly because of its meticulously and beautifully described setting. Ms. Hooper delivers a stunning portrayal of 17th century England, complete with opulent characters and an abundance of child beggars; even the King and Queen make a random appearance.

However, the plot turned out to be rather slow in the beginning. I kept waiting for the pacing to pick up: it never did. The entire book felt like an easy rambling walk - unhurried and enjoyable, until you get bored and decide to run like a maniac and feel the wind in your hair instead.

A nicely written novel nevertheless, FALLEN GRACE will appeal to avid readers of historical fiction.

Reviewed by: Cinnamon
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