“The grand masquerade: Bold women of the 19th century #1” Amanda Hughes

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2014. Lillis and James. (Includes Author’s Note.)

TheGrandMasqueradeFourteen-year-old Sydnee Sauveterre lived with her father Victor and his slave Margarite in a broken down cabin on the Natchez Trace. Customers stopped by his tavern for a drink, fortunetelling, and Sydnee, who her father forced to comply. She had a gift when it came to animals, and had been taught Hoodoo from Margarite. Valued only for the money they earned Victor, they scraped out their existence on the lonely Trace.

After their deaths Sydnee walked for weeks searching for a new beginning, and was hired to work in New Orleans for a wealthy man’s 16-year-old son. Instead, she and Tristan became the best of friends. He introduced her to his neighbor Isabel, who became her first female friend, and a stable worker Mortimer. Soon the four were inseparable.

As the years passed Madame Sauveterre matured into a lovely young woman, and Tristan made sure she had a place in high society. The four friends continued their deep bond of friendship, made ever closer due to secrets they all shared. In time this deception will lead to them making decisions that will change the courses of their lives.

I enjoyed reading about the friends and their grand masquerade, even though Sydnee’s rise from poverty, and Isabel’s deep secret seemed a bit far-fetched to me. Though labeled as #1 in Hughes’ new series, “Grand Masquerade” is a standalone book.

Recommended for Adult readers who like a bit of history and romance in their stories.

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“The stolen marriage” Diane Chamberlain

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook.St. Martin’s Press. To be published October 3, 2017. (Includes “Author’s notes and Acknowledgements.”)

TheStolenMarriageIn 1943 twenty-three year old Tess DeMello was set to marry Vincent, the love of her life, in their Little Italy neighborhood of Baltimore where they’d grown up together. He had become a doctor and she was studying to be a nurse so, when a severe outbreak of polio struck children in Chicago, Vincent volunteered his services for several months. His absence set the stage for Tess to visit Washington D.C. where she met Hank Kraft, a rich furniture maker from Hickory, a small North Carolina town. When she becomes pregnant she abandons Vincent, marries Hank, and moves to Hickory.

Hatred from her mother-in-law, as well as from Hank’s sister, former girlfriend, and all their friends greeted her, causing loneliness to cloud her every move. In addition, Tess soon realized Hank seemed to be hiding secrets, and had no feelings for her. Anxious to find a way to relieve the pressure of her marriage, Tess disobeyed Hank to volunteer her services as a nurse at the hospital the town built in 54 hours when polio struck their part of the state.  There she learned to stand on her own again, finally able to become the person she was meant to be.

Many themes are at work in this book, ranging from infantile paralysis (what polio used to be called), religion, mediums, relationships, racial inequalities and more. Readers will definitely have much to ponder, making this a great choice for a book club.

As a child my mother suffered from polio in the mid 1940’s, which caused her to be in a leg brace. To this day, she still has problems with that leg. This is the first book I’ve ever read about infantile paralysis/polio, which helped me understand what she and thousands of other children had to endure. Thank you Diane Chamberlain for enlightening readers on the subject through your excellent research and, of course, a huge round of applause is reserved for Jonas Salk.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Baby Doll” Hollie Overton

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published July 12, 2016. Redhook Books (Hachette).

BabyDollLily and her twin sister Abby have always been attuned to each other’s feelings and thoughts, sharing unspoken pacts to always be there for each other. When 16-year-old Lily was kidnapped and held as a sex slave for 8 years, their lives were turned upside down. During those 3,110 days of captivity, Lily gave birth, bore numerous beatings, and learned to be a perfect Baby Doll. Despite his attempts to make her forget, she drew strength from memories of her family, and used that strength to escape the night her captor got careless.

Told through the voices of Lily, Abby, her mother, and her kidnapper, “Baby Doll” takes readers on a roller coaster of emotions as we learn what Lily endured during her 8 years of captivity, and the ramifications it had on her family. Lily’s freedom affects each one differently, but the revenge planned for her disobedience by Rick, her captor, brought goose bumps of horror. This psychological thriller kept me on the edge of my seat, and will do the same for you.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“1949: A novel of the Irish Free State” Morgan Llywelyn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2003. Irish Century Novels #3. Tom Doherty Associates. 485 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters, the Ireland Act from 1949, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1949With Ned off fighting for the Republic and Henry living in America, it is up to Ursula Halloran to take up the story of Ireland and her struggles for freedom in this newest edition to the Irish Century series.

After two years at a Swiss finishing school, Ursula arrives back at the home of Louise Hamilton determined to get a job at a radio station and become more heavily involved in Ireland’s quest to become a Republic. Determined not to marry and to remain independent, contrary to what the Catholic Church has instilled into the consciousness of her countrywomen, she forges a strong path for herself.

Ursula’s strong willed tendencies make her extremely attractive to two men. With each determined to win her love Ursula refuses to give in to her feelings, even when she becomes pregnant. Without telling the father of her child, she travels to Switzerland to work for the League of Nations and to give birth as a single mother outside of the condemnation of the Church. Unfortunately Adolf Hitler and the rise of Fascism have led to a thirst for power and land among various leaders. With almost all of Europe falling to his army, she and little Barry are no longer safe.

Ireland’s role during the war, along with its own internal battles for freedom, form a background to Ursula’s story, the rise of Hitler and the horrors of World War II. Readers will learn of important historical events while continuing to follow the highs and lows of the Halloran clan who we have grown to love.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Promised” Caragh M. O’Brien

Promised“The Birthmarked Trilogy,” Book #3. Roaring Book Press. 2012. 293 pp.

Gaia and the people of Sylum have left their poisonous land and are headed for a new life in The Enclave. Gaia hopes the Protectorate will welcome their new DNA, offer them water and sanctuary and accept Leon as his son. Little does she know The Enclave has changed, with the Protectorate deciding that creating a baby factory is the best way to give childless families a healthy baby.

With Gaia’s arrival, the Protectorate is very interested in one thing. If Gaia gives him what he wishes, her life will never be the same. If she doesn’t, her people will die. Her love for Leon is tested anew, as she and the people of Sylum face their greatest challenges while the Protectorate works to destroy their rights, their lives, and Leon.

In this last edition of O’Brien’s series, 14 and older readers are faced with more thought provoking issues about reproduction and the value of human life.

“Prized” Caragh M. O’Brien

“The Birthmarked Trilogy,” Book #2. Roaring Book Press. 2011. 356 pp.

PrizedWhen we last saw sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, she was fleeing the cruelty of The Enclave with her baby sister Maya. Alone in the wilderness, both are near death when they are rescued and brought to the strange town of Sylum. Ruled by women, despite having a majority of men, their laws include no kissing, no physical contact for unmarried men and women, no voting for men, and for women to have as many children as possible to help populate the dying town.

Births include more boys than girls, so baby Maya is immediately taken away to be raised properly while Gaia is expected to assimilate into the rules of the town. The iron rod of discipline wielded by Matrarc Olivia, their leader, begins to bear an uncanny resemblance to The Enclave.

In time, Gaia begins to have feelings for two brothers but soon finds her past catching up to her when Leon comes back into her life. Caught in a triangle of emotions between the three men who care for her, Gaia will have to make choices which may have far reaching consequences on the future of everyone in Sylum.

“Prized” has some interesting concepts about freedom, voting and the concept of liberty that may get its 14-17 year old readers thinking after its last pages have been turned.

“Birth Marked” Caragh M. O’Brien

“The Birthmarked Trilogy,” Book #1. Roaring Book Press. 2010. 362 pp.

BirthMarkedI read this book back in 2010 when it was first released. Those of you who follow my blog know how much I dislike series books because I usually wind up forgetting what each book is about before the next one is released. “Birth Marked” was no exception, since I’d forgotten what it was about and couldn’t read the next two books until I refreshed my memory on the first one. However, since I hadn’t read YA in so long, and my new school had all three copies, I decided to reread book 1 and treat myself to some good ole YA .

Sixteen-year-old Gaia is an assistant to her midwife mother. She assists with births and makes sure their quota of Advancing three babies per month to The Enclave is met. The poor citizens on her side of The Wall are supposed to be glad their perfect children have been Advanced to serve The Enclave, to be raised with the rich citizens on the other side of The Wall. No one with a defect is ever Advanced, as Gaia’s scarred face excluded her from a life of privilege. She has always unquestioningly followed Enclave rules, but everything changes when her parents are arrested and accused of being traitors to the Enclave.

Gaia’s only thoughts are for her parents’ safety but, while trying to figure out how to save them, she finds out strange and unsettling things about The Enclave and those in leadership. A veiled secret and open threat towards her from The Enclave only serves to make Gaia fear more for their safety. Aided by simple townspeople, and an unexpected source from The Enclave itself, Gaia must choose between the life she’s always known and the unknown future which awaits if she rebels.

Fourteen and older fans of dystopian YA will enjoy O’Brien’s first foray into YA literature.