Tag Archives: historical fiction

adult books
February 21, 2014 posted by Nichole

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard

16239655A prince with a quest. A commoner with mysterious powers. And dragons that demand to be freed—at any cost.

Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control.

Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen.

Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.

 

My Review:

Moth and Spark is a difficult book for me to review because I wasn’t all that interested in the book, but I was able to recognize how powerful the writing itself was. The first couple chapters were a bit confusing. There was a lot of world building going on, and it just took me awhile to catch up and figure out what was all going on and who was who. But even after I figured all of that out, I was just bored out of my mind. I never really felt the connection to the book or the characters that I wanted to. So it just fell a little flat for me.

I would have liked to see a little bit more of the dragons in Moth and Spark. For most of the book, especially during the first half, I felt like they were really lacking from the story. Since that was initially what made me want to read the book, I was a little disappointed. I wanted to see powerful, fire crazed dragons and battles and fights to the death. The book itself is a little more relaxed that that.

Another thing that bothered me in Moth and Spark was that it read more as a historical fiction than a high fantasy book. Not that I don’t enjoy reading historical fiction every now and then, but I would have preferred more fantasy aspects in this one. Maybe more magic, sorcerers and dragons would have made this one a little more entertaining for me.

On a more positive note, the relationship between Corin and Tam was absolutely adorable. I loved watching that relationship progress. My only complaint was that it took a little bit for that relationship to even start up. By that point, I was already bored and their relationship wasn’t enough to save the book.

I’m looking at Goodreads, and I see that this book has a bunch of 4 and 5 star reviews. And you know what? I totally understand that. The writing itself in Moth and Spark is amazing. This is a book that I could totally see as a movie. And a damn good movie at that. I’m talking Lord of the Rings here. And for that reason, I am not going to rate this book. I do not believe that it deserves a poor rating. Was it for me? No. But will this be someone’s favorite book? Absolutely.

 

This book is out in stores TODAY. Go check it out!

Pages: 384

Publication Date: February 20th 2014

Publisher: Viking Adult

Rating: N/A

 

Read below for an interview with Anne Leonard:

Moth and Spark is your debut novel. Why did you set out to write a fantasy in your first go around? Are there particular aspects to the genre that you find inherently fascinating?

Moth and Spark is my debut, but not my first book – there’s a large manuscript stack of others. I’ve always written fantasy. It started because that was what I loved to read as a kid, and it continued because I like making up worlds and because I’m interested in the issues of societal power and justice that fantasy can engage with. Why do leaders make the choices that they do? What gets wars started? Does power corrupt? What about family dynamics in royal families? The unpublished book whose writing preceded Moth and Spark had a character trying to overcome his father’s legacy as a tyrant, and that’s certainly a question I want to explore more.

You have, to put it simply, a lot of degrees—a BA, an MFA, a PhD, and a Law degree. How has your background in higher education informed your writing? Is there one degree that influenced the conception of Moth and Spark? 

None influenced the conception of Moth and Spark directly, but certainly my education played into my writing. My BA at St. John’s gave me a broad awareness of ideas and concepts about the world, both philosophical and scientific, and the lit Ph.D. built upon this with a narrower, deeper focus into how readers engage with stories. My MFA is in fiction, so I learned a lot of my craft there, and when I was revising Moth and Spark I kept remembering things I’d been told in workshops 20 years earlier. As for the law degree, one of the reasons I went to law school was that I realized my fantasy fiction was starting to have legal arguments about power and justice in it, and I decided that if that was what I was going to write, I should be paid accordingly. I started Moth and Spark the summer before law school, and then worked on it while in school and then in practice. I had to keep legal concepts from contaminating it (especially medieval property law). Reading cases is great for any writer, though, because they are stories of conflict and resolution laid bare.

Dragons play a large role in the book and, in many ways, have become a powerful symbol for the fantasy genre. What is it about dragons and other medieval creatures that appeal to you? 

Well, everybody seems to love dragons! Sentient flying beasts that can breathe fire – how cool is that? I think the thing about dragons is that they seem more possible than other mythical creatures, such as hippogriffs, because we had the dinosaurs. When you go into a natural history museum and look at a T. rex skeleton, it’s scary and impressive and amazing, and it just seems like if that could exists dragons should too. (I suppose this thinking could apply to unicorns, but horses are just so ordinary and dinosaurs are not.) Also, dragons are bigger and smarter and more powerful than humans, but they have their dragonish ways that makes them different from humans, and it’s fun to play around with those differences.

From the visceral descriptions of Caithen to The Firekeepers, Seers, and the other magical characters inhabiting this book, the world you’ve created in Moth and Spark is lush with detail and wonderfully imaginative. How did you begin creating this world?

The book basically began as a book just for me – I’d thrown in the towel on trying to get published for a while and had decided to go to law school so I could make some money writing something more interesting than web copy.  I realized I had this fantasy romance Cinderella-type story that had been trying so hard to get out that it was hijacking all my other fiction, so I should just write it. Therefore I went with a fairly traditional European style fantasy setting – the conventions were all part of the story. But I updated it to more or less the early 1800s, and then I pulled a lot of details from 19th century novels and other materials. Some stuff is based on Greek mythology and literature. Some is from my own observations. My hobby is photography, and I have an eye pretty well-trained to see details and notice patterns. I looked at pictures of things online when I wanted to describe something I didn’t know well, and I spent a fair amount of time on Wikipedia finding out about poisons and medicines and weaponry and horses and . . .  The Internet definitely helped my research.

There are various magical powers or items in Moth and Spark that the characters wield or use. If you had to choose one magical power or item to have at your disposal, what would it be? 

For good or for evil? (Laughs maniacally.) The ability to cast illusions would be pretty great, and of course I’d like to play with fire, but I think the thing that I would really want is the ability to use visions to see the past. I’m a person who is more inclined toward finding things out than manipulating the world, so seeing the past, even just in snatches, would be amazing. This use of visions is more implied than spelled out in the book, because the characters are learning about it too, but that’s the underlying magic that could be tapped and used.

Name one fantasy writer and one non-fantasy writer that have influenced your own writing.

One fantasy writer is J.R.R. Tolkien, but not for the reasons most people have. When I go back to reread the Lord of the Rings, what I really pay attention to is his use of detail – it’s very plain language but extremely vivid, and I consciously used it as a model in writing this book. My favorite sentence in the Trilogy is this one from Fellowship: “The sky spoke of rain to come; but the light was broadening quickly, and the red flowers of the beans began to glow against the wet green leaves.” It’s so simple and vivid at the same time, and not bloated with adjectives at all. Without a really well-grounded normal world, strange and exotic things tend to just be confusing.

One non-fantasy writer would have to be W.B. Yeats, especially his earlier, more mythic poetry. Again, he is fabulous with detail and language. When I get stuck on something I’m writing, I pull out my Yeats and read through and usually it loosens a block. (I find that poetry does that generally, but Yeats is my favorite.) And there are some specific poems of his that I used for inspiration while writing Moth and Spark; one (“Byzantium”) is quoted at the beginning of the book.

Who would be in your dream book club?

This is actually a really tough question, because college and graduate school was like one long unending book club, and I’m not sure I want another one. But, dead people with whom it would be fun to talk books are E.B. White, Raymond Chandler, Mark Twain, George Eliot, and E. Nesbit.  Among the living let’s have A.S. Byatt, Stephen King, Toni Morrison, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Mary Doria Russell.

What are you working on now?

I don’t like to talk too much about anything I am currently writing, because there’s always the chance it will wither on the vine, but I am working on what is technically a sequel to Moth and Spark. Moth and Spark is a standalone, and lots of people seem thrilled by that (editors, are you listening?), and ideally this other book would be a standalone too, though chronologically about 6 months after the events of Moth and Spark. It’s a very different, darker story and I’m experimenting some with structure, so it’s not a carbon-copy by any means. After that I want to do an SF dystopia about drought, which I got the idea for in a California Water Law class. As a writer, I don’t want to keep telling the same story – I want to stretch and write as many different stories and worlds as I can.

adult books
December 28, 2013 posted by Nichole

The Winter Witch – Paula Brackston

15702859Fledgling witch Morgana must defend her love, her home, and her life in this enthralling tale perfect for fans of Discovery of Witches

In her small Welsh town, there is no one quite like Morgana. She has never spoken, and her silence as well as the magic she can’t quite control make her a mystery. Concerned for her safety, her mother quickly arranges a marriage with Cai Bevan, the widower from the far hills who knows nothing of the rumours that swirl around her. After their wedding, Morgana is heartbroken at leaving, but she soon falls in love with Cai’s farm and the rugged mountains that surround it, while slowly Cai himself begins to win her heart. It’s not long, however, before her strangeness begins to be remarked upon in her new village. A dark force is at work there—a person who will stop at nothing to turn the townspeople against Morgana, even at the expense of those closest to her. Forced to defend her home, her love, and herself from all comers, Morgana must learn to harness her power, or she will lose everything.

Paula Brackston’s debut novel, The Witch’s Daughter, was the little book that could—with a captivating story, remarkable heroine, and eye-catching package, it has now netted over 40,000 copies in all formats. Now Paula returns with The Winter Witch, another enchanting tale of love and magic, featuring her signature blend of gorgeous writing, a fabulous and intriguing historical backdrop, and a headstrong and relatable heroine readers will cheer for.

 

First things first, I want to talk about that cover. Is that not gorgeous? It looks even better when you actually have the paperback in your hand. I could see myself buying this book just for the cover. I’m such a cover whore…and oh my goodness…that one is beautiful!

The Winter Witch is not a YA book. It’s more of an adult/paranormal/historical that leans more toward historical fiction. This is not a book for people who like fast paced books or huge paranormal aspects in their books. It’s the kind of book that calls for a specific type of reader. The type of reader who loves historical fiction, sweet romances, and taking their time with a book. The Winter Witch isn’t the sort of book that you can just plow through. At least not for me. If you like a lot of action going on in your books, then this one probably isn’t for you. However, fans of classics and historical fiction are going to adore this book.

This is a little bit different of a review for me, because I’m not going to rate the book. I don’t think that that’s really fair with this one, because it’s not really my type of read. However, I can appreciate and acknowledge that Paula Brackston’s writing style is gorgeous and well executed. There was really nothing wrong with the book itself. I just don’t overly love historical fiction, and I was a little bored. I was hoping for more witchcraft and more paranormal aspects to the book. I didn’t quite get that. This one was a little more low key and soft. So again, that’s not quite for me. BUT there are going to be lots of people who adore this book.

I do have to address the one major complaint that I had with The Winter Witch. There were some big chapters, BIG paragraphs, and lots of description paragraphs with very little communication between the characters. That isn’t a new or a bad thing. There are several books like that, especially in the adult historical genre. Personally, I hate reading books like that. I need smaller paragraphs, stopping points, and lots of communication to keep myself engaged. I kind of felt that The Winter Witched droned on and on in several areas. Some people are going to like it…others won’t.

A couple other complaints were that some of the names and places were very difficult for me to pronounce. The only time I find that acceptable is with high fantasy. In any other genres it bugs the crap out of me. Also, I wasn’t the biggest fan of how Morgana didn’t say one single word until the very last page of the book. That was just a little too much for me. I was hoping that that would have been solved somewhere in the middle of the book.

In a way, The Winter Witch reminded me a lot of Pride and Prejudice. I’m not talking about the book, I’m more so referring to the movie with Keira Knightly. While they were different storylines, they had a very similar feel that I found to be engaging. As the biggest P&P movie fan, I can honestly say that The Winter Witch would make an amazing movie. While the book itself wasn’t so much for me, I think that I would fall head over heels in love with it if it was a movie. Fingers crossed!

One thing that is really going to draw in readers is the romance between Morgana and Cai. I thought that they were absolutely beautiful. I love myself a good romance. I truly think that this one is going to highly appeal to readers!

This really was a unique review to write. Normally when I get bored or what not, I usually just DNF if it and write a little bit about it. With this one, though, I feel like there’s a lot to say about it. My number one reason is probably because I feel that this really is a spectacular book! I know that there are going to be hugeeee fans! This one really just comes down to preference. Some people are going to love it and others aren’t. And that happens with every genre. But one thing is fore sure: Paula Brackston is one damn good writer.

 

This book is now out in stores. Go buy your copy today!

 

Pages: 340

Publication Date: January 29th, 2013

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Rating: N/A

Born of Illusion (Born of Illusion #1) – Teri Brown
Book Reviews
June 13, 2013 posted by Nichole

Born of Illusion (Born of Illusion #1) – Teri Brown

13000748Anna Van Housen is thirteen the first time she breaks her mother out of jail. By sixteen she’s street smart and savvy, assisting her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, and easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums and mentalists in 1920’s New York City. Handcuffs and sleight of hand illusions have never been much of a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her true gifts secret from her opportunistic mother, who will stop at nothing to gain her ambition of becoming the most famous medium who ever lived. But when a strange, serious young man moves into the flat downstairs, introducing her to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, he threatens to reveal the secrets Anna has fought so hard to keep, forcing her to face the truth about her past. Could the stories her mother has told her really be true? Could she really be the illegitimate daughter of the greatest magician of all?

 

I’ve been really excited to read Born of Illusion for quite some time now. Who doesn’t want to read a book about magicians, mediums and mentalists in 1920’s New York City? How cool! Unfortunately, it fell flat for me. If you follow my review, you know by now that I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction. This book was not an exception. While some of the magic was pretty cool, I found it to be just too boring for my taste.

One thing that this book really has going for it is that the main character, Anna, is very likeable. Anna was the reason I was trying to make it through the book. She was strong, powerful, yet still a nervous child trying to make it in the world. The other characters in the story were also very likeable or interesting, but they weren’t enough to carry the story.

Here was my thing with Born of Illusion: There wasn’t enough magic or spark to it. There was mystery…but not enough. I found myself not caring what was going to happen next. I didn’t care who Anna’s father was or what would happen to Anna’s mother. I didn’t care if anyone was killed off or if something bad happened. I just didn’t care. I only read half of Born of Illusion before I set it down, but there weren’t really any action scenes or “aha!” moments. There were a couple cool scenes involving magic, but nothing that really knocked my socks off. It was just kind of bland.

Fans of The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd and Pantomime by Laura Lam should enjoy Born of Illusion.

 

Pages: 384

Publisher: Balzer & Bray

Publication Date: June 11th, 2013

Rating: N/A not rating due to DNF

 

Teaser Quote: “”You’re quite good–for a girl.” “Thank you,” I tell him, ignoring the girl remark. If I argued with every male magician who made a snide comment about my gender, I’d never have the time to do magic. I prefer to outperform them on stage, where it really matters.”

 

Book Reviews
March 10, 2012 posted by Kiona

The Gathering Storm (Katerina Trilogy #1) — Robin Bridges

St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.

An evil presence is growing within Europe’s royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina’s strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources…including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar’s standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina’s help to safeguard Russia, even if he’s repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.

The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?

Duchess Katerina Alexandrovna has a dark secret — she’s a necromancer, which means she’s capable of raising the dead. Her only wish is that no one learn of her curse, yet it seems everyone can see the darkness in her soul. Katerina finds herself thrown amid a dangerous power play, one where she’s suddenly a key player, unsure of who to trust.

I was first drawn to this novel because I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and the paranormal twist enticed me. However, as soon as I started reading, I found myself frustrated and overwhelmed. Trying to keep track of the Russian customs, names, and society was hard enough. The addition of the paranormal backstory completely flummoxed me. I was prepared for a necromancer, but not faeries, vampires, werewolves (I assume they’re werewolves, as they’re referred to as the “wolf people”), witches, ghouls, and probably more. After the first forty pages, I was ready to stop reading, but I hung on, giving debut author Robin Bridges the benefit of the doubt. And I’m glad I did.

As the story develops, I come to admire Katerina. She’s headstrong, intelligent, and deeply caring. She prioritizes family above all else, but second in her heart is studying to become a doctor, a desire that never wavers even in the face of marriage. Whereas most girls in this time period value obtaining a prospering husband, Katerina would prefer to make the world a better place and I love that she never gives up on this dream, even though it seems like everyone expects her to.

While the existence of vampires and witches feels awkward and out-of-place in the beginning of the book, the presence of these creatures slowly becomes more believable, especially when Katerina actually meets the charming Prince Danilo of Montenegro.  Before meeting him, I, like Katerina, had a tough time believing in vampires as anything more than just myths in Russia, but his instant allure screams “otherworldly.” From there, all the other paranormal factors are much easier to wrap my mind around.

I think one of the main reasons it took so long for me to get into this book is the huge cast of characters. The foreign names, while authentic, make it even harder for me to keep track of everyone. And not only do you have to keep track of who everyone is, but you also have to remember how each person is related, and they’re almost all related in some way. But by around the middle of the book, I found I didn’t have to mentally run through each characters’ ancestry anymore. Plus, the large cast of characters makes all the plot twists intriguing and utterly unpredictable. And don’t worry, there are no shortage of plot twists in this story. Every time I’d finish a chapter, I’d tell myself, “All right, just one more,” and continue reading for another two hours.

And yes, as the book synopsis suggests, there is a love triangle, involving the handsome Prince Danilo and the tsar’s oddly cold and distant son, George Alexandrovich. But this isn’t your typical love triangle because Katerina’s choice is clear. The only thing is, you don’t realize which boy has stolen your heart until your already in love with him, which is kind of exactly how it happens with Katerina. And it’s magnificent! One of my new favorite love interests! Bonus point: the love triangle in this story doesn’t eclipse the plot at all, which leaves the reader feeling satisfied.

The ending battle scene feels oddly rushed, especially given the somewhat slow start of the book. But there are still a lot of loose ends and I’ll definitely be reading the second book in The Katerina Trilogy. While this book is a historical fiction piece, I think it will appeal more to paranormal lovers. But for those who enjoy historical fiction with a twist, I definitely recommend trying out The Gathering Storm. If you stick with it, it won’t disappoint. I mean, it’s probably worth it for the descriptions of the beautiful gowns and romantic balls alone.

Pages: 386
Publication Date: January 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Rating : ★★★★☆

Teaser Quote: “You seem very surprised,” Queen Milena said with a laugh that sounded almost like a cackle. “I don’t suppose my dear sister ever mentioned me?”

“Only that your son is about to become a blood drinker. And that your daughters are powerful sorceresses.” I hesitated before adding, “I take it you were never close.”

Lily of the Nile – Stephanie Dray
Book Reviews
March 17, 2011 posted by Kiona

Lily of the Nile – Stephanie Dray

With her parents both dead, the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony is left at the mercy of her Roman captors. Heir to one empire and prisoner of another, it falls to Princess Selene to save her brothers and reclaim what’s rightfully hers…

In the aftermath of Alexandria’s tragic fall, Princess Selene is taken from Egypt, the only home she’s ever known. Along with her two surviving brothers, she’s put on display as a war trophy in Rome. Selene’s captors mock her royalty and drag her through the streets in chains, but on the brink of death, the children are spared as a favor to the Roman emperor’s sister, who takes them to live as hostages in the so-called lamentable embassy of royal orphans…

Now trapped in a Roman court of intrigue, where her heritage is reviled and her faith is suspect, Selene can’t hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her flesh. Nor can she stop the emperor from using her for his own political ends. Faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to honor her mother’s lost legacy. The magic of Egypt and Isis remain within her. But can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is to win or die?

Lily of the Nile is Stephanie Dray’s first novel in the trilogy following Princess Selene. Selene, daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, loses both her parents in the war between Egypt and Rome. Not only does Egypt lose its rulers, but it also loses any chance of hope when Selene and her twin brother, Helios – the rightful heirs to the throne – are taken to Rome as prisoners of war and the emperor’s hostages. While Helios schemes and plots escape, Selene plays a more political game as she attempts to curry the emperor’s favor and save Egypt. Along the way, her faith and loyalty are tested. Tumultuous inner conflict threatens her sense of self and she almost breaks from the pressure of trying to be what everyone else wants her to be. But in the end, Selene realizes who she can trust above all else: herself and her faith.

When our protagonist, twelve-year-old Selene, was first-introduced, I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear her story. I thought of her as just a child – why would I listen to the story of someone who couldn’t possibly understand everything going on around them? But I quickly learned Selene was one of the smartest, sharpest, and strongest heroines in literature. She was wise beyond her years and a shrewd observer. As a master of logic and reasoning, it was impossible for anyone not to respect her. Stephanie Dray described Selene so realistically that I felt as if I knew her inside and out. We saw her fears, doubts, and confusion. We understppd why she made certain decisions and we saw how carefully she chose her words. Never before had I seen the intricacies of the human mind and behavior so clearly fleshed out in a novel.

And Selene wasn’t the only three-dimensional characters. The emperor, Octavian, and his sister, Octavia, were two characters that never ceased to surprise me. At first, they were easy to hate; they were The Enemy. But as the reasoning behind their actions came to light, the world stopped seeming to black and white, and instead delved into so many shades of gray that, like Selene, I was left questioning my own beliefs. Lily of the Nile truly makes you consider your ideas of right and wrong and offers a glimpse at what it really means to be the ruler of a nation.

As someone who could never sit still through a history lesson, but loves historical fiction, I was enthralled by Dray’s descriptions of Egypt and Rome. Not only were Dray’s descriptions rich, but the magnitude of her knowledge of customs, traditions, and everyday life was astounding. Every facet of Roman life fascinated me and the clarity with which the politics were laid out left me feeling educated and even, at times, enlightened. Dray’s specificity so thoroughly transported me to another time and place that I almost thought the events of Lily of the Nile were happening all around me which, as a lifelong reader, is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

And while I loved the realistic aspects of Lily of the Nile, the magical elements certainly didn’t hurt. It was exciting to see some of the myths we grow up learning come to life. I loved the intertwining of religion and heka (magic) that allowed Egyptian rulers to gain respect and even fear. Following along as Selene came into her powers and renewed her faith in the goddess Isis was a thrilling journey and gave Selene a strength that was all her own, something she could claim in Rome’s patriarchal society. While the book may begin a little slow, the ending, in my opinion, is thunderous and well-deserved. My only problem is that it ends on a cliff-hanger and now I’m left anxiously anticipating the sequel.

Pages: 340
Publication Date: January 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Challenge: Historical Fiction/Debut Author
Rating : ★★★★★

Teaser Quote: “I held my hands aloft to read the twisting hieroglyphics while the barren woman knelt on the marble, weeping. The crowd gathered with eyes glistening and dreamy. Some trembled. Others murmured prayers and clutched hands. As I looked upon their faces, I knew that I’d unleashed something more powerful than myself.”

Book Reviews
January 18, 2011 posted by Christina

Bright Young Things – Anna Godbersen

“The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York’s glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star…

Cordelia is searching for the father she’s never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined—and more dangerous. It’s a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.

The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia’s brother, Charlie. But Astrid’s perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls’ fortunes will rise and fall—together and apart.”

If there was ever a book to make you feel glamorous just by reading it, then Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen is it.

Set in New York in 1929 during the last summer of the Roaring 20s, the story follows the trials and tribulations of Letty Larkspur, Astrid Donal and Cordelia Grey. Godbersen wastes no time in hooking our attention by stating in the first three pages that by the end of the summer one girl will be married, one will be a star and one will be dead.

Letty and Cordelia have been friends since they were young while growing up in the small town of Union, Ohio. After years of dreaming about it they finally pack their bags and runaway to the big city – New York. Letty is out to realize her dreams of becoming a star on Broadway, while Cordelia plans to track down her infamous father.

Astrid on the other hand is a born and bred socialite and New York City is her playground. She’s got money, looks and charm…..yet why does it not seem to be enough to curb her darling Charlie’s wondering eye?

As the story flutters from the perspective of one girl to the other we get a quite a fascinating picture of what New York was like for a woman in 1929.

Though Cordelia and Letty come to the city with quite different goals, they have naivety in common. It takes them both quite a while to figure out who to trust and what constitutes as a wise decision (in particular with the people they associate with).

On the other side of the social fence is Astrid. Though at times she may come across as fickle or dramatic – she’s really just jaded by her world and the people in it.

One of the things I liked about this book was that even though it was about three beautiful girls it didn’t come across as shallow, insincere or bitchy, pitting the girls against each other over a man etc. Yes, they each have interests in men (hey, doesn’t every girl?) but they had their own moments where their strength, cleverness and independence were on full display.

The fashion mentioned in this book was to die for and created some truly glamorous scenes for us to visualize – everything from the cover, to Astrid’s glittering collection of gowns, to Letty’s dark bobbed hair made the story feel so much more authentic.

The writing in Bright Young Things is rich, atmospheric and artfully done. You’re vividly transported into the sepia toned memories of the 1920s and the story’s dark glamour really shines through.

Though you may get a sense of what might happen next, what actually takes place as the story unfolds can shock you. Since it’s only the first book in the series, and the beginning of the summer, there are still many questions left unanswered.

After reading Bright Young Things you’ll probably feel a strong urge to start calling people Doll Face and Darling and walk around the house with a feather in your hair (but this is not advised if your family is like mine – odd looks will ensue). If historical fiction isn’t normally your thing, this book is a great starting point, plus, the story will charm your socks off.

Pages: 389
Publication Date: October 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins / Penguin (in AU)
Challenge: Historical Fiction
Rating: : ★★★★½

Teaser Quote: “Well, if you weren’t flirting with him”-his voice had now grown a little plaintive-“who was he, and what did you want with him anyway?”

“If you are so determined to bore me, I may just have to go home.” Astrid sighed carelessly, “What a shame, when I am wearing such a pretty dress.”