Review: Cinders & Sapphires

Cinders & Sapphires
Leila Rasheed
2013
Disney-Hyperion
ISBN 9781423171171

*Reviewed from galley via http://www.netgalley.com*

Rose Cliffe is a housemaid to Lady Ada Averly at the lavish Somerton house. As the housekeeper’s daughter, she seems to be a favourite of the master of the house, which doesn’t exactly endea her to the rest of the staff. But could there be another reason for Lord Averley’s interest? Meanwhile, Lady Ada must marry a wealthy man in order to erase the hint of scandal that has followed her family from their decade spent in India. But on her voyage to England, Ava meets an enchanting stranger and finds herself falling in love with someone she can never marry.

I wanted to read this book because it sounded very Downton Abbey-esque, although I don’t know if that will matter to teens. Lady Ada being in love with an Indian scholar was a nice twist on the typical unrequited love story. I also liked having the story told from multiple perspectives, as this helped gain insight into the minds of both the characters upstairs and those serving below stairs. Otherwise, the writing was a bit cliché at times and the story line dragged a little. Still, I’m a fan of historical novels and will probably check out the next book in the series.

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Review: The Imposter Bride

The Imposter Bride
Nancy Richler
2012
HarperCollins
978-1-44340-402-0

When Lily Azerov arrives in Montreal after World War II, she expects to marry Sol Kramer. However, after Sol has a change of heart, Lily marries his brother, Nathan, instead. But an uninvited guest at their wedding knows Lily is not who she claims to be. One day, Lily disappears suddenly, leaving behind her baby daughter, a notebook, and an uncut diamond. As she grows up, Lily’s daughter, Ruth, tries to figure out exactly who her mother was and what happened to the woman whose identity she stole.

I had mixed feelings upon finishing this book. I enjoyed the mystery surrounding Lily and finding out little by little who she really was and how she found herself in Montreal in 1946. However, I did feel part of the mystery wasn’t really explained. At various points in her childhood Ruth receives packages from her mother containing rocks, with an index card noting the location where the rock was found, the time, date, and weather conditions. We never find out the significance of these rocks, if any. It seems an odd way for a woman to communicate with the daughter she left behind but we never know why she did this. Maybe I’m just not a fan of loose ends, but I found this to be a let-down after all the buildup throughout what was otherwise a highly enjoyable novel. The Imposter Bride was short listed for the 2012 Giller Prize.

 

Review: I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend

I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend
Cora Harrison
2010
Macmillan
978-0-330-50953-4

Told in diary format, this is story of Jane Austen’s cousin, Jenny Cooper. The novel begins with the two girls away at boarding school. Jane is deathly ill, so Jenny sneaks out in the middle of the night, something considered quite scandalous at the time, to send word to her aunt. Wandering the streets of Southampton alone and terrified, she meets Captain Thomas Williams, who is kind enough to escort her to the post office. Upon hearing of Jane’s illness, Mrs. Austen arrives and brings both girls home to Steventon. There, Jenny meets Jane’s family and attends her first ball. Everything is going well until Captain Williams shows up. Will he reveal her secret and thus ruin her reputation?

I am a huge Jane Austen fan, so I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I didn’t know anything about Jenny Cooper or many of Jane’s brothers, so this novel, based on facts learned from the author’s research, including family letters, was quite intriguing. Jane comes across as quite witty and full of life, and it is easy to imagine this Jane as the author of such novels as Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I think telling the story from Jenny’s perspective gives us an interesting perspective since, like Jenny, the reader is an outsider getting to know the Austen family. A light tale recommended to Austen fans who want more Jane without having to stoop to reading “sequels” written by impostors. Side note: The BBC has done some excellent adaptations of Austen’s novels in recent years as part of their Masterpiece Theatre series. I particularly enjoy Emma. Harriet Smith’s ringlets alone make this worth a watch.

 

Review: This Dark Endeavor

This Dark Endeavor
Kenneth Oppel
2011
HarperCollins
978-1-55468-339-0

 This Dark Endeavor is the story of young Victor Frankenstein. Victor, his twin brother, Konrad, and their distant cousin Elizabeth discover a hidden library of books filled with dark magic. Although Victor’s father forbids them from visiting the library again, when Konrad becomes seriously ill, Victor cannot resist searching through the ancient tomes in the hope of finding a cure, namely, the Elixir of Life. Victor needs only three ingredients to create the elixir, but how much is willing to sacrifice in the name of love?

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I found it slow-moving in parts, particularly during Victor’s quest to find the ingredients for the Elixir of Life. I expected a bit more excitement than I got. Still, I enjoy Oppel’s writing and I think this is an interesting concept for a book. In fact, it’s already being optioned for a movie. Victor is a complex character who is torn between brotherly love and jealousy, a situation further complicated by the fact that the woman he loves is in love with his brother. The ending sets up a sequel, which I hope will be a little more action-packed.