Tag Archives: historical

The Double-Life of Cora Parry

By Angela McAllister, published by Orion books.

The Double Life of Cora Parry

Goodreads synopsis: Seduced by crime, troubled by conscience, Cora Parry creates a double life as she is drawn deep into Victorian London’s seething underworld…
Abandoned to the workhouse after the death of her guardians, Cora Parry refuses to accept her fate.
Under the tuition of persuasive street-rat Fletch, Cora finds herself reluctantly drawn deep into the Victorian underworld. As she is gradually seduced into a life of crime, Cora creates a persona for herself – Carrie – allowing her to separate her uneasy conscience from her actions.
But soon things are spiralling out of control. Carrie is committing acts of crime that Cora knows she can’t possibly have done. Where does Carrie end and Cora begin? Who is really in control, and where will it end?

My review: I couldn’t wait to start reading this, as the synopsis had made it sound so good! Honestly, it did really impress me, despite a short length at about 220 pages. The Double-Life of Cora Parry was about a girl whose guardians had died, and found she had nowhere to go after being kicked out of her inherited house. She was sent back to the workhouse by a horrible distant step-uncle, but is drawn into a life of crime in the Victorian underworld. I  really loved the idea, because I’m starting to get really interested in Victorian historical fiction… so this was a perfect read for me! This ‘underworld’ is a whole new, imaginative side to Victorian London which explored the lives of those forced into a life of crime, more specifically stealing to survive. It was a really riveting read, because of a supporting character named Fetch  I found it really shocking to find what she was forcing Cora (or should I say Carrie?) to do- breaking into houses and stealing rich people’s treasure. It really pumped up the adrenaline in the story, although I was a little disappointed when she disappeared! I would have liked Carrie/Cora to go and save her, or something, despite her selfishness. 

Onto Cora/Carrie now! she was a really great protagonist. I admired her courage and determination to not give up and find a job, even when face with possible starvation. Her character, overall, was really enjoyable. I really liked the change that occurred in her, which led to an epic adventure of self-discovery. Just past the halfway point in the book, snippets of chapters were written in italics, and was the Carrie side (the thieving side) of Cora. Then, after a few paragraphs, it would switch to Cora and her waking up, forgetting what she’d done and not realising that she’d just been out, committing crime all night. I loved the way the author wrote this, and it was pulled off really well. 

Another character I really liked was Joe, who worked in a pawnbroker’s shop that Carrie came across. I loved the developing relationship through Carrie teaching Joe how to read. It was really sweet. There was also quite a large focus on Joe’s father’s background, and I liked that, but I think it took up a bit too much of the ending.

Overall, I found The Double-Life of Cora Parry to be a really enjoyable read. The crime-infested setting was scarily realistic, and the author did a really good job on bringing the story to life. The character were three-dimensional and just brilliant, in total. The story of Cora discovering a whole new side to her was totally addictive and I really couldn’t stop reading. I’d love to read more from Angela McAllister in the future!

I received The Double-Life of Cora Parry from the publisher, in exchange for a review.

Code Name Verity

By Elizabeth Wein, published by Electric Monkey.

Code Name Verity

“I have told the truth…”

Goodreads synopsis: I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

My review: Wow. Just wow.

I plunged into this story knowing that it was set during World War Two, and was very good, according to many bloggers and authors. I was excited to start it, and found that I just couldn’t put it down. Verity’s (that’s the protagonist’s code name, if you hadn’t already guessed) voice totally captured me right from the beginning, and I loved her narration. The author has developed this three-dimensional, realistic character who I found myself rooting for throughout. She wrote shockingly truthfully, as her writing was actually a confession to give information to an enemy interrogator who was holding her captive. I was so intrigued by her story of adventure and friendship, and loved how Verity would write also about the cruelty of her captivity and the things she was going through currently, as well as the information. I believed her story so much, and was totally shocked to find that some of the most vital things there were false at the ending. What an intelligent girl, lying to the enemy but making it sound so real! It even had me fooled.

I wasn’t actually expecting two narratives, until I read a book review of this before starting. It took me a good few pages to get to grips with a whole different setting and narrative, after reading about 300 pages worth of Verity’s story (her narrative took over half of the book up, then after about two thirds it switched to Code Name Kittyhawk/Maddie). However, I fell in love with Maddie’s story too, and loved how the two girls, who had been dramatically separated by war, discovered each other towards the ending, even though that had such a shocking and heart-breaking outcome.

The plot was absolutely amazing, and blew me away. It was written really well  through the diary like entries of the two female protagonists. There was so much drama, and rebellion packed into the pages- I was totally hooked in! I enjoyed the informative side to the story as well, about the airplanes used in the war. That was pretty interesting, and not something I would usually read about. It was so scarily realistic, being set in the World War, and the author definitely captured the grittiness of the war-torn countries really effectively. The torture endured by Verity, and the prison, and everything else shocked me, terrified me- it was just so real- especially the outcome of Maddie and Verity meeting under the most scary of circumstances. Although that was so sad and made my eyes well up, the story still had a really satisfying ending.

Overall, Code Name Verity was an utterly amazing read. The characters were unforgettable, as were the scary backdrops for the book. The thrilling plot sucked me in and I was totally absorbed by the action-packed, emotional thrill-ride and didn’t want to stop reading, even at the last page. I can’t wait to read more from Elizabeth Wein, her writing is unique, refreshing, and brilliant!

I Received Code Name Verity from my school, via our book club, as we are reviewing the whole Carnegie shortlist.

The Ghost Bride

By Yangsze Choo, published by Hot Key Books.

The Ghost Bride

“One day, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…”

Li Lan lives with her father and Amah, in 1890’s Malaya. One day her father arrives home with the craziest, most unexpected marriage proposal. The rich Lim family would like Li Lan to marry their dead, teenage heir as a ghost bride-a rarely come by, ancient Chinese tradition- in order to preserve the Lim family name. After a strange visit to the Lim family mansion, Li Lan finds herself falling for her dead fiancee’s cousin, the handsome, attractive Tian Bai, and also thrown into the world of the dead- full of ghosts, secrets and betrayal. Li Lan must uncover the reason behind her fiancee’s murder, and try to control her feelings for Tian Bai. Can she do both with the help of Er Lang, the dragon?

I really didn’t know what I’d think of this book when I picked it up. I don’t really read historical fiction that much (although now I’m starting to really get into it thanks to Hot Key Books’ historical titles!). However, I really loved this debut! The British-ruled 1800’s Malaya was a place that I knew nothing about, but The Ghost Bride gave me a really clear introduction to the setting. The descriptions, and the writing overall, was absolutely beautiful- some of the best writing I have seen this year, and from a new author! The plot was really gripping and with lots of unexpected twists- a complex, unpredictable love story. I was so not expecting for Li Lan to fall in love with the mysterious man she had never seen the face of! I also really loved the fantastical underworld, which took up about a third of the book. It was so imaginative, and realistic, and overall just so fun to read. 

Li Lan was a great protagonist. She was determined, fearless, and really loveable. I really felt her emotions through Yangsze’s writing, and understood why she was so torn between Tian Bai and a certain-mysterious-person-I-will-not-mention-the-name-of-because-I-don’t-want-to-spoil-it. Tian Bai was such a great love interest, although it broke my heart that Li Lan changed her wedding plans with him, despite the fact that I knew she had feeling towards another man. Also, the character of Tian Ching; the dead son of the Lim family, had a really shocking personality. I had thought that Li Lan may have fallen in love with him, in the underworld, but it turned out her was the opposite of what I’d expected. However, he was a really great character, and he was like a puppet to the Ancestors of the Lim family who played him, and that made a really great plot twist. 

Overall, The Ghost Bride really exceeded my expectations and I loved it so much. The characters were three dimensional and understandable; and the plot was totally unpredictable and kept me reading. It was so enjoyable and now I want a sequel!!

 

Ghost Knight

By Cornelia Funke, published by Orion.

Ghost Knight. Cornelia Funke

Eleven year old Jon is living with his siters, mother and awful soon-to-be-step-father (nicknamed The Beard!) when his mum decides to send him to a train-journey-away boarding school in Salisbury. He reluctantly joins the school, and on his first night there three ghosts on horseback appear at his window! Jon discovers that his anscestors, the Hartgill family, had a dark past in Salisbury involving an an evil man who is now in Salisbury in a ghost form, hunting down any male man going by the name of Hartgill. Then Jon meets Ella- a girl who has had a history with and grew up knowing about ghosts. She leads his to a long dead knight in Salisbury cathedral called Longespee, in the hopes that he can destory the ghosts after Jon. Can Jon escape the clutches of the evil horse riding ghosts… and claim Longespee’s long lost heart for him?

REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS

I recieved this for Christmas last year and seeing it on my book shelf two days ago, I picked this up not knowing anything about the plot. I read it in, collectively, a few hours… and it was so brilliant! Jon made a great protagonist, whose background and personality was very well developed before he’d even gotten off of the train in Salisbury. He has got to be the most adventurous eleven year old I’ve ever read about! Ella was a really fun character, too. Her background was well planned… and the way her family intertwined with Jon’s family was a really genius, unexpected plot twist. I think her personality and role in the story could’ve been a bit bigger, however. The ghosts, who played a big role in the story, were seriously imaginative, fun to read about, and above all… Based on real people! Yep, Longespee was a real Knight (Although I’m not sure he wanders Salisbury looking for his heart at the moment). I think the touch of historical reality really brought this story to life.

The plot was brilliantly laid out, and very well written with an excellent, solid structure. Although this book was quite short (There were alot of pages, but the text was quite big and there were illustrations) the events all tied together really well. There were some genius plot twists, like, as mentioned before, how Jon finds out that Ella is actually the niece of The Beard! That was a great twist which really livened up the story, and changed the way Jon solved all of his mysteries.

Overall, Ghost Knight is another brilliant masterpiece to come from Cornelia Funke. It’s a great read for children aged around ten- but I enjoyed it too. It has some absolutely brilliant accompanying illustrations too, and being partly historically accurate, this book was a really enjoyable read!

The Quietness

By Alison Rattle, published by Hot Key Books.

The Quietness

The eldest child of a poor family living in the slums of London, Queenie, dreams of a better life with more money. When she finds an advertisement for a job working at the house of two sisters, Mrs Waters and Miss Ellis, she runs away from home to begin work as a carer for the many babies that the two sisters own. The babies came from women who had no husbands and did not want to be looked down upon in society, so hid away for months in the Waters and Ellis house, gave birth, then carried on with their lives leaving the child behind. All the while, babies are slowly disappearing, with Miss Waters claiming that they have been adopted. But Queenie is getting suspicious, and is determined to track down the truth of the baby farm.

In a higher-class part of London, a girl of the same age as Queenie called Ellen is living a lonely life inside of a house in which nobody cares about her. When her handsome cousin Jacob comes to stay after the death of his mother, Ellen begins to feel less lonely. But after a huge betrayal from Jacob, Ellen is about to fall into Queenie’s life in the strangest way, and together they will solve the crime behind the ‘baby farming’, become the greatest of friends, and discover something that will change their whole lives forever…

***WARNING: SPOILERS IN THE REVIEW BELOW!!***

I really enjoyed this! I wasn’t sure I’d really get into the story; I don’t read historical fiction much; but I really got hooked on it, and couldn’t stop reading. I liked the switching of the narratives every other chapter, and how the two girls come together and discover they are related under coincidental circumstances. Both teenagers came from very different, very interesting… at points frightful backgrounds, and I loved reading about them. I think that, after reading the authors note, the story became so much more real. Alison Rattle said that she had stumbled across the characters of Miss Waters and Miss Ellis and their crimes of Baby Farming whilst researching for something else. It was really shocking to hear that the events in this book were actually based on something that had really happened before!

The whole crime conspiracy building throughout the book kept me guessing about the ending, and when it came to the final pages I was shocked at the unpredictable closing paragraphs. It really tugged at my heartstrings- the unfortunate death of my favorite character (I’m not saying any names!).

Overall, The Quietness made for a really riveting, well written read. Highly recommended for YA’s and Adults alike!