The Last Musketeer

The Last Musketeer by Stuart Gibbs is the first novel in a historical fiction series for juvenile readers.

While on a trip to Paris with his parents, fourteen-year-old Greg Rich’s parents disappear. Before his eyes, they vanish through a portrait and into the 1600s. And of course Greg follows.

And so begins a tale of the Three Musketeers before they became the legendary heroes of fiction. With the help of young Athos, Porthos and Aramis, Greg must save his parents, reveal a plot to overthrow the King, and stop the bad guy from changing history forever.

History isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and saving the day, is a lot harder… and smellier than it looks.

This was an easy, fast read. It has action and adventure, boys being boys and some interesting historical facts thrown in. It’s a Stuart Gibbs novel, you really can’t go wrong.

The Last Musketeer really makes me want to go back and read The Three Musketeers. I want to compare the characters here and the characters there and see how similar they are.

I can’t say that I was wowed by the book, but I do think it would be one my 4-6th book club would be interested in and have an easy time reading. Overall, this one gets a solid three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Journey of the Pale Bear

Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher is a historical juvenile fiction book best for 4-7 graders.

When a great white bear is to be a gift from the King of Norway to the King of England, she is called a royal bear. When Arthur, a twelve-year-old runaway, first comes in contact with this bear, he is terrified. Miraculously, the bear doesn’t harm him, instead she lets him near and when no one else but Arthur is able to calm the bear, he is recruited as her caretaker for the sea journey from Norway to London.

As he continues to care for the bear, Arthur realizes that there is some connection between them, an understanding he cannot name. But the journey is fraught with peril and when the bear has a chance at freedom, will she take it or choose to save this human boy she has come to care for.

Based on a true story of a great white bear who lived in the Tower of London, this book displays the bond between a boy and a bear.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not one I would usually choose for my 4-6th grade book club–we tend to lean toward realistic or science fiction–but I am seriously considering adding it to our reading list.

Arthur is a believable and a relatable character. And his relationship with the bear and the doctor is probably the highlights of this book. It was also really neat to get a look inside the Tower of London and the Kind’s menagerie.

But what the best part of this book is, is how Susan Fletcher takes just a tiny piece of historical information and develops this whole imagined story of what could have been. And it is believable to boot!

This one gets a solid five stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Exiles

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline is a historical fiction novel that follows the life of three women in the nineteenth century.

Evangeline, is a naïve young governess in early nineteenth-century London. When she is seduced by her employers son and then accused of theft and attempted murder, she is fired and sent to Newgate Prison. After discovering she is with child and months of cramped quarters and fetid conditions, she is sentenced to transportation to the continent of Australia for 14 years.

During the journey, Evangeline befriends a young girl named, Hazel, who has a way with herbs and folk medicine. The two strike an unlikely friendship and face trying circumstance while on board the Medea.

Meanwhile, on Van Diemen’s Land, the colonists look down upon the Aboriginal people as savages. When the orphan daughter of one tribes chief, Mathinna, is taken by one of the colonists to be “re-educated,” she is both distraught and fascinated.

As these three tales intertwine, the story of Australia’s colonization is revealed in a new and interesting light.

I swear, about a third of the way through this book I decided which narrators chapters I liked best and literally in the next chapter she dies. Sigh. There were parts of this novel I really liked. Evangeline and Hazel’s paths taken to being thrown on the transportation ship and their subsequent bond. I like Evangeline’s naivety and quick adaptation to the life thrust upon her. I even liked Olive’s brusque but ultimately loyal manner.

Mathinna’s chapters, on the other hand, started out strong and then felt like they were overshadowed by the rest. When she does eventually make an appearance after a while, I’d almost forgotten where we’d left off. And the conclusion of her story, felt a little bit of a throw away, at the least unresolved.

I do feel like I may be short changing this one a little bit. I did learn a lot and it was fascinating to read about the process of transportation and how Van Diemen’s Land eventually becomes a land of “reformed” “criminals.”

This is a book my personal book club picked, so I will be interested to get their take on it. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Book of the Little Axe

Book of the Little Axe by Lauren Francis-Sharma is an adult fiction novel that spans from Trinidad to the American West during the time of colonialism and westward expansion.

In 1796 Trinidad, Rosa Rendón feels out of place in her body. She longs to take over the family farm and idolizes her father. But her place is with the home and hearth and Rosa rebels from this life of domesticity. Meanwhile, Trinidad has moved from Spanish to British rule and it is unclear whether Rosa and her family, free black property owners, will be left alone in peace.

Speed ahead to 1830 and Rose is living with her husband and children in the Crow Nation in Bighorn, Montana. Her son, Victor, is about to become a man but is blocked from receiving his vision quest by secrets from Rosa’s past. Rosa must take him on a journey that will reveal his truth and her painful past.

A journey to truth and a history explained. Book of the Little Axe covers a tumultuous time in history.

This book was highlighted in the e-platform I used, so I figured I’d give it a try. Not my usual genera but I thought it might make a good one for my local adult book club. And it was one that kept my attention and kept me reading.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the narrative set up. I thought the jumps from past, to present, to the diary was really well done and contributes to the story. The story itself is arresting and captivating. And Rosa, as a character, is dynamic and witnessing the way she changes between 1796 and 1830 is really quite amazing.

I did have a problem with the language at times because there were a few spots where significant, traumatic events were happening where I didn’t really “get” what was happening until after the fact. I don’t know if this was on purpose but I felt like I was missing something.

Overall, this is a moving, well crafted novel that will appeal to a wide audience. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes is an adult fiction novel about a pack horse library in rural Kentucky.

Alice Wright married the hansom American, Bennett Van Cleve, in the hopes of escaping the narrow and oppressive life she lived in England. But small-town Kentucky wasn’t exactly what Alice expected.

Alice feels just as stuck in her new life as she did in her old one. So when a call is put out for women to run a pack horse library, Alice signs right up. The leader of the librarians is Margery O’Hare, a straight shooting, self sufficient woman who doesn’t need a man for anything.

Alice, Margery and three other women soon become tied together as they traverse the hills of Kentucky, lending books and change lives, one family at a time.

The Giver of Stars is the story of these three women and a year of fortune and woe.

I quite enjoyed this novel. I love when a little known aspect of history gets a boost through a great fiction writer. You had me at “pack horse librarian” and I wanted to know more about this effort endorsed by Elinor Roosevelt. And the story didn’t disappoint.

Each of the librarians had a story to tell, even if some shined brighter than others, and each story was about a strong woman who chose to fight for themselves in their own way. I don’t know which librarian was my favorite, I was constantly jumping between Alice, Margery and Kathleen.

There was indeed a little bit of romance in this book but the focus was the love of the land and the love of the librarians for the family they forged. There was the bond between the girls that really kept the story going for me.

Overall, I think this would be a great book for a book club. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-