New Historical Fiction

Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She’s tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother’s noble family-especially now that the family’s wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It’s hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane’s burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family’s struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane’s stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire.

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate…

From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett’s stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale.

M: I loved the cover!

R: I think she looks really really mean.

M: Well, I mean, she is a “wicked” stepsister.

R: No no no, the stepsister is ugly. I don’t know why I kept calling the book The Wicked Stepsister. My brain is weird.

M: Not just your brain.  But the stepsisters might be described as wicked in some versions of the tale.  There are a lot of versions of Cinderella.

R: I guess. Anyways, it was all right.

M: Yes, it wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t great. I do think it was more of a middle grade versus a true YA book. I thought there was going to be more animosity between Isabella and Jane. It wasn’t the story that I thought it was going to be, but that doesn’t mean it was bad.

R: I liked that it wasn’t just a straight up retelling of Cinderella from Jane’s POV. Cinderella’s story was there, but it was completely on the backburner. That definitely made it a lot more interesting.

M: It was a fascinating version of Cinderella for sure. Especially with the prince being the way that he was, but I don’t want to give anything away.

R: I found Maude to be extremely annoying. I didn’t like her character at all.

M: Me neither, she definitely should have been more mature for her age given their circumstances. Thank goodness she wasn’t always in the book.

R: We got that nice supplement of Annie about halfway through.

M: Yes, Annie was cool. The forest people were really good people, yet I was very confused when they were introduced.

R: I pictured them as Robin Hood’s clan. Ya know? The people who were living in Sherwood Forest while hiding from the Sheriff.



M: I can see that now, at the beginning I honestly thought they were fairies. Like I did not realize they did not mean the “fairies” when they talked about the “forest people.” Two different groups inhabiting the forest.

R: It was a little annoying that all of the conflict in the book stemmed from the characters not fully expressing their feelings and other characters making assumptions about each other. I mean, true that happens in real life all the time, but it was still a little much. Reminded me too much of a Rom-Com without the Com.

M: And not much Rom either. I do agree; it also didn’t make for very exciting literature. Because while this book was good it really wasn’t that exciting.

R: Agreed, then every now and then there were some info dumps that were kind of jarring. Overall though, the book was fairly solid. In that we didn’t hate it or find any glaring issues. I didn’t use a single post-it note.

Book: 3 out of 5 stars
Cover: 4 out of 5 stars

The Thickety by J. A. White is a story about Kara Westfall and the call of magic in her life.  She lives on an island in an isolated community that believes nothing is more evil than magic, except for the woods they call the thickety.  Kara was nearly killed at the age of six by the same men who arrested her mother for witchcraft, but something stopped the nightseeker from identifying her as a witch.  Kara’s mother is executed and the story picks up 7 years later as Kara tries to care for her sickly brother, Taff, who was born on the night of her mother’s execution, and for her father, who has been morose and despondent since that night.  A bird leads Kara into the thickety where she discovers a grimoire which might have belonged to her mother.

This is a dark tale, which is intended for the lower grades, but can be read and enjoyed by grades 6-12 and adults.  This is White’s first novel, and I can’t wait for the second one.  Common Sense Media rates it for age 11 and up.  Every review I have read rates this book at at least 4 out of 5 stars.  I give it 5.  I was not expecting the ending.

Why I picked it up: I liked both the title and the cover and I was looking for a new book to read.  I like fantasies about magic.

Why I finished the book:  It was very well written and I just kept turning pages.  I couldn’t stop reading.

Who I would give it to: I would give it to my (adult) friend Marcy because she likes the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and also the Inkspell books by Cornelia Funke.  If you enjoyed these books, you will like The Thickety.


M: By the way, this is not the book that we saw. This is the paperback. Our covers looked different. R: I will grant that while our covers were not this vibrant they were still blue. We had a patron confirm it for us.

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies–trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

M: So the cover is somewhat appealing. It makes absolutely no sense given the subject matter, but without knowing what it was about…eh, it wasn’t horrible. It does look a lot like The Hunger Games, though.

R: Yeah, the cover is odd…the symbol seems like some weird amalgamation of the different bracelets. The covers of the next books make more sense. I like that it’s blue.

M: The next book? Because this one was black…I think. A weird shiny black…maybe it’s blue.

R: No no no, this book is definitely blue. A dark blue, but blue. Anyways, back to more important things. Such as the fact that this book was horrible.

M: Let me first say that there were some interesting parts. We’ll start with the positive. It made me think about leadership and what the most important qualities of a leader are. It also made me consider what I would do in the situations that were given. And that’s pretty much it. Now let’s trash this book.

R: Hold on! I have one positive that MUST be mentioned. There was absolutely no instalove. Can I get an amen?!

M: Very true. Though it felt like Charbonneau was setting up a love triangle for future books, not for this one.

R: Eh, I didn’t pick up on that. But yeah, back to the horrible book. I honestly don’t know what to talk about first…let’s go with the fact that it definitely seemed as though the author had a checklist full of things to include in your standard YA dystopian novel.

M: Minus the instalove; as you’ve already mentioned. But yeah, I definitely saw elements of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and even Westerfeld’s Uglies series.

R: Agreed, I also felt some of The Giver and something else that I just can’t place right now. Either way, I was extremely annoyed. It’s lazy. I don’t know why we were surprised when the rest of book was such a letdown. This became so clear when we were given no chance to connect to any of the other characters. There was little to no dialogue. It wasn’t that Cia wasn’t talking to people, she would talk to them but tell us about it after the fact.

M: Right! She would just recap the conversation by saying “we talk on and off for the next hour” without actually letting us see the conversation. Which is a shame really, because it made the writing sooo boring. I honestly would skim a page until I found some dialogue because a lot of the descriptions were entirely unnecessary. And I agree about not being able to connect with any of the other characters. It made the deaths easier to bear though, I guess.

R: Yeah and there were a lot of deaths to not care that much about. The annoying part was that the deaths were so arbitrary. The government has the technology to wipe people’s minds, if they’re killing these kids so that word of The Testing procedure isn’t leaked out why do they not just wipe their memories and then send them on their merry way?

M: Exactly. But maybe if the leaders are like some of the people who made it to the end, then they just enjoy killing. I mean, it’s possible.

R: That’s extremely possible. Very similar to How to Lead a Life of Crime, not a dystopian but definitely had that psychotic kids killing kids element. I will say that it was interesting trying to figure out where the different colonies were out and where Tosu City was located. But this ended up just causing more irritating flaws. What with the inconsistencies and the broken bicycles that were able to survive what seemed to be a 700 mile journey. But what do we know. I guess I can’t be too surprised after that 14 square foot room.

M: I try not to look at numbers too carefully when I read because that generally leads to anger. Another little weird quirk, if that’s what you can call it, is the fact that the word “mirror” has for some reason been replaced with the word “reflector.” As far as I know, that’s the only word that’s changed. Which makes. No. Sense. Like, why in the several hundred years that have passed is that the only change in vocabulary? Seriously, if you want to create a lexicon for the world, that’s fine, but put some effort into it! You can’t just change one thing and call it a day.

R: That’s true, she only changed that one word. How strange. All in all, the book was extremely disappointing. It seemed to just be an author capitalizing on the YA dystopian trend that flooded the market. I honestly did not like it. It wasn’t the worst book that we’ve read and reviewed, but still it made me mad.

M: True, and to be honest I wouldn’t have finished it if we weren’t reviewing it. Nothing happens until about 100 pages in. Seriously, it has the slowest beginning ever! It picked up about a third of the way through, but honestly, with the other flaws that we’ve mentioned, I’m still very disappointed. I don’t plan to read the other two books.

R: No, me neither. And I won’t try reading anything else from this author either.

Book: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Cover: 2 out of 5 stars

These happy cake decorators are here to let you know there are two more chances for cake decorating!

One is at Little Turtle Branch on Wednesday the 16th @ 3 PM…

and the other is at Monroeville Branch on Friday the 18th @ 2:30 PM.


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