In case you all haven't heard, I finished the first draft of my next book. Hooray! Which means I'm taking a few days off to read, read, and read some more! I've finished two books recently that both have pretty short reviews, so I wanted to go ahead and combine them.
The first is Victoria's Victorian Victory by fellow Instagram author Abigail Shepherd. Firstly, if you're not already following her - @abiwriting - you really should be. Many of her posts are written and designed to encourage, inspire, and educate in small, succinct snippets.
Star Rating: 4/5
Genre: Middle Grade/YA, Historical Fiction
Buy the book: Amazon
It feels odd to say I loved how this book began because it began with a heartbreaking scene of Victoria and her family experiencing the grief of losing her father. Rather, I'll say I appreciated the tact and respect with which Abigail handled this. Let's be honest, death is a big catalyst in countless books. Any time it's dealt with in a book for young people, though, it needs to be handled with more care than perhaps in some other genres, and I feel like Abigail did that very well. There are several scenes where mourning and the loss is discussed (without getting too heavy) in a way that makes their grief so relatable, which I feel is so important, as grief can make people feel so very, very alone.
Beyond that, as I was reading, I was eventually reminded of the American Girls books I used to read as a kid...this could be a kind of International Girls twist on those. The only thing I was missing was a mini history lesson at the end about life back in the Victorian time period. In fact, I think Victoria could easily have an adventure with Samantha of the American Girl series, so fitting with this type of book was Abigail's writing.
This story, however, also sincerely made me laugh. I find humor is often stunted in Victorian-era books just because of all the rules of propriety that surrounded everything back then, but little gibes were artfully woven into the story without breaking the authenticity of the tale. I have to admit, though, this is where Victoria fell down a bit for me, making way for her younger sister Mary-Anne to shine. Don't get me wrong, Victoria is everything I expect from an older sister (and I should know because I have one): responsible, a bit more serious, headstrong, and proud. Abigail hit these characteristics perfectly, but I found myself relating to Mary-Anne and her snarkiness far more. Could that be because I too am a snarky younger sister. I dunno. You should ask my big sister and see what she says, teehee!
Abigail's writing is clever, and I love her portrayal of her various characters, though the pacing was a little slow in the beginning, and some of her dialogue was a little unrealistic to my mind, but that only bothered me a little bit since it is a book for younger people first and foremost. In the end, though, I highly encourage you to read this book. It's really fun and well crafted and short and I'm pleased I did. You should also connect with Abigail on social media because she is a gem!
As for my second review, it's quite a bit shorter.
Star Rating: 4/5
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Buy the book: Amazon
I also recently read Dragon Rose by Christine Pope. It's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which I am an absolute sucker for, so I went in pretty much knowing what to expect. As I've read so many of these, the new challenge is to wow me with something new and different.
Tea and biscuits enhances the reading experience.
Dragon Rose...didn't quite do that for me. The book was free for Kindle one day, and I enjoyed reading it for the most part, so I didn't really lose much. The writing was excellent, as was the characterization. And I really liked the the Dragon, our mysterious love interest...hey, he's a man-shaped dragon. Of course I'm gonna like him. There were some things that dimmed my joy at reading, though: 1) some of the storytelling vehicles were a little too on the nose, 2) I didn't feel like I got a payoff with the romance, and 3) can we please stop with focusing so much on the female protagonist's appearance?! Guh, this is such a pet peeve of mine. I'm okay if it's mentioned once, maybe twice, but more than that and it begins to undermine the rest of her good traits. Character, intelligence, talent, and then beauty is my ideal hierarchy of things to focus on in any character, so...yeah...that got old fast for me.
Still, it's a Beauty and the Beast story, so I still really enjoyed it. Plus, it was riveting enough that I read the entire thing in one day, which always gets a book bonus points for me.
Thanks for reading!