Annette Laing's The Snipesville Chronicles
The Chronocar
Fiction , Sci-Fi , Teen , Timeslip / April 25, 2018

This story opens in 1888 with the son of a slave, Simmie Johnson, working his way to Alabama where he hopes to attend Tuskegee College. Simmie is gifted and scientifically inclined, but trouble courts him with every step. Fast forward to 2015, Tony Carpenter, a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology, comes across an old science journal written by a Dr. Simmie L. Johnson more than a century before. Coupled with the teachings of Nicola Tesla, Tony builds the time machine described by Johnson and sets out to find him in the past. Unfortunately, things don’t go exactly as planned, and Tony finds himself in a series of dilemmas. Due to some language and violence, this is recommended for mature or older teens. It portrays the ugly realities of racial violence in the Reconstruction era as well as the continued troubles during Jim Crow. Through the character of Tony, current racial tensions are explored and compared. Those familiar with the landscape of Chicago will enjoy the early 20th century descriptions of the city. Science fiction, admittedly, is not my preferred genre, and I don’t feel qualified enough to expound upon the time-travel details–of which are copious. It is a…

Come Next Spring
Fiction , Historical , Teen / March 19, 2018

Salina Harris is a stubborn, outspoken twelve-year-old from a small mountain town in Tennessee. It’s 1949, and while WWII left scarred lives in the community, life goes on and with it comes change. Salina is fretting over her older brother’s new role as caregiver to a weak foal, as it means he is spending less time with her. Also, her best friend, Mayella, seems to be focusing on her future—without Salina. When the teacher, Miss Williams, begins pairing Salina with a new girl, Scooter, it opens several opportunities for the girls, and ultimately gives Salina the nudge she needs to see her world differently. Themes explored in this appealing young adult novel include Germanophobia, resistance to change, rivalry, and friendship. It is, of course, a coming-of-age story with Salina growing up within the pages from her experiences and the wise words of those around her. Salina will resonate with young readers who enjoy characters who have a love for books, as that is the basis for her personality even if she’s a bit fiery at times. The historical details of life on a farm, and in a small Southern community, are spot on for its mid-20th century setting. Overall all…

The Search for the Homestead Treasure
Fiction , Historical , Teen / March 19, 2018

In early 20th-century Minnesota, 14-year-old Martin Gunnarsson, a descendant of Scandinavian immigrants, is moving from the city to his family’s deserted farmland. A recent tragedy had left the Gunnarssons brokenhearted and with few funds. A fresh starts seemed ideal—to everyone except for Martin, who sorely missed his friends and school. However, Martin’s father went off to work for the winter, leaving his son in charge of the barren farm, his grieving mother, prickly though well-meaning great-aunt, and spirited little sister. When his father is unable to return for spring planting, Martin takes it upon himself to tackle the work alone. A chance meeting with a Gypsy boy, Samson, changes Martin in many ways. The Roma people are outcasts and feared as vagrants by most of society—Martin’s great-aunt especially. Yet Samson displays nothing but loyalty, friendship and kindness, and is a great asset to the laborious work. Just as the planting is coming along, a devious banker threatens to foreclose on the farm. One shimmer of hope appears with the discovery of an old diary, written by Martin’s aunt, who died years before of diphtheria. A treasure, which was not named other than labeled a dowry, was said to be hidden…

Ladies in Waiting
Fiction , Historical , Teen / March 19, 2018

Three young women from different walks of life find themselves in the high position of serving the wife of the Merry Monarch, King Charles II. Eliza, daughter of a rich merchant, dreams of becoming a playwright while her father schemes to marry her to a titled gentleman. Zabby is a budding scientist, sent by her father from the family plantation in Barbados to further her education. Beth, the product of a ruined nobleman, tries to escape her maniacal mother’s clutches in search of true love. Bound together by their awkwardness and the vicious reaction of the women of the court, they become the Queen’s most trusted ladies. Though they eventually drift apart, they pull together when the Queen’s life is threatened. Unfortunately, the ending is abrupt with scanty information concerning the fate of the trio. This, along with mature subject matter, may displease readers. Though the three teenage protagonists are innocent when compared to court standards, there is much innuendo that is questionable for such young ladies to possess without the accompanying corruption. However, the style of the writing and layout of the book is geared toward a younger audience. Also, since there is no Author’s Note, the curious reader…

Belle Epoque
Fiction , Historical , Teen / March 19, 2018

Sixteen-year-old Maude Pichon, daughter of a Breton shopkeeper, has always dreamed of life outside her small village. In a desperate attempt to avoid an unwanted marriage, she escapes to Paris and unexpectedly finds herself working as a laundress to survive. When she comes across a vague ad promising undemanding work for young ladies, she immediately applies. She is horrified when she discovers the nature of the job, but continues with it nonetheless of necessity. The Durandeau Agency employs repoussoirs – unattractive young women to set alongside otherwise unremarkable women, creating an illusion of beauty. This service is all the rage among upperclass society, and provides Maude with a recurring role that will forever change her outlook on life, love, and friendships. Hired as a companion to a client’s unwitting daughter for her first Season, Maude must withhold her true identity while pushing her new friend in the direction her mother demands. Loyalties are tested and outlooks are examined while Maude finds her true self in the girl others deem ugly. Beyond Maude’s emotional journey, this novel includes many other interesting facets, such as political views, class bias, and the process of photography in its infancy. It is set in France’s…

Fallen From Grace
Fiction , Historical , Novella , Teen / March 19, 2018

This short story is a companion to the author’s full-length young adult novel Dark Mirror, which I previously read and reviewed. While it is very short, it does give some insight into one of the murkier character’s background–though not an astonishing series of revelations. Allarde is standoffish in Dark Mirror and is also hiding a dark secret. While Fallen from Grace does not reveal his secret, it mentions his uneasiness with what he sees as a premonition for what’s to come. His public ‘outting’ as a mage is similar to Tory’s, which was fairly predictable and his joining the Irregulars and embracing his magic could have been more detailed. Overall I think his character could have been expanded on, but it was an enjoyable addition to the novel. originally posted on my historical review website

Dark Mirror
Fiction , Historical , Teen / March 19, 2018

Victoria ‘Tory’ Mansfield is a gentleman’s daughter in the year 1803. Through an act of bravery she exposes the fact that she has magical powers to the genteel society and finds herself shipped off to Lackland Abbey, where young ‘mages’ are sent to cure them of their unsavory nature. Though the common people of the era find magic useful, the Lords and Ladies maintain that it’s vulgar and thus ostracize anyone claiming the gift. Tory only wants to be cured and return home, but soon realizes the usefulness and her own growing desire of her magical powers. She also finds that she’s not alone–not all the mages of Lackland have the same goal. With the growing threat of war on the horizon, Tory decides that the comfort of her old life may not be as important as keeping war from coming to England’s shores. There is an underlying theme here: the similarities between Napoleon and Hilter, and also the disintegrating of the class structure from one century to the next. For the history lovers, there are good descriptions of both Regency and WWII England. You get to see a more modern world–cars, planes, trains, plumbing, electricity–through the amazed eyes of…

Rejected Princesses
Historical , Non-Fiction , Teen / March 19, 2018

From 1500 BCE to the 20th century, this compendium is packed with famous as well as lesser-known women of history who, in the animator-turned-author’s view, would not have made the cut in the film industry for various reasons. There are fairytale legends, empresses, actresses, women of the Bible, slaves, revolutionists, warriors, and even a few real princesses. With much humor, the author introduces readers to 100 women who made their mark in history, but would not be the best on-screen heroines for children. Since historical fact is sketchy when it comes to women’s history, the author outlines the likely fanciful details and includes footnotes where needed. The artwork is in a modern cartoonist style–Porath worked for DreamWorks Animation—with Art Notes and Trivia at the end of most chapters. This is a bulky, though well-made hardcover, with sleek pages and content organization that is pleasing to the eye. Though young readers may be drawn to its attractive appearance, it is recommended and, in fact, color-coded for PG through R ratings due to content with violence, abuse, sex, rape and self-harm. It makes an enjoyable read for those who like to delve into unremarked collections of history. originally posted on Historical Novels…

The Young Mary Queen of Scots
Fiction , Historical , Teen / March 19, 2018

This is one of three Young Adult novels by Jean Plaidy in Max Parrish’s “The Young” Series. As in her novel Royal Road to Fotheringhay, Plaidy begins with Mary, Queen of Scots at the age of five. Scotland was in danger of being invaded by the English, who wished the young, fatherless Queen to be taken to the court of Henry VIII and eventually married to Prince Edward. However, she was whisked away to the island of Inchmahome and later sailed to her mother’s homeland, France. Instead of an English alliance, she was betrothed to the dauphin—the delicate eldest son of King Henri II and Catherine de Medici. Life at the French court was enchanting, except for the frightening Queen, who took every opportunity in embarrassing the Queen of Scots. There were also her power-hungry Guise uncles, who relentlessly steered her to policies that served their interests. This story, based solely on her younger years, ends with Mary leaving France for Scotland after the premature death of her first husband, King Francois II. One very blatant absence is the character of Diane de Poitiers, who was not mentioned at all in this story. I am assuming this has to do…

Meg Roper
Fiction , Historical , Teen / March 19, 2018

This young adult novel penned in the early 60’s is based on the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More, one of King Henry VIII’s ministers who fell out of favor during the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. It is a simplified version of her full length novel titled St. Thomas’s Eve (republished as The King’s Confidante) but is not, as some listings file it, the same book. Chronicling the political career of Sir Thomas More, this story covers the controversy with religion, including Martin Luther and Henry VIII’s title of Defender of the Faith. It follows More’s family from their happy home at the Barge to their new home in Chelsea. When More becomes the most important man in the country, his family nonetheless stays the same, and as he prepares his self-sabotage due to his beliefs, he finds that the only thing he will miss in the world is his loving family. Mistress More, Thomas’s wife, is the heart of this story. Her personality and verbal quirks keep humor in an otherwise sad story, for all Tudor enthusiasts know what happens to the deeply religious and scholarly Thomas More. For anyone in doubt has only to look at the…