Perils for Portents, by Diana Benedict is a well crafted story and a truly enjoyable read. Taking place in an era when women had to struggle to be taken seriously, young Francie Wolcott proves a heroine who young women today can look up to in a story of mystery and adventure.
When their parents die, Francie and her brother, Rooney, are left to make their own way in the world. Francie uses her resources, combined with Rooney’s ingenuity to travel across the country by unconventional means, to their uncle and grandmother in San Francisco. On the journey, the automaton Rooney designed is possessed by a ghost, whose fortunes are right on the mark. When she reveals a murder the circus owner was involved with, it puts Francie on his radar as a liability. Once they’ve reached their family, Rooney settles in well, while Francie entertains plans to travel the world with the fortune telling automaton. But her grandmother has other plans for her, as she puts Francie on display for all eligible suitors, regardless of how repulsive Francie finds them. Besides thwarting her grandmother, Francie must also evade the circus owner, who is set on her demise, and she proves herself up to the task.
Perils for Portents is a delightful historic YA novel, with elements of adventure and romance. It is well written and entertaining. I give it four quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Crossroads by Chandler McGrew is an alternate world YA story about a young girl, Kira, who finds herself on the run with her friend, Jen, after her parents and her carnival family are massacred. Unsure of where to go, but following her instincts, Kira explores her other-worldly powers which allow her to create, and uncreate, by will, learning about her family’s true origins and discovering that only she can save the last of her people.
It’s a role she didn’t ask for, and she doesn’t want as she realizes that she and Jen are being pursued and everyone she comes into contact with dies. Then she meets Sheila, who has the gift of talking to the dead, and is tied to Kira and the world beyond the mirror, although neither knows it. They go through the mirror and embark on a quest to stand against the evil empty-eyed man, who has overtaken Dream Time, (the world beyond the mirror, and is trying to overtake all worlds.
Crossroads is character-driven with a strong story line, but it is almost a little too convenient that although she does not understand what she is supposed to do, Kira always knows what to do when the time comes to do it. The answers just seem to come to her. I give it four quills.
Victorian, by Jordan Elizabeth, is a truly unique YA story featuring not one, but two young girls, Celeste and Weronica, who each have a dark secret hidden in the past that keeps them closed off to others. When they both get jobs at a historical fair in a strange old village which harbors secrets of its own, things turn interesting, as each one learns to trust again with the help of the fair’s colorful cast of characters and the ghosts of the past.
Elizabeth’s characters are realistic and believable. Weronica acts as if she’s self assured, but worries more about what others think of her than she lets on. She shares only enough to keep curiosity at bay, keeping her ghosts close and the secrets they hold even closer. Celeste really just wants to belong, but fear that her secret will be revealed causes her to hold others at bay. Her ghosts are really those of the historic village, but they hold the key to unlocking her secrets, as well as unraveling the mysterious past of the village.
This well-crafted story builds just the right amount of suspense to keep the pages turning, as it alternates between the two co-protagonist’s points of view. The story line is easy to follow, the village setting becoming a character in and of itself. Victorian is well worth the read.
I give Victorian four quills.
Clark Treasure carries within himself a dark treasure, which gives him control over life and death, and allows him to communicate with spirits. The army wants his secret and drives him into a life as a fugitive, in this haunted YA steampunk romance with a western flair, Treasure Darkly, by Jordan Elizabeth. Clark seeks refuge with the man he believes to be his father, a rich man with a lot of pull in Hedlund, the Big Valley of steampunk, hoping to ride on the Treasure name for protection. His true father comes to him as a spirit after the ruse has already been set in motion and sends Clark on a mission to take care of his unfinished business. Amethyst Treasure, the feisty, spoiled sister who’s not, becomes an object of affection when they both learn there’s no blood between them, and by the end of the book they’ve fallen in love, of course.
Elizabeth sets this first book up well to carry the rest of her Treasure Chronicles series, wrapping up the romance, while leaving the main story open ended to carry on another day, or another book or two. My only criticisms lie in the fact that at times, it didn’t feel like the characters actions and reactions were genuine and that Elizabeth detours from the main storyline from about Chapter 33, after Amethyst’s male friend from the city, Joshua, shows up at the ranch unexpectedly. The family choses this exact time to all go on a family outing, making it feel as if we’ve taken an abrupt jog into a subplot involving Amethyst’s brother, Jeremiah, and a brief romance. While this was a neat little tale driven by the urge to reveal character, I had to pause and ask myself why Elizabeth chose to stray so far from the main story with this section that doesn’t seem to move the story forward.
The place in which Elizabeth choses to end this tale feels unfinished, leaving many unanswered questions, but perhaps this was purposefully crafted to carry us into the next book in the series. For me, however, it felt like an abrupt drop off, leaving many loose ends dangling. It felt like there should have been more, maybe just one more chapter to tie everything neatly together before sending readers off to ponder the story in their own minds, which they will, because Treasure Darkly is a story that inspires deeper thought processes. It has an interesting and well thought out premise, that leaves many possibilities open to discovery. I look forward to seeing what future tales will be inspired for this series.
Overall, this is a very entertaining read. I’m a sucker for westerns, even in a steampunk world. Throwing in aspects from the spirit world, Elizabeth certainly added an interesting twist, if at times too convenient, but none-the-less enjoyable. I look forward to reading its sequel and hope to have the opportunity to review it, as well.
Jordan Elizabeth is a steampunk princess well on her way to living out her fairytale dream of being a successful YA author in New York. Her other works include Escape from Witchwood Hollow, Cogling, and Book Two of the Treasure Chronicle series, Born of Treasure. I give Treasure Darkly three quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read, and she never charges for them. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
I can’t be sure of the accuracy of some of the historical details and there were a number of typos which were slightly distracting from the story. Other than that, I found Escape from Witchwood Hollow, by Jordan Elizabeth, to be a carefully crafted tale, which braids together multiple time periods with skill and talent. Escape from Witchwood Hollow is a highly entertaining YA novel, that will charm and captivate readers, both young and old.
The legend of Witchwood Hollow begins in the 1600’s, when an English noblewoman is run out of town, accused of being a witch, and she hides in the surrounding woods. To avoid detection, she places a spell on the hollow where she chooses to make her home. Those who enter the hollow, never return and the legend grows.
Jordan Elizabeth inter-weaves the story of the noblewoman with the stories of two other young women, Abertine from the 1800’s and Honoria, a young woman of modern times, into an intricate pattern that fits into the bigger legend in a way that makes her tale easy to follow and fascinating to unfold. Each young woman is connected with the legend, each in her own way, but it seems that Honoria holds the key. But, Honoria has her own ghosts to deal with, when she is left an orphan following the attacks on the World Trade Centers.
I give Escape from Witchwood Hollow four quills.