Nemesis and the Swan by Lindsay K. Bandy Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Release Date: October 27th 2020 Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Fiction, France
“But this is no place for sleeping. It’s a place for itching and stinking, waiting and remembering, hoping and praying.”
— Lindsay K. Bandy
From her prison cell in revolutionary Paris, nineteen-year-old aristocrat Hélène d’Aubign recalls the events that led her to choose between following in her parents’ unforgivable footsteps or abandoning the man she loves.
“Was anyone in Paris sleeping that night?”
— Lindsay K. Bandy
Despite her world of privilege, Hélène is inspired early on by the radical ideas of her progressive governess. Though her family tries to intervene, the seeds of revolution have already been planted in Hélène’s heart, as are the seeds of love from an unlikely friendship with a young jeweler’s apprentice. Hélène’s determination to find true love is as revolutionary as her attempt to unravel the truth behind a chilling set of eye-shaped brooches and the concealed murder that tore her family apart.
As violence erupts in Paris, Hélène is forced into hiding with her estranged family, where the tangled secrets of their past become entwined with her own. When she finally returns to the blood-stained streets of Paris, she finds everything-and everyone-very much changed. In a city where alliances shift overnight, no one knows who to trust. Faced with looming war, the mystery of her family’s past, and the man she loves near death, Hélène will soon will find out if doing one wrong thing will make everything right, or if it will simply push her closer to the guillotine.
“The child of murderers, liars, cheaters, lunatics, and thieves. Unwanted, forgotten, and never good enough. I belonged nowhere and to no one. There was no way out.”
What’s the best type of historical fiction? A historical fiction set in France during the Revolution of course! This book is an easy to read amazing look into the time period. It truly just drew me in and I didn’t want to put the book down for a minute. The writing and the story are just so beautiful and engaging.
“I was walking in a dream – a good one, for once.”
— Lindsay K. Bandy
This is one of those historical fiction stories that takes you back in time and plops you right into the middle of the streets. But it doesn’t fall into the trap of being a dry story or overly focusing on telling us the history. This is most definitely a story above all of that. And there are many tangled and shocking histories between the characters in these stories. I’d definitely say a lot of them fall into that morally grey category, so I of course took to them all immediately.
“I etch a line of my own: my first.”
— Lindsay K. Bandy
Paris will always hold a special place in my heart with me, so I automatically HAVE to read anything set in this beautiful city. Even if it wasn’t necessarily so beautiful during the revolution and maybe a bit more bloody than anything. But I truly enjoyed this one!
About the Author
Lindsay Bandy writes historical and contemporary young adult fiction as well as poetry. She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with her husband, two daughters, and two cats, and currently serves as the co–regional advisor of the Eastern Pennsylvania region of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
The Paris Affair by Susanne Dunlap Publication Date: September 30, 2020 Paperback & eBook; 244 pages Series: Theresa Schurmann Mystery, Book 3 Genre: YA/Historical Fiction
Apparently, false rumors about Marie Antoinette are all the fashion in 1783.
Marie Antoinette is facing hostility from the populace, inflamed by rumors circulated in pamphlets throughout Paris. The rumors claim that she has dozens of lovers, drinks the blood of poor people, holds satanic masses at Versailles, and more, when nothing could be further from the truth. On the advice of the handsome, enigmatic Captain von Bauer, Joseph II–emperor of Austria and Marie Antoinette’s brother–decides that mystery-solving violinist Theresa Schurman is the ideal candidate for a spy to discover the source of these vile slanders.
Theresa is only too glad to get away from Vienna for a while, unwilling to commit herself yet to marrying Zoltan–a Hungarian baron she met when she was fifteen–and running out of reasons to postpone her decision. She is eager, too, to explore a new musical scene and broaden her artistic education. But when the captain confounds her expectations and places her as a bookkeeper in the establishment of Rose Bertin, milliner to the queen, she begins to lose hope that she will ever achieve her musical aims–or the emperor’s goal of exposing the pamphleteers.
A chance encounter with the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an extraordinary black violinist and expert swordsman, sets Theresa on the path to unraveling the mystery. But will the chevalier’s patron, the powerful duc de Chartres, confound her efforts and put her–and the captain’s–lives in danger?
Be prepared for music, mystery, love, and murder in this riveting tale of pre-revolutionary Paris.
“The settings and situations are enchanting and varied; Dunlap is adept at on-the-fly description and at lacing intrigue with romance…Dunlap proves an arresting tour guide through this rich milieu, summoning up the past without slowing down the storytelling. Author and protagonist alike boast an epigrammatic wit. The touch is light, but the scenery and chatter are sumptuous…Theresa stands as a fascinating protagonist, a woman whose nimble navigation of society’s expectations and several burgeoning romances are exciting and inspiring, even more so than the sleuthing that drives the novel’s plot. The people she encounters are likewise memorable, complex, and surprising, especially the chevalier…This sparkling historical mystery conjures up the salons, fashion, and gossip of Marie Antoinette’s Paris, with a winning emphasis on the power of music and the roles that society allowed women.” – The BookLife Prize
Ok, this book is coming at the perfect time since Emily in Paris has renewed my long time love of all things Paris and French. But that aside, Marie Antoinette is also just an incredibly interesting woman to read about. Plus adding in some mystery and malicious rumors the drama is off the charts! And you know I live for the drama! Well, as long as I’m not in the middle of it.
For being set in the past, this book feels very refreshing! Our main character is witty and independent, something that would have been shunned during the time. And not only are our characters memorable, but so is the setting. I mean Paris is an unforgettable city regardless, but the streets just come to life as you read. We have a bit of history, a bit of creativity, and a grand mystery within.
Unlike some historical fiction books, The Paris Affair is far from dry. It will keep you hooked page after page as you get further into the mystery. Now, this is my first book in the series and I was easily able to dive into the story and follow along. HOWEVER, I do now feel the need to read the rest of the books in the series. So I would definitely say that this one was a winner!
About the Author
Susanne Dunlap is the author of nine works of historical fiction. A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, Brooklyn and Northampton, MA. She now lives in Northampton with her long-time partner, Charles, has two grown daughters, three granddaughters, a grandson, a stepson and a stepdaughter, five step-grandsons and one step-granddaughteróthat’s a total of four children and eleven grandchildren!
In her spare time she cycles in the beautiful Pioneer Valley.
Alina: A Song For the Telling by Malve von Hassell August 27, 2020 BHC Press Hardcover, Paperback, & eBook Genre: Young Adult/Historical/Medieval
“You should be grateful, my girl. You have no dowry, and I am doing everything I can to get you settled. You are hardly any man’s dream.” Alina’s brother, Milos, pulled his face into a perfect copy of Aunt Marci’s sour expression, primly pursing his mouth. He had got her querulous tone just right.
I pinched my lips together, trying not to laugh. But it was true; Aunt Marci had already introduced me to several suitors. So far I had managed to decline their suits politely.
Maybe Alina’s aunt was right. How could she possibly hope to become a musician, a trobairitz, as impoverished as she was and without the status of a good marriage?
But fourteen-year-old Alina refuses to accept the oppressing life her strict aunt wants to impose upon her. When the perfect opportunity comes along for her to escape, she and her brother embark on a journey through the Byzantine Empire all the way to Jerusalem.
Alina soon finds herself embroiled in the political intrigue of noble courts as she fights to realize her dream of becoming a female troubadour.
I don’t often read middle school age books, but when I do it’s because it’s compared to Anne of Green Gables or Little Women. Alina is a delightful story of a young girl coming of age in a very tumultuous time. It’s a really interesting look into the time period and focuses on the people that lived and persevered during this time.
This is very much a story focused on the characters, so while there is tons of character development the action sometimes falls to the wayside. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s action throughout this story, but it is all through the eyes of Alina and her own thoughts and feelings. While there were some aspects that could have been a bit more detailed, this story was extremely enjoyable and gave us a wild tale.
Alina is a wonderful story that provides a small insight into the lives of those who lived during this time period. And it’s also a reminder that life was not always easy for those who strive to live it. And although this is a middle grade book, adults and younger individuals can enjoy this story alike.
About the Author
Malve von Hassell is a writer, researcher, and translator. Born in Italy, she spent part of her childhood in Belgium and Germany before moving to the United States. She lives in Southampton, New York, close to the ocean and a bay beach where she meets flying sea robins and turtles on her morning walks with her rescue dog Loki. She enjoys reading, playing chess with her son, gardening, anything to do with horses, and dreams of someday touring Mongolia on horseback. Her works include the children’s picture book, Letters from the Tooth Fairy, written in response to her son’s letters to the tooth fairy; The Falconer’s Apprentice, her first historical fiction novel for young readers; The Amber Crane, a historical fiction novel set in Germany in the 17th century, and Alina: A Song for the Telling, a coming-of-age story of a young woman from Provence in the 12th century who dreams of being a musician.
Hardcover: 336 pages Publisher: Tor Teen (August 11, 2020) Language: English ISBN-10: 0765399512 ISBN-13: 978-0765399519
Movies, mansions, and murder in the Golden Age of Hollywood! Teri Bailey Black’s Chasing Starlight is a historical mystery from the award-winning author of the Thriller Award for Best Young Adult Novel.
1938. The Golden Age of Hollywood. Palm trees and movie stars. Film studios pumping out musicals, westerns, and gangster films at a furious pace. Everyone wants to be a star―except society girl and aspiring astronomer Kate Hildebrand, who’d rather study them in the night sky. She’s already famous after a childhood tragedy turned her into a newspaper headline. What she craves is stability.
But when Kate has to move to Hollywood to live with her washed-up silent film star grandfather, she walks into a murder scene and finds herself on the front page again. She suspects one of the young men boarding in her grandfather’s run-down mansion is the killer―maybe even her grandfather. She searches for clues.
Now, Kate must discover the killer while working on the set of a musical―and falling in love. Will her stars align so she can catch the murderer and live the dream in Old Hollywood? Or will she find that she’s just chasing starlight?
You can purchaseChasing Starlight at the following Retailers:
Praise for Chasing Starlight
“Chasing Starlight dazzles with richly drawn characters, a breathtaking mystery, and a vivid 1930s Hollywood setting. Black masterfully evokes the glamour and darkness of a mesmerizing era steeped in secrets, lies, and dreams.” ―Cat Winters author of The Raven’s Tale
“Miss Fisher meets Tinseltown in this addictive mystery full of Old Hollywood glamour and slow-burn secrets. Chasing Starlight is the journey of aspiring-astronomer-turned-reluctant-sleuth Kate as she works not only to solve a murder but find her place in the world after a tumultuous past. Come for the gossipy glam of old Hollywood; stay for a cast of charmingly quirky characters and a mystery that will have you guessing until the end.” ―McKelle George, author of Speak Easy, Speak Love
“Chasing Starlight is a mystery as alluring as old Hollywood itself―and fun! Teri Bailey Black’s story has a historical-yet-modern feel, and the setting is so creative and cinematic you’ll feel as if you’re sitting on a film set. With a cast of dream-chasers who showcase both the glamour and the grit, Chasing Starlight is delightful from the first scene to the last.” ―Jodie Lynn Zdrok, author of Spectacle
“Black delivers an atmospheric mystery with cinematic flair that’s chock full of period detail, highlighting women’s roles in front of, and behind, the camera during Hollywood’s golden age. A captivating crowd pleaser.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“This complex tale featuring blossoming romance, an edge-of-your-seat murder, and a host of characters to love and hate is recommended for collections where mysteries are popular.” ―School Library Journal
“Entertainingly conveying the glitz of Kate’s Hollywood life and romantic interests, this breezy whodunit is a fun historical escape with satisfactory twists.” ―Publishers Weekly
“A thrillingly romantic dive into Old Hollywood that will appeal to cinema and history buffs alike.” ―Booklist
Gah, Old Hollywood. The glamour. The fashion. I mean, it was also a time where actors and actresses were terribly exploited, but there was honestly no other time that produced such amazing styles and pictures. So, as you can see I am a bit of an Old Hollywood fan, so I was extremely interested in Chasing Starlight when I found out about it. And boy did it live up to its expectations!
One thing that I crave when reading historical fiction is feeling like I’ve been transported back into the time that the book is set. And Black did an amazing job at this! I loved getting a peak behind the scenes of making movies way back in the Golden Age. And for me that was the highlight of the book. It just piqued all of my interests and made it such an enjoyable read.
Now, there still was a whole murder mystery aspect. Which is honestly just perfect for an Old Hollywood setting (any Basil Rathbone fans out there?). It’s just something that pairs so perfectly with the setting and I was able to just curl up with this book and wholly enjoy it. Now, it may have been a little predictable, but isn’t that the fun of old movies? They are predictable but they’re so well done that you will want to watch them over and over because they become a friend to you. And this book will do the same!
About the Author
Photo Content from Teri Bailey Black
Teri Bailey Black is happiest when she’s creating things, whether it’s with words, fabric, or digging in the garden. Her debut novel, Girl at the Grave, won the Thriller Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and the Whitney Award for Best Debut and Best Young Adult Novel. Her second novel, Chasing Starlight, will be published June 2020. She and her husband have four children and live in Orange County, California.
The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen Publisher: Wattpad Books Release Date: June 16, 2020 Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
It’s the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he’s sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his Blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he’s not welcome there. Except for Juniper Jones. The town’s resident oddball and free spirit, she’s everything the townspeople aren’t―open, kind, and full of acceptance.
Armed with two bikes and an unlimited supply of root beer floats, Ethan and Juniper set out to find their place in a town that’s bent on rejecting them. As Ethan is confronted for the first time by what it means to be Black in America, Juniper tries to help him see the beauty in even the ugliest reality, and that even the darkest days can give rise to an invincible summer.
Daven McQueen’s Juniper Jones is a character for all ages in this sweet coming of age story set in 1950s Alabama.
Ah the 50s, a time of great fashion but perhaps not the prettiest time for society. I mean, women were meant to be housewives, racism was at the forefront, and it just overall was a time run solely by men. So, a great time period to learn about given everything going on right now. The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones was such a sweet and heart-wrenching read for right now.
I can’t say it enough that this book is coming out at the perfect time. Not only are the societal issues in the book scarily matching up to today’s climate, but the book also has a lighthearted side in having the best summer of your life. And I think we all need that right now. I mean, personally my summer has turned into mush already but now I’m ready to get up and get moving and have some fun and not feel guilty about relaxing a bit.
I think that a lot of us are burnt out right now and this book is the perfect balance between being a beautiful story as well as taking the time to forefront difficult topics. Truly just a delightful read for right now.
About the Author
Daven McQueen grew up outside of Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Brown University, where she earned a B.A. in literary arts and economics. When she’s not writing, Daven can be found tap dancing, embroidering, cooking, and eating dessert. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts and works in education.
Daven McQueen, Author of The Invincible Summer of Juniper Joneson:
ACCEPTANCE, IDENTITY, AND TRUE FRIENDSHIP
Question: What inspired you to write The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones?
Daven McQueen: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones started as a summer lakeside story – I knew I wanted to write about friends in a small town by the water, but that idea alone wasn’t actually compelling to me. This was in my senior year of high school, as I was beginning to read more books by authors of color and realizing how much those narratives had been excluded from the stories I’d read growing up. As a biracial person, I decided I wanted to write a character who looked like me in a story that would allow him (and me) to grapple with racism, allyship, and identity, and the novel grew from there.
Q: Why did you choose to set this story in the 1950’s? How would the story be different if it took place in 2020?
DM: I feel that setting this story in the 1950s allowed me to more clearly articulate the racism Ethan faces. By having it take place before high-speed communication and the 24-hour news cycle, I had space to make Ethan’s reckoning with race more internal, focused primarily on his own lived experiences. In 2020, it would be impossible for Ethan’s naivete to be so pronounced, and he would likely be dealing with racism in the form of insidious microaggressions that he and the people close to him would have to process and work through differently. I wanted to write a story that could focus on its main characters and their immediate situation without too much interference from the greater world around them, and that felt most possible with a historical setting.
Q: How did you create the character Juniper? And how did you create her relationship with Ethan?
DM: Juniper was definitely inspired by some of my favorite childhood characters – Pippi Longstocking, Anne Shirley, Stargirl, Jo from Little Women – but her character felt like she came to the story mostly complete. I’d chosen the name Juniper from a street near my parents’ house (one my my favorite ways to collect character names), and it was such a bubbly, summery name that her personality came naturally. In creating her relationship with Ethan, I was really focused on building a strong and believable friendship. I imagined her first as a character who supported Ethan through everything – then, building on that, I thought about the ways that, even if she cared for Ethan unconditionally, she would make mistakes and even hurt him because of her limited understanding of racism. I felt that allowing moments for Juniper to mess up and Ethan to call her out on it made their friendship stronger, because it could stand through difficult conversations.
Q: In the story, Ethan grapples with understanding his identity. What do you hope your readers take away from Ethan’s struggle to accept himself while rejection is all around him?
DM: I hope that Ethan’s story makes clear the importance of a community, no matter how small. Ethan’s friendship with Juniper and their community of two is what helps carry him through his summer in Ellison. And moments of community with people who understand your lived experiences, as Ethan has with his mother, are invaluable to processing pain and healing together.
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones?
DM: I found it especially difficult to write about forgiveness in Invincible Summer. It was hard to balance wanting better relationships between Ethan and the people close to him while also honoring the pain they caused him that apologies and even growth can’t make up for. In the end, I think the challenge was acknowledging that maybe forgiveness wasn’t and didn’t need to be possible, but still allowing the characters to start rebuilding their relationships.
Q: Do you have any advice for readers who identify with Ethan and face the same struggles that he does in the book?
DM: To readers of color who struggle or have struggled with their identity, whether because of racism, being the only one, or any other reason: I see you, I get you. Your feelings are valid; you’re allowed to be sad, angry, confused – and sitting with and processing how you feel is a huge first step to stepping into your power and loving who you are.
About the Author
Daven McQueen grew up outside of Los Angeles, California, and graduated from Brown University, where she earned a BA in literary arts and economics. Her works on Wattpad include December, Beautiful Dreamer, and Superior, which received a Watty Award for Science Fiction. When she’s not writing, Daven can be found tap dancing, embroidering, cooking, and eating dessert. She currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with her cat, and works in education.
About Wattpad Books
Wattpad Books, a division of Wattpad, is the leader in data-backed publishing. Leveraging billions of daily insights from Wattpad’s global community of 80 million book lovers, Wattpad Books combines the best of art and science, using human expertise and Story DNA Machine Learning technology to identify the trends, voices, and stories that are the future of publishing. By elevating the stories of diverse communities around the world, Wattpad Books is creating new space for writers and fans of every genre.
Jo & Laurie by Margaret Stohl & Melissa de la Cruz Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers Release Date: June 2nd 2020 Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Retellings
‘What it’s like to be tormented by having a writer of books in your family. What it’s like to be tortured by having a scamp in your tutelage.’
‘Well, that surely took hours.’
Margaret Stohl & Melissa de la Cruz
Bestselling authors Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz bring us a romantic retelling of Little Women starring Jo March and her best friend, the boy next door, Theodore “Laurie” Laurence.
Remember who you are. She would not let herself be pampered
Margaret Stohl & Melissa de la Cruz
1869, Concord, Massachusetts: After the publication of her first novel, Jo March is shocked to discover her book of scribbles has become a bestseller, and her publisher and fans demand a sequel. While pressured into coming up with a story, she goes to New York with her dear friend Laurie for a week of inspiration—museums, operas, and even a once-in-a-lifetime reading by Charles Dickens himself!
But Laurie has romance on his mind, and despite her growing feelings, Jo’s desire to remain independent leads her to turn down his heartfelt marriage proposal and sends the poor boy off to college heartbroken. When Laurie returns to Concord with a sophisticated new girlfriend, will Jo finally communicate her true heart’s desire or lose the love of her life forever?
Everything past was prologue, including the fact that both of them had loved, and been rejected by, other people. Only the future mattered now.
Perhaps one of the most known (and argued about) “romances” is the one between Jo March and Theodore Laurence. Growing up I was obsessed with Little Women and because of the chemistry between Christian Bale and Winona Ryder I thought that Jo and Laurie had to be endgame and refused to believe anything else, even if the book said so. HOWEVER, when I went to see the new Little Women film, and promptly reread the novel afterwards, I found myself rethinking my resolute belief that Jo and Laurie should be together. However, regardless of my currently wavering beliefs in this timeless love triangle, you best believe I was beyond excited when I found out about this book. For Jo & Laurie poses the question of: what would happen if these two star-crossed lovers actually did end up together?
What was happening was alternately dull and frightening.
Margaret Stohl & Melissa de la Cruz
Ok, so I realize that this book is going to be VERY dividing. I can understand why some people would be upset about this retelling, since Jo was meant to be an independent woman, but I was still overly excited for this book and am just taking it as an exciting “what if” instead of a slight on an epic work of literature. But I most definitely thought of the Winona and Christian Jo and Laurie while reading this book.
Margaret Stohl & Melissa de la Cruz
This book was like a walk down memory lane (even though I just reread Little Women this year). It was such an endearing take on beloved characters and I truly enjoyed reading the reimagined version of such a well known and discussed story. And that’s what this story was, it was about the characters and their relationships. But it is important to remember that while these are the characters we know and love, they’re also the authors’ take on these beloved characters. So they are both the same and different and new. So go into this book expecting a new story that reminisces the original.
About the Authors
She is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for teens including The Au Pairs series, the Blue Bloods series, the Ashleys series, the Angels on Sunset Boulevard series and the semi-autobiographical novel Fresh off the Boat.
Her books for adults include the novel Cat’s Meow, the anthology Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys and the tongue-in-chic handbooks How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less and The Fashionista Files: Adventures in Four-inch heels and Faux-Pas.
She has worked as a fashion and beauty editor and has written for many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Allure, The San Francisco Chronicle, McSweeney’s, Teen Vogue, CosmoGirl! and Seventeen. She has also appeared as an expert on fashion, trends and fame for CNN, E! and FoxNews.
Melissa grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. She majored in art history and English at Columbia University (and minored in nightclubs and shopping!).
She now divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband and daughter.
She is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling
Margaret Stohl is a #1 New York Times bestselling nerd, world-builder, video game creator, comic book writer and festival founder.
As an award-winning young adult author, she has been published in fifty countries and thirty-two languages and has sold more than ten million books worldwide. Beautiful Creatures debuted as the Amazon #1 Teen book of the year; seven of Margaret’s books have reached bestseller lists around the world.
She has published fifteen novels and graphic novels, as well as contributed to several games and countless comics since her debut. Her last book, Cats Vs Robots: This is War, was a family affair, illustrated by her child, the artist Kay Peterson, and co-written with her husband, Lewis Peterson. It also starred three of her family’s five cats.
After Beautiful Creatures was released as a feature film from Warner Brothers and Alcon Entertainment, Margaret began working with Marvel on her bestselling Black Widow: Forever Red duology; in 2017 she began writing the ongoing Mighty Captain Marvel comic, followed by the acclaimed Life of Captain Marvel miniseries, where she established a new origin story for Carol Danvers in preparation for the theatrical debut of Brie Larson as “Captain Marvel” for the MCU.
When not roaming the halls of Seattle game developer Bungie – where she oversees the creation of new global IPs – Margaret can often be seen at a Comicon or at one of the teen and youth book festivals she co-founded, YALLFEST (Charleston, SC) and YALLWEST (Santa Monica, CA), the largest in the country. Wherever she goes, you can find out more about her (and invariably her cats) at @mstohl on twitter or margaret_stohl on instagram or margaret_stohl on snapchat or at mstohl.com.
The story that we now think of as Little Women was originally published as two separate volumes written by Louisa May Alcott in 1868 and 1869.
In those pages, Jo March—one of young adult literature’s most beloved writers and sisters—writes and publishes the story of her life with her family at Orchard House.
Our own reimagined story takes place between the two volumes, after the success of the first, as Jo struggles to write the second.
Just as we expect “Lu” did.
—MS & MdlC
The Offices of Roberts Brothers, Publishers and Bookbinders
Washington Street, Boston, Massachusetts
“Little Women? That’s the title?” The author looked concerned. Above her light brown eyes and beneath her threadbare linen cap, the chestnut curls that framed her face were shaking. Miss Josephine March was all of seventeen years old, and though her girlish curves were slight, her spirit was immense.
There was nothing little about her, or her characters.
Or so she had thought.
The book in question—a volume of domestic stories, loosely inspired by her own family—was one she hadn’t wanted to write, had in fact steadfastly refused to write, until her editor had offered a notably unrefusable royalty, instead of the usual piffling advance. Only then had she dashed off a dozen chapters in a fit of pique. To her dismay, he’d loved them, and she’d had no choice but to finish the final chapters, which she’d come to deliver now.
And lo—insult beyond injury—it would be called Little Women.
“Isn’t it perfect?” Mr. Thomas Niles beamed at her over his spectacles. Her editor at Boston’s (moderately) respected and (moderately) solvent Roberts Brothers Press, Niles felt he had developed some (moderate) expertise in the publishing industry. His authors, at times, disagreed.
This was one of those times.
“Far from it!” Jo drew a worn cambric handkerchief square from her pinafore pocket and dabbed dramatically at the corner of her left eye, although both author and editor knew there was no actual tear to be wiped away.
Only fury, and there’s not a cambric square big enough in the world for that—
“It’s dismissive!” Jo seethed. “It’s pap!”
“Oh?” Niles pushed his spectacles back up the bridge of his bulbous red nose. “How so?”
“It’s . . . trite!” Jo dropped the handkerchief upon the bundled pages in front of her. They were tied with string, the requested final chapters, as painstakingly inked as the others before them. Her hands hovered, as always, just above the parcel; it was never easy, letting go of the fruit of so many stolen hours in her damp writing garret under the attic eaves, where she’d burnt her last saved stumps of candle-wax—as well as her fingers—and ruined her eyes in the service of one of these so-called little stories. The nerve!
“Trivial!” Jo huffed.
“When you say trivial,” Niles began, “do you mean—?”
“For starters, that’s not a title, it’s a literal restatement of the very essence of the plot,” Jo interrupted.
He eyed the parcel hungrily. “Yes, and I’m told it’s charming.
Jo’s head-shake was very nearly violent. “It’s not charming. I’m not charming.” After making a living writing her customary blood-and-thunder tales—or so she thought of them—this business of feminine tradition and treacle was all very unfamiliar. To be fair, with the exception of her sisters, Jo knew and liked hardly any girls at all.
“You’re very charming, Miss March. Nearly as charming as your book,” Niles said, looking amused. “And a tribute to little women everywhere.” He pulled a tin from his outer vest pocket. “Peppermint?”
Buying time with sweets, again. Niles offered them up only when he found himself in a tough conversational crossroads, Jo knew.
So that’s it, then.
There really is no changing the title.
“Thank you, no.” Jo looked out the window as a horse and carriage clattered up Washington Street, spraying mud in every direction, including onto the glass of the (moderately) well-kept Roberts Brothers offices. She tried not to wring her hands in despair and failed. “I suppose it is what it is. Perhaps it doesn’t matter what you call it. I dashed the thing off in weeks, and for what?”
“Money,” Niles said. “The almighty dollar. Which you happen to need, not unlike the rest of us. Speaking of earning your wage, are those the chapters you owe me?” He reached for the bundled pages between them.
“It’s not about earning my wages,” Jo said, tightening her grip on the manuscript. “Not just about that.” She’d written it on assignment, because Niles was experimenting beyond the standard Continental Gothic that came flowing from Jo’s pen so easily.
And, yes, because of the money.
The result was a collection of domestic moments, sure, but it had surprised even her; it wasn’t just feminine drivel, even if the title might perhaps now doom it to be. She hadn’t expected it to come as quickly as it had, or as pleasantly. Not that she would admit that to her editor. “Money’s not a reason. Not a proper one, anyway.” Even if we are poor as rats.
“Many people—most—seem to think otherwise,” Niles said, yanking his handkerchief from his pocket and mopping his brow, which was beginning to perspire as they argued. He was never without a handkerchief; decades of sobbing authors, Jo suspected, had trained him thus.
“Not all people,” she sniffed.
“Certainly my investors do. You aren’t the only family with war debts, you know.”
Jo had no answer for that, for he was right. She supposed she would never be considered a real writer now, never be taken seriously by the public. Never invited to lecture at the Athenaeum with Ralph and Henry and . . . Who was that other chap? Perhaps this was what happened to feminine scribblers who aspired above their little place in the Concord world.
Strike another blow to the weaker sex—and all that rot.
“Charming,” she sighed.
“Ideally, you’ve written equally charming last chapters as well.” Niles eyed the stack hopefully. “Seeing as my typesetters have very nearly caught up with you.”
Jo snorted, which was a good indication of her feelings concerning the process that put her words on the page. Lottie Roberts, who manned the letterpress, had once changed “Christopher Columbus!”—Jo’s most oft-uttered oath—to “My Heavens!” and Jo had never forgiven her. This was, truthfully, not an isolated event; “Blazes!” had been mysteriously printed as “How sad!”—“Hell” as “The Down Below”—“Blow me down!” as “No!”—and “A French pox upon you, Adventuress!” had been eliminated altogether.
“Your typesetters go too far.” She glared, repeating the warning not to change a word of her text for the twentieth time.
“Yes, well.” He snapped shut his peppermint tin. “When women of polite society are allowed to speak like common sailors, you are welcome to terminate their employment yourself, Miss March.”
“And I look forward to the day, sir.” Jo pursed her lips.
“I am confident you shall meet it.” Niles smiled. For despite all indications to the contrary, the two were fond friends. Niles reminded Jo of her father, who had left Concord years earlier to join the Union army as a chaplain. Mr. March had come home only once in all that time—when the Union prevailed and the war was won, three years ago. Shortly thereafter, he’d left once more to volunteer in the Reconstruction efforts in the South, helping to build schools and churches for previously enslaved people. And though his letters usually came frequently, the March women felt his absence keenly.
But Jo still had Niles, and if they fought, they fought well, each considering the other the more harmless version of their species. (The dollar a story Niles paid to run Jo’s wild romantic adventures didn’t hurt, either. Neither did the fact that subscriptions to his circular, The Tall Taler, had gone up by forty-three since engaging her. Forty-three!)
“Call it what you will. No one will read it, anyway.” Jo tapped her fingers along the brown-paper-wrapped parcel. “I don’t know why you believed you could sell it.”
“Perhaps.” Niles nodded.
“I should have used a different name instead of my own,” she sighed. “Eustacia. Thomasina.”
“Possibly.” He nodded again. “Eustacia Emerson is lovely. I’m quite partial to Thomasina Thoreau, but Hildegarde Hawthorne could also do just fine.” He winked.
Hawthorne. That was his name, the other Athenaeum chap!
“Fine.” She picked at the string about the parcel. “Take my daft little book of scribbles and do with it as you will.”
“I’ve seen dafter. Trust me.”
“Trust you? You have no sense of anything, least of all publishing! Why, you couldn’t sell Romeo and Juliet if I wrote it for you.”
“Admittedly a bit somber for my taste—I do prefer a happy ending to my sensation stories. So do our Tall Taler readers. Why couldn’t Romeo have married Juliet and settled down in a nice Tuscan villa? A sequel by any other name . . .”
The author bit her lip; it kept her from responding in a discourteous manner.
“Now give it here,” the editor said, sliding his fingers impatiently across the blotter atop his desk and taking the manuscript from her hands.
“Take it.” She scowled.
Manuscript obtained, Niles traded his peppermints for the bottle of peppermint schnapps he kept in the bottom of his drawer for special occasions.
“A toast!” he offered, pouring two thimblefuls into two cups.
Jo grudgingly accepted.
“To our Little Women!” her publisher cried. “And to the bright future of Jo March, Thomas Niles, and Roberts Brothers! May 1868 prove to be a banner year for us all!”
Jo clinked her glass against his. It seemed rude otherwise. With a final sigh and a shake of her curls, the author drank to her defeat. The editor drank to her success.
The Silence of Bones by June Hur Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Release Date: April 21st 2020 Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Historical, Historical Fiction
I have a mouth, but I mustn’t speak;
Ears, but I mustn’t hear;
Eyes, but I mustn’t see.
For women were not considered threats to the capital, as men were, when darkness fell.
1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.
As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.
But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly. June Hur’s elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh.
For the first time since my brother had disappeared, I felt seen.
You really have no idea how excited I was when I found out about this book! I absolutely love anything set in Joseon. It’s just always so dark and beautiful, like the cover of The Silence of Bones. I mean, the more I look at it the more I see and pick up on. I do seriously love this time period though and I wish there were more books set in it. But this book was honestly so much more than I could have hoped for!
Loyalty. I may waiver, but I always fight to return to it.
This books is so much more dark and gritty than I had expected. I feel like stories set in Joseon either go the cheesy/cheery route or the dark/gritty route and I was pleasantly surprised that this one fell into the latter category. The mystery was so good and when I say this book goes dark, I mean it goes dark. But the writing remains beautiful throughout. It has those dark undertones, but still is very lyrical.
Be careful. Cross no one. Obey always
The characters were also really amazing. Seol (which always confuses me when Korean characters are named that) is always underestimated but she’s got pluck. She uses her ability to fly under the radar to her advantage, and I can appreciate that level of scrappiness. Seriously though, this book was just so amazing!
About the Author
JUNE HUR (‘Hur’ as in ‘her’) was born in South Korea and raised in Canada, except for the time when she moved back to Korea and attended high school there. Most of her work is inspired by her journey through life as an individual, a dreamer, and a Christian, with all its confusions, doubts, absurdities and magnificence. She studied History and Literature at the University of Toronto, and currently works for the public library. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.
Her debut novel THE SILENCE OF BONES (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, April 2020) is a murder mystery set in Joseon Dynasty Korea (early 1800s), and also a coming-of-age tale about a girl searching for home. It was recently selected by the American Booksellers Association as one of the top debuts of Winter/Spring 2020. She is represented by Amy Bishop of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC.
Fate. A shackle as solid as truth— unchangeable, unmovable. On the day of my departure, my sister had told me how long I was bound by the government to serve in the police bureau, away from home, from family. For one generation, she’d whispered.
My entire life.
That is, I would be free by the age of forty-one, as old as death itself.
A thunder of fluttering wings filled the sky in all directions, the birds overhead taken to flight. A shriek in the distance pierced the air; a terrified horse. Officer Kyŏn charged ahead, while it took me a scrambling moment to realize what was happening. I jabbed my heels into Terror’s side and followed him through the thicket, over the protruding roots, branches hitting my face.
Then we reached a glade and my heart stopped. Across the stream stood Inspector Han, his sleeve blood-soaked, his hand inching toward the sword at his side. A matter of paces away prowled a tiger, a deep growl rumbling from its white- and- black- striped chest. Powerful paws with sharp claws. The beast looked as large as Inspector Han himself.
“Do not move,” the inspector said, though not to us. Past the thick cluster of leaves was a horse struggling on the ground, shaking its head as blood continued to ooze from its wounded side. And hunkered down behind the creature was Maid Soyi.
Unable to look away from the scene, I hissed to Kyŏn, “Shoot it!”
A muscle worked in Officer Kyŏn’s jaw. Clearly he was incensed at an order from a girl, but he drew out an arrow and nocked it to his bow. As he aimed, the iron point trembled. What resolve he had, I watched falter and crumble.
“I’ll do it.” I snatched the weapon from him and rode out into the glade for a better aim. My motion caught the tiger’s attention. Good. My fear had reached its climax, and another sensation flooded in, a powerful longing that churned within me: the desire to matter.
Spectacle (#1) by Jodie Lynn Zdrok Publisher: Tor Teen Release Date: February 12, 2019 Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
A YA murder mystery in which a young reporter must use her supernatural visions to help track down a killer targeting the young women of Paris.
Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column for Le Petit Journal. Her job is to summarize each day’s new arrivals, a task she finds both fascinating and routine. That is, until the day she has a vision of the newest body, a young woman, being murdered–from the perspective of the murderer himself.
When the body of another woman is retrieved from the Seine days later, Paris begins to buzz with rumors that this victim may not be the last. Nathalie’s search for answers sends her down a long, twisty road involving her mentally ill aunt, a brilliant but deluded scientist, and eventually into the Parisian Catacombs. As the killer continues to haunt the streets of Paris, it becomes clear that Nathalie’s strange new ability may make her the only one who can discover the killer’s identity–and she’ll have to do it before she becomes a target herself.
Sensational (Spectacle #2) by Jodie Lynn Zdrok Publisher: Tor Teen Release Date: February 11, 2020 Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Jodie Lynn Zdrok’s Sensational is the thrilling follow-up to Spectacle in which a killer haunts the Paris World’s Fair of 1889.
The 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris is full of innovations, cultural displays, and inventions. Millions of visitors attend over the course of several months…so no one would notice if a few were missing, right? Maybe—but someone is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the guillotine with a display of their own: beheaded victims in some of the Exposition’s most popular exhibits.
Nathalie Baudin’s ability to see murder scenes should help, but she’s suffering the effects of her magic more than ever before. Fortunately she has other Insightfuls to team up with—if they can be trusted.
Ah Paris, how I love it! The drama! The fashion! The culture! The food! I mean, I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. It is actually the only city I could ever see myself living in. When I visited I just instantly fell in love and felt right at home. So, as you can guess, I always love to read books set in Paris! There’s just something so magical about the city, and I love when the books add in their own sets of magic to one of my favorite places.
I have come to realize that I actually really love duologies. It’s probably because they always leave me wanting more. I like feeling like I need more over feeling like the series is dragging on and on. I also extra love when these duologies are set in one of my favorite settings AND involve magic. I also really love how well Zdrok interwove the history of the times into the story. It makes it seem more plausible and really brings to life the characters and themes.
I also loved all of the pettiness in Sensational! I’m a petty person myself so I enjoy the snark and pettiness when characters start to let it eek out. The second book takes a little bit to take off compared to the first, but once it does the story really starts to come full circle. And I love that aspect about the duology, it makes it more impactful when elements from the first book begin to affect the characters in the next one. It’s just so much more realistic to life.
Jodie Lynn Zdrok holds two MAs in European History and an MBA. She enjoys rooting for Boston sports teams, traveling, doing races (to offset being a foodie), and posting cat photos to Instagram. She works in technology and lives in North Carolina by way of Massachusetts.
The Degenerates by J. Albert Mann Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers Release Date: March 17th 2020 Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
These two weren’t wild, but Thelma kept them.
J. Albert Mann
In the tradition of Girl, Interrupted, this fiery historical novel follows four young women in the early 20th century whose lives intersect when they are locked up by a world that took the poor, the disabled, the marginalized—and institutionalized them for life.
She loved the soft weight of the babies in her arms, even if they did reek worse than the scummy sewage bubbling in the harbor channel.
J. Albert Mann
The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there certainly don’t think so. Not Maxine, who is doing everything she can to protect her younger sister Rose in an institution where vicious attendants and bullying older girls treat them as the morons, imbeciles, and idiots the doctors have deemed them to be. Not Alice, either, who was left there when her brother couldn’t bring himself to support a sister with a club foot. And not London, who has just been dragged there from the best foster situation she’s ever had, thanks to one unexpected, life altering moment. Each girl is determined to change her fate, no matter what it takes.
This book is one of those devastatingly beautiful difficult books to read. I mean it’s covering a time where women were just locked away if they served no purpose. Out of sight out of mind, it was easier to tell them that they were feeble minded and would never amount to something. You know, the frustratingly not too long ago time where women were deemed lesser than.
Rose knew a lot of things people thought she didn’t.
J. Albert Mann
This book, just wow. Not only is it taking a look at such an amazingly important sliver of our history, but the cast is utterly amazingly diverse. None of these girls are feeble minded, they were just dealt a rather sad hand. I’m rarely a fan of multiple perspectives, but this book I was so excited to switch up the perspectives and learn more about each of the girls. They were just such a wonderful mix of feisty, inquisitive, and tough to the bones.
‘Run!’ the old lady growled, before she was knocked from her chair by an angry silver-haired cop looming over her.
J. Albert Mann
While this may be a difficult book to read because of the subject, it is most definitely not a difficult book to read because of the writing. I was immediately swept away into the story and couldn’t put the book down. To say I stayed up a smidge too late is probably an understatement
About the Author
J. Albert Mann is the author of six novels for children, with S&S Atheneum Books for Young Readers set to publish her next work of historical fiction about the Eugenics Movement and the rise of institutionalism in the United States. She is also the author of short stories and poems for children featured in Highlights for Children, where she won the Highlights Fiction Award, as well as the Highlights Editors’ Choice Award. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and is the Director of the WNDB Internship Grant Committee.
Jennifer is represented by Kerry Sparks at Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency.
Win 1 copy of THE DEGENERATES by J. Albert Mann (US Only).
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*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review*