Title: Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories From History Without the Fairy-Tale Endings
Author: Linda Rodriguez McRobbie. She is a freelance journalist, this is her first book.
Readers: Professors JoLee and Irene Adler, publishing professional Gigi, attorney Elizabeth H. and librarian Mary Liz.
Summary: You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders—but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers minibiographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating read for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.
Our Take: These short real-life tales of princesses are fun and frightening, great for short reads. Not perfect for big history buffs who want lots of detail, but great for the casual lover of royalty.
Author: Kathryn Davis. She is the author of several previous novels, including The Thin Place.
Genre: Literary Fiction, Fantasy
Readers: Professors Michal and JoLee, stay-at-home moms Dana and Marina, and teacher Shannon.
Summary: Mary and Eddie are meant for each other—but love is no guarantee, not in these suburbs. Like all children, they exist in an eternal present; time is imminent, and the adults of the street live in their assorted houses like numbers on a clock. Meanwhile, ominous rumors circulate, and the increasing agitation of the neighbors points to a future in which all will be lost. Soon a sorcerer’s car will speed down Mary’s street, and as past and future fold into each other, the resonant parenthesis of her girlhood will close forever. Beyond is adulthood, a world of robots and sorcerers, slaves and masters, bodies without souls.
Our Take: Our readers all agree that this unusual book is mystifying, strange and otherworldly. Some loved it but others didn’t.
Title: Ghost Hawk
Author: Susan Cooper. She is the Newbery Award-winning author of several books for children, including The Dark is Rising series.
Genre: Middle-Grade, Historical Fiction
Readers: Stay-at-home moms Kristi, Shawna and Sarah L., librarian Zoe and professor JoLee.
Summary: On the winter day Little Hawk is sent into the woods alone, he can take only a bow and arrows, his handcrafted tomahawk, and the amazing metal knife his father traded for with the new white settlers. If Little Hawk survives three moons by himself, he will be a man.
John Wakely is only ten when his father dies, but he has already experienced the warmth and friendship of the nearby tribes. Yet his fellow colonists aren’t as accepting of the native people. When he is apprenticed to a barrel-maker, John sees how quickly the relationships between settlers and natives are deteriorating. His friendship with Little Hawk will put both boys in grave danger.
Our Take: We all love the subject matter, it’s a fascinating look at an often overlooked period of American History. You may want to read it before your kids, or save it for middle-schoolers. A great adventure story, but loses some steam in the 2nd half.
Title: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy
Author: Elizabeth Kiem. This is her first novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller
Readers: Professor JoLee, copyeditor Lori, lawyer Cait, day care teacher EMarie and retiree Sulyn.
Summary: Marina is born of privilege. Her mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union’s prima ballerina: an international star handpicked by the regime. But Sveta is afflicted with a mysterious second sight and becomes obsessed with exposing a horrific state secret. Then she disappears.
Fearing for their lives, Marina and her father defect to Brooklyn. Marina struggles to reestablish herself as a dancer at Juilliard. But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that Marina shares her mother’s “gift,” and has a vision of her father’s murder at the hands of the Russian crooks and con artists she thought they’d left behind.
Now Marina must navigate the web of intrigue surrounding her mother’s disappearance, her ability, and exactly whom she can—and can’t—trust.
Our Take: Definitely a YA with crossover appeal and a unique story to tell. A couple of our readers wanted more, but the overall verdict is it’s a tight and fun thriller.
Title: Courting Greta
Author: Ramsey Hootman. This is her first novel.
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Readers: Stay-at-home moms Katie and Colleen B., professor JoLee, nonprofit director Kimberly and victim advocate MJ.
Summary: Samuel Cooke knows most women wouldn’t give him a second glance even if he were the last man on earth. He’s the cripple with the crutches, the nerdy computer genius every female past puberty feels compelled to mother. So when he leaves his lucrative career to teach programming to high schoolers, romance definitely isn’t on his radar.
Perhaps that’s why Greta Cassamajor catches him off guard. The sarcastic gym coach with zero sense of humor is no beauty – not even on the inside. But an inexplicably kind act toward Samuel makes him realize she is interesting.
Samuel is certain she won’t accept his invitation to dinner – so when she does, he’s out of his depth. All he knows is that he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her as long as he can. Pretending he’s got his class under control? Easy. Being vulnerable enough to admit why he ditched his programming career for teaching? Um, no. That would require honesty. And if there’s one thing Samuel can’t live without, it’s the lies he tells himself.