Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame (fiction) - country estate, family secrets uncovered

book cover of Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame published by Simon Schuster
An upper-crust British country estate,
filled with portraits, servants, and secrets...
welcome to Wentworth Hall.

In the peaceful golden years before WWI,  new arrivals coincide with public whispers of old concerns that the Darlingtons would much rather keep silent.

Who's blabbing to the newspaper about the county's most-influential family - the new French nanny?
The teen cousins about to inherit a diamond mine fortune?
The stablemaster fearing Lord Darlington's cost-cutting plans?

A nice bit of mystery combined with historical fiction, Wentworth Hall  will please readers who enjoy stories about families and relationships, as well as those who adore the Downton Abbey television series. 

Did the butler do it? Where has Maggie's crazy independent streak gone? What's her little sister Lila up to?  Find out in hardback or eBook at your local library or independent bookstore.

Book info: Wentworth Hall / Abby Grahame. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012.  [publisher site

My Recommendation:

Maggie’s sojourn in France has calmed the impetuous teen, but her return to Wentworth Hall in 1912 is rattled by the arrival of Teddy and Jessica. The recently orphaned twins need to stay at the family estate for a few months, just until they turn 18, but their time in the English countryside promises to be anything but quiet.

Perhaps some of the vast fortune they’ll inherit soon will stay there, hopes Lord Darlington. Maintaining Wentworth Hall and its large staff is quite costly, and his investments haven’t done well at all. And now Lady Darlington’s new baby boy, the expensive nanny from France, a stable full of horses – where do the expenses end? Marrying his elder son to Jessica Fitzhugh, or Maggie to dashing Teddy, or both…hmm.

Keeping up appearances in British society is priceless, so when the local paper prints scandalous articles which can only refer to the Darlingtons, everyone at Wentworth Hall begins to look over their shoulders – someone inside the estate is writing the articles, hinting at secrets that have long been hidden.

What does the writer want from the family? How far will they go to stop the newspaper stories? Can any shared secret truly stay hidden?  How can Maggie repair the friendships that she broke off when she went abroad?

A treat for fans of genteel British nobility, family histories, and mystery, Wentworth Hall holds more than its share of secrets.(One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, September 24, 2012

XVI, by Julia Karr (fiction) - in future, 16 isn't so sweet

book cover of XVI by Julia Carr published by Penguin
Sweet Sixteen for American girls can be cake and candles, maybe new driver's license...

But a 16th birthday in Nina's future Chicago means no more protection from sexual assault.

Now added to the government stranglehold on the Media which bombards city-dwellers with advertisements around the clock and all-pervasive surveillance is a mystery about Nina's long-dead father, who may be alive after all!

The over-sexualization of girls by the media has certainly begun. Is it time for young women (and those who protect them) to fight back before a coercive XIV  society takes away their freedom?

While sexuality is a main theme of XVI,  it is not sexually explicit, so read it now, then rush to your local library or independent bookstore for more of Nina's story in the sequel, Truth.

Book info: XIV / Julia Karr. Speak, 2011.  [author's website]    [publisher site]    

My Recommendation

Nina’s friends can’t wait to get their XVI tattoo, showing they’re old enough for anything, but this 15 year doesn’t want to be a “sex-teen” that guys can have at will.

Her best friend Sandy might stay a virgin to get into FeLS to move up a social tier or might succumb to the constant media sexteen hype. Nina will do anything to stay out of the program, especially since her mom’s creepy married boyfriend Ed is a FeLS Chooser. If only her dad hadn’t died on the night she was born, forcing them from Tier 5 into the poverty of Cementville…

A bare wrist and implanted GPS should keep her safe in 23rd century Chicago, but Nina has seen violence against young teen girls that the Governing Council denies. Lately, there have been so many police forays looking for NonCons rebelling against the GC, sudden city-wide silences in the constant Media vid streams, heightened audio surveillance everywhere.

And now her mom has been attacked, leaving Nina to care for her little half-sister in her grandparents’ tiny welfare apartment. Mom’s last words warn her to keep Dee away from Ed and reveal that Nina’s own father might still be alive and hiding out in Chicago!

As Nina looks into her parents’ past, she meets people who knew them both in their youth and realized that their anti-GC opinions would put their lives in danger. Sal and Wei at her new school are level-headed about XVI, cautious about accepting Media news as complete truth.

Could her dad really be alive after all this time? Why did Mom want to make sure Ed never saw Dee again? Why is the GC suddenly stepping up security? What’s the truth behind FeLS?

Set in a future that divides the Haves and Have-Nots further apart with each generation, XVI considers questions of personal liberty, freedom of thought, and social justice through Nina’s eyes and heart. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.