Quick Picks: The Hired Girl

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Title:  The Hired Girl

Author:  Laura Amy Schlitz

Characteristics:  Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Class and society, Religion, Diary

For:  Grades 6-10

Fourteen year old Joan Skraggs wants nothing more than to live the dream that her mother and the heroines from her novels inspired in her, to get a good education and become a school teacher.  However once Joan’s mother passes away Joan is left to take on all of the ‘women’s work’ in the house looking after brothers and an uncaring and often cruel father.  The drudgery of housework begins to wear on Joan but she holds out hope for a better future until her father pushes her too far.   Armed with a few possessions and a little money her mother managed to tuck away for her, Joan sets out on her own determined to find paid work and build a better future for herself.  Danger awaits a solitary young woman at the turn of the century who dares strike out on her own.  Will Joan achieve her dreams and be the heroine of her own story or will her daring move to strike out on her own write a tale entirely new?

This book is written as a diary and so can easily appeal to reluctant readers who have the opportunity to read little bits at a time.  Historical fiction is one of my very favorite genres so I was excited to finally have an opportunity to explore this story.  Schlitz incorporates a few historical elements, including social customs, into the story without alienating readers who aren’t as fond of historical fiction as I am.  I was intrigued by the religious discussions that are brought up in the book as I don’t often find them in the novels I read.  Joan hopes to become Catholic but is taken in by a Jewish family.  Both Joan and the family hold very strongly to their respective faiths, but they do take time to try and understand the faith and customs behind each.  The family respects Joan’s religious education and in return Joan respects the religious practices the family observes for their holidays and Sabbath days.

The book also incorporates works of art into the story and displays the pieces in the back of the novel for curious minds.  This was a little extra something that caught my interest!  I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.


Quick Pick- The Chemist

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Title:  The Chemist

Author:  Stephenie Meyer

Characteristics:  Action, Spy, Governement, Romance

For:  Adults

Stephenie Meyer’s newest novel, The Chemist, is an action packed page turner!  Unlike her first book for adults, The Host, which took it’s time in developing the exposition, The Chemist, jumps right into the gripping story of an escaped government laboratory employee on the run for her life.  Alex’s old employer has long wanted her dead but suddenly offers her an out from a life on the run when they appear to need her special services.  Alex takes the offer with a grain of salt, wisely, and soon finds herself on the run with a ‘dangerous’ target that’s falling in love with her and his twin brother who couldn’t hate her more.

Meyer does a fantastic job of weaving together action, romance, and intrigue without seeming too over the top.  I was pleasantly surprised that I couldn’t predict most of what happened and found the new mixed genre and more realistic story line refreshing from Meyer’s tendency to work with fantasy elements.  (I do enjoy Meyer’s vampires and her aliens, but it was interesting to read about her scientists as well!)  While I believe that many adults will enjoy this novel, I think female readers will enjoy it more as it is told from a female protagonist’s point of view.  (Just my humble opinion.)

This is one of my first ‘grown-up’ books in a while.  I found the five hundred page book to be a little daunting at first but quickly made my way through it.  I would give it four out of five stars.

Quick Pick- The Tell-Tale Start

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Title:  The Tell-Tale Start (The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe, #1)

Author:  Gordon McAlpine

Illustrator:  Sam Zuppardi

Characteristics:  Mystery, Series Fiction, Spooky/Scary

For:  4-6 graders

Edgar and Allen are the orphaned great great great great grand nephews of the famous Edgar Allen Poe and, like their uncle, their creative minds are interested in all things odd, dark, grim, and spooky. Their love for the peculiar is not all they share however, the boys have a unique trait that their uncle was never able to possess.

Edgar and Allen share a strange cerebral connection through which they are able to share thoughts, experiences, knowledge, and ideas without communicating to one another! This incredible bond has caught the attention of an evil and dastardly scientist, Professor Perry, who plots to kidnap the boys and murder one of them. The Professor hopes that the boys’ special connection won’t be severed even in death and believes this connection will allow him to talk to the dead!

From up above old Uncle Edgar carefully watches the plot unfold as the scientist hatch his evil plans. He works to warn the boys by sending a series of secret messages to the twins on posters, license plates, even through fortune cookie fortunes! Will Uncle Poe’s messages save the day or will they put the boys in harm’s way?

First in the series “The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe”.

This review appeared on the Prince William Public Library system’s Goodreads page as well.  Check out more of my and other great reviews there.