Review: The Journey of Little Charlie

journey-little-charlieBook: The Journey of Little Charlie
Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Genre: MG Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Little Charlie Bobo comes from a poor, sharecropping family in South Carolina. When tragedy strikes, Little Charlie finds himself heading north with Cap’n Buck, on a journey to bring back three fugitive slaves in Dee-troit, Mitch-again.


1) Little Charlie is quite likeable, albeit he’s rather naive. He certainly takes a while to put two and two together. But, ultimately he does. I also like how “Little Charlie” isn’t really all that little. He’s 12 years old and 6’4.

2) I loved how Curtis handled Little Charlie’s diction. It definitely added flavour to these characters. I’m not always a fan of writing out dialect, because I often find it hard to read. But I had no trouble with this book.

3) Three scenes really stood out for me. The first was the one where Little Charlie returns with bad news for his ma. Wow! I thought this scene was superb in how it handled the raw emotions of the mother, and including Little Charlie’s reactions to her.

4) The second scene involves the slave-catcher. Cap’n Buck is the villain of the piece. (And yes, along with Little Charlie, we get to hang out with the villain for most of the book!) But there’s a scene where the Cap’n is trying to wash himself in the river. All of a sudden, we don’t just have a character who is pure evil. We see that he’s vulnerable, and we (like Little Charlie) feel momentary pity for him. Now, don’t think this makes him any less of a villain. It doesn’t. The Cap’n continues to be despicable throughout the story. But I like how Curtis makes him a little human. It makes him more of a well-rounded villain. (Note: Even better, this is the scene where Cap’n Buck drops the hint of the fate of Little Charlie’s mother… something Little Charlie only figures out much later. Something that just seals the deal on how despicable Cap’n Buck truly is.)

5) Third scene to stand out… Inside the barber shop in Detroit. It somehow reminded me of a Charlie Chaplin scene. (Charlie Chaplin from The Great Dictator.)

6) I liked when Syl and Little Charlie both realize that they are the same the same height and the same weight. (And the reader realizes, that they’re both a little gullible.) It’s an endearing moment. And slightly weird, since it comes at a time in the book when you want to shout at Syl to get out of there.

7) I love the Author’s Notes at the back of the book, explaining the historical nugget that inspired this book. A real young man by the name of Sylvanus Demarest…

8) Being from Canada, I love the Canadian connection! And I love the differences shown between the reactions of the authorities in Detroit (U.S.) versus the townspeople in Chatham (Canada). (BTW, if you ever get the chance to visit the museum in Buxton, Ontario, do it! Below are some pics I took last April.)


1) Okay, so this isn’t a huge criticism. (More like a warning. And “warning” is not really the right word either.) It took me a few chapters to realize that Little Charlie Bobo is a poor, white kid from a share-cropping family. I guess I assumed he was a black slave. The book cover is slightly unclear. So, I was a little confused for a few chapters because the historical stuff didn’t seem to mesh with Little Charlie’s situation. Like the date of the novel being set in 1858 in South Carolina, well before the Civil War. (Note: I don’t really like to read reviews/blurbs about books for fear of spoilers. Especially, if I like the author’s writing style. As for Christopher Paul Curtis, I love his books, so I went into this book blind.) I’m not sure HOW Curtis could have fixed this.

2) The dog and the horse have very similar names: Stanky (dog) and Spangler (horse). And speaking of the dog, I was waiting for her to come back into the story. I don’t know quite how. Maybe à la Incredible Journey?? So, I’m not sure why Curtis makes such a fuss about the dog when he has the dog drop out of the plot quite early on in the book. (Unless… did I miss something??)


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Another good book from Christopher Paul Curtis. Going in, I was thinking this was going to be another Underground Railroad book. And it is, in a way… just from the slave-catcher’s perspective. Which is quite intriguing. I think it really only works because of the character of Little Charlie Bobo. (I’d recommend it for ages 10 and up. Maybe age 9?)


5 Reasons I Loved Caroline

CarolineSo, this book is the best book I’ve picked up this year. Yay!

It almost gets a 5-star rating. (But I NEVER give out 5 stars. Well, hardly ever.) And what’s weird is that I was hesitant to even read this book in the first place. But, once I started, well…

So what would I rate this book? 4 1/2 stars. Which is an amazing star-rating from me. Folks, it’s practically 5 stars!

Well, instead of 5 stars, I’ll give 5 reasons why I loved this book…

Caroline // by Sarah Miller

#1 – It’s Faithful to the Old

What makes this such a wonderful book is that it stays true to the original. Sarah Miller’s Caroline is a parallel novel to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie. Miller calls her book a “marriage of fact and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s fiction.” Let’s stick to LIW’s fiction for the time-being. If you are familiar with Wilder’s work, you may know that she fictionalized some of the events from her life… For the sake of story. (Probably with the help of writer/daughter Rose Wilder Lane who helped her edit the books.)

And I agree with her that story trumps history when it comes to novels. And that’s what LIW’s books are: novels. Well-crafted works of fiction. With a wonderful foundation of history.

But Caroline, like the Little House books, also stays true to history. In spite of the fiction, the history of the pioneers shines through.

#2 – …And the New

Which brings me to the “new stuff”. Or the stuff that didn’t make Little House on the Prairie.

The main event in Caroline that stands in contradiction to the original Little House books is the timing of the birth of Baby Carrie. Miller follows the historical record for this one; Carrie Ingalls was indeed born on the Kansas prairie. Which means… Some of the things that happen in the story are all that more amazing when you realize that Caroline was pregnant during this time! Like the building of the house? The event with the well? Talk about strong, pioneer women… Go, Ma!

To tell the truth, one of the most memorable moments in the original book is where Laura demands that her Pa get her the little, black-eyed “Indian” baby to have as her own. Reading this scene in Caroline takes on a whole new meaning. Here’s Laura, about 4-years-old. She knows that her ma just got a baby (out of nowhere). Suddenly, Laura’s desire for a baby of her own makes just that much more sense. And since she has no idea where Baby Carrie came from… well, why not want a baby that is right before you?

#3 – The Difference in POV

It was amazing to read this story, which I know so well, from a different point of view. Instead of experiencing this adventure through the eyes of a little girl, we get to see it all from a mother’s perspective.

And not just any mother, but a pregnant mother, heading away from family and friends. A mother who wants her children to grow up to have a proper education. And they’re moving to a place where there will be no schools! A mother who has her own fears, hopes, and desires.

One of the wonderful examples of the differing POV is the story of Mr. Edwards on Christmas Eve. Again, retold from a mother’s perspective of not having anything to make her children’s Christmas… Powerful.

#4 – It’s a Pioneer How-To

One thing I loved about the original Little House books is all the “how-to” information. Like digging a well, and building a house, and… well, everything. When I first read these books, I ate this stuff up. It made me feel like I could be a pioneer if it came down to it. I could dig my own well, and I wouldn’t make the same mistake as Mr. Scott. No siree!

And the “how-to” of Sarah Miller’s Caroline is also there, albeit in a different way. We don’t just get a rehash of Wilder’s descriptions. While Laura and Mary had plenty of time to shadow their Pa, watching his every move, Caroline doesn’t. She has plenty of her own work to do. And so, the book focuses on her view point. On the bits of how-to that effected her.

Which made by adult heart so happy. And yes, it makes me feel like I could be a pioneer if it ever came down to that.

#5 – No Politically-Correct Revisionism…

Just for the sake of being Politically Correct. And finally, I loved the fact that this book did not fall into some politically-correct retelling. It documents the prejudices of the settlers, warts and all. Now, I love that the book doesn’t condone it (which is a good thing!), but it documents it… like a good historian. Miller does have Caroline struggling and questioning her own fears and reactions. But, ultimately this book remains true to how the Ingalls family (and others like them) saw the world around them. The historian in me was pleased and satisfied with her treatment of the material.

(Mini Rant. I HATE books/movies/etc that attempt to make the people in history as “tolerant” as we are. First off, I have a feeling that we have our own little prejudices for which future generations will mock us. I feel that history should be told as it is. Not that we condone the prejudice. No, I don’t mean that. But when we acknowledge that the past, just as the present, and the future for that matter, isn’t and never will be perfect.)


I love the cover of the book! Although, I will say it reminds me of Caroline as played by Karen Grassle from the television show. The real Caroline would probably have been wearing a sunbonnet!

And finally, a Warning. Yes, this book is a reworking of a famous children’s book, but that doesn’t mean it’s meant for children. It’s meant for adults, folks. There are a couple sex scenes. Of course, we’re talking married sex. If you can get that into your head. (I know. Weird, right? It’s a little hard to go there with characters that are kind of like your own parents.)

Quick Pick Reviews #4

The theme for this set of Quick Picks is: Children Dealing with Loss.

Note: Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Lemons // by Melissa Savage

LemonsThe cute cover of this book, plus the plot surrounding Bigfoot, makes this an unlikely book dealing with the topic of death and loss. But, it does.

Lemonade is the main character, and she’s dealing with the death of her mother and being suddenly dropped into the life of a grandfather she’s only just met. And then there’s Tobin, the neighbour kid whose father hasn’t come home from Vietnam.

Overall, I liked the book, but I thought the Bigfoot stuff a little odd. It certainly didn’t quite pan out like I thought it would. I didn’t necessarily hate the ending, but I didn’t super love the ending either. I did like the relationship developed between Lemon and Tobin. And I liked how Lemon’s struggles are portrayed in the book, often simmering like a volcano ready to explode.

(Side note: Does it bother other people when book mothers sack their child with a name like Lemonade? I know, she was born in the 60s, but still…)

Rain Reign // by Ann M. Martin

20575434Rose (Rows) loves homonyms. And her dog, Rain (Reign, Rein), is a 3-homonym name. But then Rain goes missing during a hurricane. Rose is devastated by the loss of her dog. But Rose has a plan and she’s enlisting the help of a sympathetic uncle.

This is a very realistic portrayal of Rose, who has some form of autism. I love that the book is from her point of view. Too often, we’re the ones on the outside looking in. Ann M. Martin was able to show the difficulties, but also makes Rose sympathetic.

I found the relationship with her father sad. But the uncle and his patience and understanding is beautiful to see. And it’s also wonderful to see Rose grow in how she interacts with the world around her.

Flip-Flop Girl // by Katherine Paterson

flip-flop-girlThis is the story about a family who moves to a new town after the death of the father. The girl (Vinnie) and boy (Mason) both deal with the loss of their dad in different ways. Mason refuses the talk, and Vinnie takes her anger out on her brother.

For Vinnie, it’s not only losing her dad, but also her best friend. A move means a new school. And that’s where she comes across the Flip-Flop Girl, who is dealing with her own loss. But she’s a little… weird. Definitely different from the other kids in Vinnie’s class.

I liked how Paterson connects the threads of Vinnie and Mason’s story with the Luce’s story, especially through Mason, the brother.

While this book is not as powerful as Paterson’s masterpiece Bridge to Terabithia, it’s still a good read. Vinnie’s reactions and thought-process is very interesting.


Review: Hunted

HuntedBook: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Genre: YA, Fairy Tale Retelling
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: A retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast… set in medieval Russia. When Yeva’s father doesn’t return home from one of his hunting trips, she goes out to find him. She ends up a captive in the castle of a Beast.


1) Yeva, aka “Beauty”. I liked her. I particularly like how she grows during the course of the story. For her recognition of her own faults, as she comes to see the good in the Beast.

2) I like what Spooner does with the story. It doesn’t follow the Disney storyline (you know, with roses and magical furniture). And it doesn’t fully follow the original French version either. (For example: Beauty’s two sisters are not quite the same as the jealous duo that end up as statues at the end of the actual fairy tale.) And yet, the elements that make up the story of Beauty and the Beast are definitely in this book.

3) I loved the inter-chapters that give us insight into the Beast. I particularly like that they begin as fairly cryptic. Then as we get to know him, they help us understand his frame of mind.

4) The imagery and motifs surrounding the Firebird, and what Spooner does with the Firebird plot-wise in this book, is nicely done.

5) Bonus points for incorporating the magical fairy tale “rule of three” into Yeva’s own story. It’s hard to explain how this is done, but it’s done very well. It’s almost a breaking of the fourth wall of sorts. But it doesn’t feel gimicky. It works with the plot.

6) The cover is beau-ti-ful!


1) The tag-line is “A Beauty deadlier than the Beast”. I thought this was a stupid tag-line. First of all, it almost turned me off to reading the book. Secondly, after reading the story, I don’t think it’s true. It makes the Beast sound like a wuss. (He’s not.) Nope. If I were on the marketing team for this book, I would have STRONGLY recommended to remove this ridiculous tag-line.


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This is a delightful retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story. If you like this fairy tale, then you should have a blast reading this book!

ARC Review: Hidden Women

Hidden-WomenHidden Women  // by Rebecca Rissman
Genre: MG, Non-Fiction (ages 8-12)
Release Date: February 2018
My Rating: 4 Stars*

*Note: I received a copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Basic Plot: This is a non-fiction book about the African-American women who did the math that launched rockets into space… From Katherine Johnson to Dorothy Vaughan to Mary Jackson to Miriam Mann and others.


1) Each chapter deals with one of the women who worked at NASA during the years of the Space Race. It was a nice way to organize the information. For the most part, Rissman tells one main story per woman. For example, Katherine Johnson’s story is that of John Glenn insisting that they “get the girl to run the numbers” before he is launched into space. He knew he could trust HER where he didn’t know what to think of this new IBM computer contraption.

2) There’s a nice balance of NASA history interspersed with the history of desegregation. Again, Rissman chooses a vignette to illustrate. The story she uses is that of Miriam Mann’s quiet defiance against segregation in the cafeteria.

3) I thought Rissman did a nice job explaining the high (and low) points of the Space Race. I actually learned some things I didn’t know before.

4) I like the pictures scattered throughout the book. And the graphics that incorporate the math and physics involved in rocket science are nicely done. We get to see old photographs of the women who worked at NASA, alongside photos of the rockets and astronauts they helped launch into space.


1) Sorry, but I am NOT crazy about the title of this book. It certainly invokes the book Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly. But that title IS clever. I’m guessing that since this book is for kids, they decided to go with a title that is more on-the-nose. Which is okay. It’s just not great.


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I thought this was a nice dive into the history of these women at NASA. For ages 8-12, it’d be a great resource for any classroom!

Review: Young Man with Camera

young-man-wth-cameraBook: Young Man with Camera
Author: Emil Sher
Genre: YA Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: T— is the young man with the camera. And he’s dealing with a lot of issues, including a disfiguring scar, and the school bullies. He finds an escape in photography. Then he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a homeless woman. 


1) Love the stuff about photography. As a photographer myself, I enjoyed the analysis of various famous photos that the teacher shows to T—. In addition, we have the actual black and white photos scattered throughout the book show a young photographer’s attempts at viewing the world around him.

2) T—’s relationship to the various secondary characters, especially Lucy, the homeless woman. I especially liked the realism captured with her character. There’s a moment where he can’t reach her (it obvious she has some form of mental illness), and he doesn’t know what to do. I liked how that played out. Sometimes with mental illness, there isn’t anything we can do… in the moment. But T— still comes back another time. He doesn’t give up on Lucy.

3) Another relationship I enjoyed was that of Sean and Watson the dog. What a good friend Sean is.

4) While I didn’t like the bullies, I thought they were well-portrayed. It was painful to see T— trying to deal with them. I liked his “unsaid” moments… things he said in his mind, but wouldn’t say out loud. He does this throughout the book, and not just with the bullies, but with many of the adults around him.

5) Other elements I liked… Jared’s character arc. I like how that played out. Especially with regards to the photo that T— gives him.

6) I like the cover of the book with the blue-toned black and white image. Especially with how the camera is covering the identity of the boy’s face.


1) The adults around T— are somehow amazingly dense (with the exception of Ms. Karamath). The Principal especially and the police officer. I don’t understand why they think T— is such a trouble-maker. Because he’s so quiet? Because Ryan lies about him all the time? I didn’t quite buy this, and so it felt forced to me… like the author said that’s how it is, so there.

2) T—’s attraction to fire… I didn’t think this was set up right. So, he likes to go out and watch houses on fire. I don’t see how that marks him as having SUCH a fascination with fire. Why not make him carry matches around? Why not make it so he light fires in the park? Why not make it so he lights fires in order to take photos of the flames. THOSE would seem like it would earmark somebody with an attraction to fire. But none of that happens in the book (except that he goes to see a few house fires). Oh, and his made-up Zito scale to measure the intensity of a fire. That’s actually quite cool, except nobody knows about this scale but us, the reader. (I’m not even sure Sean know about the Zito scale.)

3) The thing that got to me most of all is the ending. This is what downgraded a 4-star book to a 3-star book, in my opinion. [*SPOILER] I don’t understand why he doesn’t tell his parents, teachers, principal, police that he didn’t set the fire! Why doesn’t he show the pictures of Lucy’s attack!! It doesn’t make sense!!! Especially once Ryan is charged… Can’t these adults see?! I think the author was trying for realism by not having a sugar-sweet-every-works-out ending, and I like that idea in theory. But to make that work, T— would have had to have been a real trouble-maker. If he had been caught, early on in the book, setting other fires (I mean really caught, not framed by a look-alike), then I could see why the adults around him wouldn’t trust him, including his parents. He has SUCH a good relationship with his teacher. Her message that you can change things through photography isn’t fully played out. He has the pictures to change things, but he never uses them. Like I said, I wasn’t convinced by this ending, and so it seemed off to me. [END SPOILER]


My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – Overall, I liked this book. I liked the message of the teacher that you can change things through photography. Of course, when it comes to photography, maybe I’m biased 😉

Review: Hidden Figures

Hidden FiguresBook: Hidden Figures
Author: Margot Lee Shetterly
Genre: Adult, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Nonfiction. This is story of the African-American women who worked behind-the-scenes at NASA during the days leading up to and including the Space Race. These women overcame the racism so ingrained in the South to become instrumental in sending American rockets to the moon and bringing the astronauts safely home again.


1) I love this title. And I love how the title has so many meanings behind it.

2) History and space. These topics are a perennial favourite for me. I love the behind-the-scenes peek into what made the space program successful.

3) I love it when I learn something I didn’t already know. Like that Virginia was the original Houston?! We associate the space race with Houston and with Cape Canaveral. But who knew that it actually had its beginnings in Virginia. And of course, the story of these women who made the rockets fly.

4) I wanted to read this book after having seen the movie. Whenever I watch movies like this one, I want to know what’s real and what’s Hollywood. Okay, so there was a bit of Hollywood in the movie. Like the stuff with the “Colored Bathrooms” being a big problem for Katherine Johnson. According to the book, this was not so much a problem for her. Not that it wasn’t an issue, but the story comes from Mary Jackson. I found it interesting that they chose to switch that up a bit for the movie.

5) I loved the Star Trek Uhura story. At first, it seems like it comes out of nowhere, and yet it makes complete sense. (I also happen to like Star Trek!)


1) There are a lot of characters. And some, don’t seem quite as important as others. But, I guess they each had their own stories to tell. And sometimes the women’s stories ran together so I couldn’t remember who was who. This isn’t a major critique. Just a minor one.

2) The cover of the book isn’t the most appealing cover I’ve ever seen. It certainly doesn’t live up to the coolness of the title. (It rather looks like it was designed by a mathematician instead of a graphic designer.)


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Ever since watching the movie, I’ve wanted to find out more about this part of history. I enjoyed learning the true histories of these women. And, thanks to my high school Physics class, I was able to appreciate the difficulty of their amazing work.

Review: The Crown’s Fate

Crown's FateBook: The Crown’s Fate
Authors: Evelyn Skye
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: Sequel to The Crown’s Game… Vika is the Enchanter for Pasha, the Tsarevich-soon-to-be-Tsar. And Nikolai? He has been banished to a shadow-state. But now, he’s out to snatch the crown from Pasha. A whole new duel is put into place to see who will ultimately wear the crown. And Vika is caught in the middle.

**NOTE: This review is FULL OF SPOILERS for both The Crown’s Game and The Crown’s Fate.**


1) I was glad the Nikolai was dead-dead. I like how he was turned into a shadow-creature, similar to the “mask” he wore when they started the Crown’s Game in the first book. (However, at times, it was really hard because his personality is SO different from the last book. See section below…)

2) I actually liked Vika better in this book. Not that I didn’t like her in the last book. But, this book definitely made me cheer more for her. I thought the band on her arm, forcing her to be at the beck and call of Pasha, a necessary plot point. All magic in these types of books MUST have some drawback. This is Vika’s thorn.

3) Yuliana. I hated Yuliana. And then I liked her and admired her. And then I hated her again. And then I liked her. She is such a conundrum for me.

4) The Decemberist Plot. I really liked how the author was able to fit in some historical Russian events, like the Decemberist Plot. As I was reading, I was trying to figure out how she was going to make it all work out with the fictional elements.

5) The Ending: The Good. There are things I love about the Ending and things I hated. My fairy-tale-happy-ending heart was very pleased overall with this ending. Vika and Nikolai will work together as Enchanters. Yay! (Unfortunately, it’s not all good. See below…)


1) I was expecting a few things to play out. Like the volcano? They mention Vika’s mother in the first book in connection with the volcano, but I didn’t feel this was played out in this book. In other words, why mention it in the first place?! Let Vika’s parentage remain more mysterious. Not knowing anything is sometimes stronger than knowing it, but it never goes anywhere plot-wise. (And, no, taking us to the volcano in a dream doesn’t qualify as being important to the plot. That scene really could have taken place anywhere.) Note: Compare this to Nikolai’s backstory with his mother. Now that is key to the plot!

2) Opening scene in the Kazakh Steppe. Again, I was expecting this to somehow play out at the end. Did I miss something? Vika does this cool freeze-frame thing, but that’s it. We don’t hear about it anymore. Why???

3) After his father’s death, why is Pasha NOT considered the Tsar? In other royal circles, where it’s clear who is next in line for the throne (in this case, like Pasha, the son of the late Tsar), the heir is immediately considered to be the new monarch from the moment of the death of the old monarch. This doesn’t “wait” until the coronation. The coronation just confirms this. Now, granted, my knowledge of royal protocol comes from the British royal system. The statement announcing the death of George VI in 1952 was: “The King is dead. Long live the Queen!” The Queen, of course, being his daughter, Elizabeth II. Her coronation didn’t happen for over a year later, to give the people time to both mourn the death of their king (and her of her father), and prepare for the celebration of a new monarch. Maybe it’s different in Russia???

4) Not sure I fully believed in Nikolai’s sudden lust for the throne.

5) The Ending: The Bad. As mentioned before, there are things I love about the Ending and things I hated. I’m not sure I believed the Ending. I’m having trouble imagining in my mind the scene where Nikolai suddenly realizes what he’s done to Vika as he and Pasha rush over to her poor, unconscious body… And everybody just stands there? All 10,000+ of them? Waiting and watching as Nikolai does his thing with the hand (which made me think, Oh, so Vika’s like Luke Skywalker now!)… This time of reconciliation and forgiveness and understanding seemed to come too easily. Why didn’t this happen earlier? Why is this happening in front of a huge audience of Russians? When it comes down to it, I just didn’t believe it.

6) As I was reading, I predicted that Nikolai would not die in the end. (I was right.) But, I also predicted that Pasha would die. (I was wrong.) I primarily made this prediction based on Nikolai’s name. Because I knew there was a Nicholas I of Russia during this time period. I checked, and yes, Nicholas I does indeed succeed Alexander I in 1825. So, I was surprised that Evelyn Skye did not have this play out! All she had to do was kill Pasha. (Not by Nikolai’s hand, of course. That would have been awful!)



My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I am probably being generous with this rating. It’s not as good as the first book, but I did find it an engaging-enough read. Since Nikolai is my favourite character in the book, I did find this book hard to read at times because he was so… different. And dark. Very dark.

Review: The Crown’s Game

The Crown's GameBook: The Crown’s Game
Authors: Evelyn Skye
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic Plot: It’s 1825 and two Enchanters are being groomed to help the Tsar Alexander rule Mighty Russia. But the Tsar can only have one Enchanter. This is where the Crown’s Game comes into play… Which will pit Vika against Nikolai in a deadly duel that neither of them asked for.


1) I must say that I really liked both Enchanters as soon as I met them. Usually, you’re drawn to the first protagonist you meet, but somehow the author pulls this off with BOTH her protagonists. Although, if I had to pick, I think I liked Nikolai slightly more. I liked his style of magic. (Maybe it was the putting the books in order at the library that tipped the balance!) Not that I didn’t like Vika. I liked her, too!

2) I liked the contrast between the Mentors: Sergei and Galina. Sergei is definitely more likeable, but I like how Skye humanizes Galina towards the middle/end of the book. Of course, being such as she is, she still has a trick up her sleeve that serves the plot. And ultimately, she comes off as self-serving.

3) Pasha and Yuliana. I generally liked Pasha, the Tsarevich. I definitely liked the friendship between him and Nikolai. Although I thought he was a little stalkerish when it came to Vika. Regarding, Yuliana. When she first comes into the story, I thought I would like Yuliana, but her character just went downhill for me. (Which is one of the reasons we have the ending of the book that we do. So, this is not necessarily a bad thing.)

4) Very cool how Evelyn Skye was able to incorporate some real Russian history into the book. (I’m glad she put the historical notes at the end, including where she deviated. Of course, this is historical fantasy, so don’t expect things to be super historical.)

5) I looked forward to seeing how each Enchantment would play out. In fact, the closer I got to the end, I actually forced myself to stay up (past my bedtime) to finish the book. I wanted to find out what happens!


1) Some of names I thought were a little odd. Like Renata. I’ve never heard this name in connection with Russia and, frankly, it doesn’t seem like a Russian name to me.

2) I felt there were a lot of characters to keep track of. Almost too many. I’m not sure some of them were necessary… like Renata. Or even Ludmila.

3) For some reason, I didn’t like the overt Cinderella connections in the story. Like the glass pumpkin and the bakery called the Cinderella Bakery. It was too much “in your face”. I would have preferred a more subtle approach. (The masked ball was more subtle.)

4) The Ending. As I was reading this, I thought “This is a 4-star read!” And then came The End. Sigh. I’m not sure how it should have ended but, this ending was a let-down for me. I want to like it. I like the idea of the nobleness of what happens at the end. Here’s to hoping that the second book is able to revive this rating back to its 4-star place. (UPDATE: You can read my review of The Crown’s Fate here.)


My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – This book had a bit of a Hunger Games vibe to it… albeit with an historical, Russian theme running through it… With magic, of course. I liked The Hunger Games, so this was a plus for me. (So close to being 4 stars!)

Review: Full of Beans

Full of BeansBook: Full of Beans
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Genre: MG Historical Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic plot: A prequel of sorts to Turtle in Paradise. Beans and his gang live in Key West. They have all sorts of plans to make a little cash (Hey! It’s the Depression)… including some shady dealings. That’s when some government men arrive to turn the place into a resort.

What’s Cool

1) I enjoyed returning to some fun characters. Beans is a great narrator. I love his antics and his voice. And how can you not love his diaper gang?

2) Love the setting. And the historical back-drop of Key West being turned into a tourist destination during the 1930s… this was new information to me. And I always like to read about things I don’t already know in history.

What’s Not Cool

1) I’m not sure why this bothered me, but I didn’t like how Mr. Stone kept calling Beans “Peas”. And Beans corrects him everytime, but he still doesn’t get it. I think it comes across as a little too gimicky on the author’s part. Like she was trying too hard??

2) Dropping Ernest Hemingway’s name was a little too obvious. I feel maybe Beans would have referred to him as “Mr. Hemingway”.

Final Thoughts

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – After reading Turtle in Paradise a few years back, I enjoyed coming back to Key West to hang out with the gang.