adventure · historical fiction · retellings

Review: Cleo


Author: Lucy Coats
Publisher: Orchard Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Retelling

Summary from Goodreads:

Her precious mother is dead – and it isn’t an accident! The young Cleopatra – Pharaoh’s illegitimate daughter – must flee the royal palace at Alexandria or die too. As her evil half-sisters usurp the throne, Cleo finds sanctuary at the sacred temple of Isis, where years later she becomes initiated into the secret Sisters of the Living Knot. But now Isis’s power is failing, Egypt is in danger, and Cleo must prove her loyalty to her goddess by returning to the Alexandria she hates. She must seek out the hidden map which is the key to returning Isis’s power – on pain of death. But will she be able to evade her horrible sisters? And will she find dreamy Khai, the über-hot Librarian boy she met as she fled Alexandria years before? Cleo’s powerful destiny is about to unfold…

Gorgeous and evocative, this captivating new YA novel imagines the life of the teenage Cleopatra before she became the icon we think we know.

Comments:

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

I wanted to like this book so bad! After all, it’s ancient Egypt and it’s Cleopatra! Unfortunately, all I could settle for is 2.5 stars.

I want to start off by congratulating the author for such a wonderful idea of retelling Cleo’s life. The cover looks awesome and catchy. I also loved all the references to ancient Egypt (and Greece) incorporated in the story – the gods, the pharaoh, even the embalming process! After all, Egyptians are well-known for embalming the dead and mummification. That list located at the end was helpful because Egyptians names and terms weren’t easy to remember.

The characters were a different story. Maybe they were destined to be interesting characters but there was nothing striking about them that would make them unforgettable. Cleo was a bit whiny. Yes, she put a lot of trust into the goddess Iris through her silent pleas for help, she was stubborn and childish. She claimed that she wanted to serve Iris, but when told of what was expected of her, she wasn’t willing. I did like the portrayals of loyalty. It was a very admirable trait for those who wanted to protect Cleo.

The major hurdle for me was the copy I received. It somehow omitted some letters, e.g. finger became nger, the was e, left was ft, and it was harder to read! I would have given up at some point but decided against it since the book deserved a chance and it wasn’t the author’s fault. I hope this gets fixed.

My Rating: ★★ (2.5)

cultural · family · historical fiction

The Red Umbrella

Author: Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Date finished reading: February 05, 2014

Comments:

This is a story about a young girl whose family was caught up in the turmoil brought about by the Cuban Revolution. Because of the increasing threats and continuous stripping of freedom, Lucia Alvarez’s parents decided that the children (Lucia and Frankie) leave Cuba and head to America. They believed that this would provide a safe haven for the children.

The book is easy to follow because this book is intended for elementary students or teens. The writer gave a simple explanation of the Cuban Revolution although she doesn’t go so much in detail about it. What she focused on were more on the effects of it – to Lucia and her family, of families in general who were present at that time. She was able to narrate it well because it was based on her parent’s own experience who escaped to the United States.

The title was appropriate for the story even though one might fail to guess what the connection truly was. The red umbrella was abhorred by Lucia, insisting that it is a cause for her embarrassment. That was when she was selfish and wished to go against her parents; she didn’t understand that they were protecting her. However, she soon understood that the red umbrella was a symbol of strength, the same time that she realized that her family was the most important to her.

Now I feel more informed about the Cuban revolution 🙂

“Different is not always a good thing.”

My Rating: ★★★★

fantasy · historical fiction · urban fantasy

The Golem and the Jinni

Author: Helene Wecker
Date finished reading: February 04, 2014

Comments:

My actual rating is 4.5

My first thought when I saw this book: What a pretty book cover! And the sides were printed blue. Interesting! And then I saw the reviews. Majority of the people said they liked this book so I decided to give it a try.

It’s hard for me to truly describe what I feel for this book. I needed to warm up to be truly immersed in the storyline. Yes, it was easy to understand on the surface but there were underlying themes waiting to be grasped. The thing I truly loved about the plot is its unpredictability. It beckons the reader to continue to bury oneself in the story to be able to find out what will happen. Even though I was already halfway in the book, I was uncertain on the direction the author is taking me into! Helene Wecker gave a wonderful development of the characters, providing us with their backstories, their current situation, until we figure out the role they play in the Golem and the Jinni’s life. I liked that. It was like drinking a smoothie with all the ingredients perfectly complementing each other.

The thing that I think would throw people of is the severity of the story. It wasn’t made to humor the reader. It was more of informing, of making aware, of making one think. It probes on the issues of religion, atheism, desires and fears. Also, there is the issue with names. It was hard for me to remember the names because I didn’t even know how they were pronounced.

Other than that, I really loved it. I give praise to the author for a unique story that has not been seen in a while.

“Sometimes men want what they don’t have because they don’t have it. Even if everyone offered to share, they would only want the share that wasn’t theirs.”

My Rating: ★★★★☆(4.5)

drama · historical fiction · young adult

Revolution

Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Date finished reading: January 22, 2014

Comments:

Actual rating is 2.5

This had been a tough read for me – almost to the point of giving up. I checked the reviews and some people said the same thing. I’m proud to have endured and finished though. I had been thinking what is it that put people off so they end up putting the book down. Personally, there were too much details/info in the beginning – names, songs, blahs, smart ass kids – that most have a hard time relating to. Then, there’s Andi. Oh, who could stand this kid? Just full of angst!

I am not very familiar with the French Revolution but I’m glad to have even learned something. Of course that’s one of the great things about historical fiction is that you get to learn. But if you are a noob like me, then it would probably decrease your interest just because it isn’t much of the basics. I enjoyed the whole sleuth thing though, of discovering about Louis-Charles and Amade Malherbeau. I appreciate the author’s diligence in researching for facts then intertwining it with her fiction.

Despite of all the hate in the book, I’m glad it ended well. The last chapter had the decency to show Andi’s change of heart. I’m happy for her but of course she was just lucky that Virgil was there to save her twice.

It was a smart read but I don’t think it caters to all young adults.

“Life’s all about the revolution, isn’t it? The one inside, I mean. You can’t change history. You can’t change the world. All you can ever change is yourself.”

My Rating: ★★

historical fiction

Fever 1793

Author:  Laurie Halse Anderson
Date finished reading: December 29, 2013

Comments:
This was an enjoyable read as I get sucked into the world of young Mattie during the pestilence of 1793. The writing was simple enough to understand, but it is very engaging that you would get to love the characters. You feel a snowball of emotions – happiness, panic, grief, hope, determination – conveyed to make the readers understand what it takes to be a part of the crisis. It was like a trip to the past, cheering that Mattie would not lost hope until the first frost. . One thing I liked was that I learned something – it was informative and I felt more grateful for the present knowledge in the medical field. I even had my sister search what yellow fever was. I would definitely recommend this as a good read
My Rating: ★★★★☆(4.5)