The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Historical, Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

In this Newbery Honor book, a thirteen-year-old boy struggles to survive on his own in the wilderness of eighteenth-century Maine.

When Matt’s father leaves him on his own to guard their new cabin in the wilderness, Matt is scared but determined to be brave and prove that he can take care of himself. And things are going fine until a white stranger steals his gun, leaving Matt defenseless and unable to hunt for his food. Then Matt meets Attean, a Native boy from the Beaver tribe, and soon learns that people called the land around him home long before the white settlers ever arrived. As Attean teaches him more about his own culture, Matt must come to terms with what the changing frontier really means. Now with an introduction by critically acclaimed writer Joseph Bruchac about the historical context and the relationships between Native peoples and white settlers in the eighteenth century.

Matt knew life alone in the wilderness of Maine wouldn’t be easy, but he had no idea just how many challenges he would face.
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Matt is in a tough situation. He and his father have worked hard to build a new cabin for their family. However, his father needs to go back to Massachusetts and retrieve the rest of the family. Matt will have to take care of the cabin and garden for months while his father is gone. The garden is especially important as the family will depend on a good harvest to survive the winter. It is a heavy weight for a young boy to bear.

At first, things go smoothly enough. Matt follows his father’s instructions and settles into a comfortable routine. I admire his bravery and sense of duty. However, when Matt’s gun is stolen, he finds himself with limited options for obtaining food and no way to defend himself. As if that weren’t bad enough, a disastrous encounter with bees leaves Matt injured and sick. Matt’s story could have ended there, but he is found by Saknis and his grandson, Attean, members of the Beaver tribe.

Matt and Attean have an interesting relationship. At first, Attean clearly wants nothing to do with Matt. Attean only visits Matt because Saknis wants Attean to learn to read English. Matt isn’t exactly fond of Attean either, but he is grateful to Saknis for his help after the incident with the bees and wants to show his appreciation, so he agrees to teach Attean. The lessons do not go well. At first, both boys are stubborn and unwilling to look past their differences. However, the walls between the two gradually begin to break down. Attean enjoys the stories that Matt reads, and Matt learns to make snares and a bow and arrows. Matt finds himself looking forward to his treks through the forest with Attean. The tension between the two eases as they take the time to learn from each other and eventually become friends. When Matt’s father isn’t back at the appointed time, Matt is faced with a difficult choice. Will he risk facing winter alone in the cabin, or leave with Attean and his family?

I read The Sign of the Beaver when I was young, and I found the plot to be just as captivating as an adult. I especially enjoyed reading this book with my children and watching them experience it for the first time. We were all on the edge of our seats as Matt and Attean faced bees, a bear, metal traps, and the arrival of winter. I will say that the portrayal of the Native Americans is somewhat problematic. I highly recommend reading the introduction before reading the novel as it addresses some of these issues. Despite these issues, I believe at its heart The Sign of the Beaver is a story of friendship and definitely worth reading.

I truly enjoyed rediscovering The Sign of the Beaver. It is a tale of friendship and adventure sure to capture the imaginations of readers young and old alike.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
Publisher: Yearling
Genre: Contemporary, Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.

How much trouble the Penderwicks get into?
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The Penderwick’s Summer takes an unexpected turn when the place they had planned on vacationing at is unexpectedly unavailable. When Mr. Penderwick hears of Arundel cottage, he books it sight unseen. From the moment they arrive, the Penderwicks are awed by the beauty of Arundel and are itching to explore every inch of the estate. As I read, I shared their excitement. I could clearly picture the grounds and the mansion in my mind and couldn’t wait to find out what adventures awaited the Penderwicks! Even better, Jeffrey turns out to be a great friend. Despite a rocky start, the Penderwicks welcome him into their group with open arms.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Tifton, Jeffrey’s mom, is less than thrilled to see the sisters roaming around her property. She is determined to win a prestigious garden competition and wants the girls to keep to their side of the wall. However, the Penderwick sisters can’t turn down the possibility of a good adventure. Will their curiosity get them into more trouble than they bargained for?

The Penderwick sisters are certainly an entertaining bunch! Each sister has a distinct personality. Rosalind is the oldest and is the voice of reason and caretaker of her sisters since their mother passed away. Skye the next oldest. She is a bit of a tomboy and definitely the most outspoken of the group. She often doesn’t think before she speaks. Consequently, her mouth frequently gets her into trouble. Then comes Jane. She has an amazing imagination and has her heart set on becoming an author. She is very dedicated to her craft, and I have no doubt that she will be successful! Batty is the youngest. She has a way with animals and a special bond with their loveable dog, Hound. I like them all immensely and couldn’t possibly pick a favorite!

Jeffrey had no idea how much his life was going to change when the Penderwicks arrived! Jeffrey seems very lonely to me. He has no close friends and his mother has future all planned out. Mrs. Tifton wants Jeffrey to go to a military academy. Jeffrey wants to study music. Despite her stiff and strict exterior, Mrs. Tifton means well. She truly loves her son and he loves her, but she doesn’t see how unhappy Jeffrey is. However, their relationship is not broken beyond repair! They just need to have a long, honest conversation. I kept my fingers crossed that they would make the time to talk. Fortunately, with a little help from his new friends, Jeffrey just might find the courage to talk to his mom about his dreams.

The Penderwicks is such a sweet story. While it is definitely character driven, the plot is interesting, if a bit slow at times. In the space of a few weeks, the Penderwicks find themselves experiencing heartbreak, running from a bull, tracking down lost rabbits, and facing the wrath of Mrs. Tifton!

I truly enjoyed reading The Penderwicks. It is a heartwarming tale perfect for young and old alike. I’ve grown attached to the sisters and look forward to reading more about them in the next installment of this charming series!

The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler

The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
Samurai Detective #1
Publisher: Puffin Books
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

While attempting to solve the mystery of a stolen jewel, Seikei, a merchant’s son who longs to be a samurai, joins a group of kabuki actors in eighteenth-century Japan.

One night in the Tokaido Inn will change Seikei’s life forever.
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I recommend this book for the young adult age group if they are reading this tale on their own for a couple of reasons. First, there is quite a bit of discussion about seppuku. This is when a samurai commits suicide rather than suffer dishonor. This is significant and essential to understanding Japanese culture, but it is a heavy topic. I believe the book can be read aloud to younger children, but again I would recommend plenty of discussion on what seppuku is and why it was viewed positively in Japanese culture during this period in history. Second, there is also some gore surrounding a death near the conclusion of the book. It isn’t overdone, but there is enough detail that younger readers might be sensitive to that material.

Seikei is a very likable boy. He’s smart, curious, and honest. He tries to live his life according to the samurai ideals. In fact, he dreams of being a samurai, but as the son of a merchant he knows he can never be one. His future is already laid out for him, or so it seems. Everything changes when Seikei witnesses the crime at the inn. Seikei soon finds himself working side by side with the samurai magistrate, Judge Ooka. Not only will Seikei help solve the crime, but he’ll also have the opportunity to learn more about the ways of the samurai. For Seikei it is the experience of a lifetime. His excitement is palpable, and I admired his fierce determination to do his best. However, can Seikei ever go back to the life of a merchant after tasting the life of a samurai?

It becomes apparent about midway through the book who the thief is, but the motive remains a mystery. It soon becomes clear that there is much more to the thief’s plan than the theft of a jewel. As Seikei digs for the truth, he uncovers a plot that has been years in the making. As I raced through the pages, I found myself asking if the thief was indeed the true villain!

There is a lot of historic detail packed into this exciting mystery! Japanese customs, etiquette, class structure, religious views, etc are all explained within the context of the story. As a result, the pacing never suffers. It is all simply part of Seikei’s life. This is can spur some great discussion on Japanese class structure in the 1700’s under the rule of the shoguns, and dare I say, make learning about history fun!

I had a lot of fun reading The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn. Seikei is a likable character, the mystery is compelling, and the conclusion is gripping. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery with a good dose of historic detail!

Finding Soul by T.L. Searle

Finding Soul by T.L. Searle
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

“Darovit are not born
They are created
By something even we cannot see”
Benjamin SOLOMAN

Four-year-old Jonathan Miller was rescued by a girl with rainbow hair, shrouded in black, who flew like magic along the ground. Eighteen-year-old Jon, obsessed with fantasy and the supernatural, dreams of her still.

Now she has returned. She says he’s no longer safe and that he needs to come with her; that the necklace she gifted him is no longer enough.
But who is she?
And who is he?

Joined by his best friend, Miles, Jon is led on a frightening tour of an Otherworld he knew nothing about; a missing Seer, the nefarious Otherworld hit men the Vipers, witches, Not-Mermen and the ugly toads that had once captured him.

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They are Darovit;
Their scaled Dar their constant companions.

But she is not just his hero
And he was not just a boy
And the Otherworld
Is hunting him still

Jon’s fantasy world is about to become very real.

Jon’s life hasn’t exactly been easy. After his abduction and subsequent rescue, years of therapy and his mother’s constant desire to move from place to place have taken their toll on Jon. He hopes that college will be a chance to have some semblance of normalcy. Unfortunately, danger is and has always been much closer than Jon realizes.

I felt so sorry for Jon. His entire world is turned upside down the moment his guardian, the Translucent, comes crashing back into his life. She does have another name, but I don’t want to spoil the story by revealing how she gets it. Before Jon knows it, he and his friend Miles are running for their lives forced to depend on a woman he knows nothing about other than she saved him as a child. Jon soon learns that an entire race of magical beings lives on Earth hidden from humans. Jon’s roller coaster of emotions and mini breakdown are completely understandable. In fact, I think his reaction to the magic world is one of the most realistic I’ve read. Often when I’ve read stories in this genre, the characters acclimate to the information a bit too quickly for my taste. That is certainly not the case with Jon. He needs time to absorb everything. With the help of his friend Miles and the Translucent, I have a feeling he’ll be fine.

I found Jon’s relationship with the Translucent strange. Since she saved him, he developed a crush on her. His art notebooks are filled with images of her face. He’s imagined her as a perfect guardian angel for years. The reality is quite different, and it was a little sad to see Jon’s perception of her crumble. I must admit I did not like the Translucent at first. She is very abrupt and seems rather indifferent to the emotional upheaval Jon experiences. She barely speaks to Jon and Miles, and when she does, she only says the bare minimum. While I understand that the Translucent is old and not used to interacting with humans so much, it was still painful to watch.

Fortunately, Miles is there to keep things from being completely unbearable. He’s an extremely entertaining character with a good sense of humor. While Miles understands the gravity of their situation, he always seems to find a way to lighten the mood and rarely fails at making Jon smile. I must also add the Miles has some secrets of his own. At first, I was worried that Jon would see this as a betrayal, but his friendship with Miles is strong and weathers this revelation. Before long, the Translucent begins to warm to Jon and Miles and the unlikely trio turn into quite the team.

I enjoyed reading Finding Soul. The pacing was great, and I had fun watching Jon, Miles, and the Translucent bond. The Darovit are intriguing, and I look forward to learning more in the next installment of this series!

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
(Chester Cricket and His Friends #1)
Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: Historical, Fiction, Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

One night, the sounds of New York City–the rumbling of subway trains, thrumming of automobile tires, hooting of horns, howling of brakes, and the babbling of voices–is interrupted by a sound that even Tucker Mouse, a jaded inhabitant of Times Square, has never heard before. Mario, the son of Mama and Papa Bellini, proprietors of the subway-station newsstand, had only heard the sound once. What was this new, strangely musical chirping? None other than the mellifluous leg-rubbing of the somewhat disoriented Chester Cricket from Connecticut. Attracted by the irresistible smell of liverwurst, Chester had foolishly jumped into the picnic basket of some unsuspecting New Yorkers on a junket to the country. Despite the insect’s worst intentions, he ends up in a pile of dirt in Times Square.

Mario is elated to find Chester. He begs his parents to let him keep the shiny insect in the newsstand, assuring his bug-fearing mother that crickets are harmless, maybe even good luck. What ensues is an altogether captivating spin on the city mouse/country mouse story, as Chester adjusts to the bustle of the big city. Despite the cricket’s comfortable matchbox bed (with Kleenex sheets); the fancy, seven-tiered pagoda cricket cage from Sai Fong’s novelty shop; tasty mulberry leaves; the jolly company of Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat; and even his new-found fame as “the most famous musician in New York City,” Chester begins to miss his peaceful life in the Connecticut countryside.

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Chester had no idea his life was about to change the day he hopped into a picnic basket. When he wakes up in a subway station in New York City, he’s understandably confused and frightened. Things could have easily gone back for a small cricket in such a big city. Fortunately, the first inhabitant of New York that Chester meets is a young boy named Mario. The meeting will change both their lives forever.

Chester is a wonderful character. He’s kind and honorable. When he makes some mistakes that could cost the Bellini family dearly, Chester doesn’t run away. He stays and faces the consequences. With the help of his friends, Tucker and Harry, he finds a way to make it up to them by utilizing a rather incredible ability! I won’t spoil the story by revealing what Chester’s special talent is, but I will say that Chester’s talent soon attracts throngs of people to the newsstand! As much as Chester enjoys life in the city helping the Bellinis, he realizes he has to be true to himself and makes a very tough decision

Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat are great friends for Chester. Tucker can be selfish and greedy at times, but he has a good heart and, with a small nudge from Harry, Tucker always does the right thing. I loved watching them help Chester acclimate to city life. Their little dinner parties are especially entertaining!

I will say the portrayal of Sai Fong, a Chinese man who helps Mario learn about caring for Chester, is a bit problematic in that his dialogue and actions are stereotypical despite his otherwise positive character traits. Mario’s Italian mother also comes across in a stereotypical way at times as well. However, I think this book is worth reading, and these characters could prompt a discussion about stereotypes with children.

I had so much fun reading this tale with my children! The ending is bittersweet and satisfying while still leaving the door open for the next story. While I recommend this novel for ages 8-12, it can easily be read to children a bit younger. I look forward to reading the next installment in the series!

The Apprentice by Pilar Molina Llorente

The Apprentice by Pilar Molina Llorente
Publisher: Square Fish
Genre: Historical, Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Fiction
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

In Renaissance Florence, thirteen-year-old apprentice Arduino’s dreams of being a painter are challenged after he discovers the extreme measures the Maestro Cosimo di Forlç will take in the name of jealousy. Arduino faces a decision that could cost him his only chance to realize his life’s dream.

Arduino’s dream is finally within reach.
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Arduino comes from a family of very successful tailors. While Arduino’s father and brothers enjoy their work, Arduino dreams of taking a different path. He dreams of becoming a painter. Arduino comes from a happy home, and I love seeing healthy families represented in children and young adult books. Consequently, Arduino isn’t pursuing a dream of becoming an artist as a way to escape from home. He’s doing it because it is his passion. Despite his reluctance to disappoint his father, Arduino’s restlessness radiates off the pages. Arduino knows that becoming a painter will not be easy, but his heart is set on it. Even though his father disapproves, he arranges an apprenticeship for Arduino with Cosimo di Forli. Unfortunately, the apprenticeship is nothing like Arduino imagined.

I felt so sorry for Arduino. Cosimo is always in a foul mood and doesn’t teach Arduino anything. Instead, Arduino’s time is consumed with doing menial tasks and chores. As if that weren’t bad enough, the food is terrible, and there isn’t even room for Arduino in the bedroom with the other apprentices. I admire Arduino for putting up with it all. He has a good heart and is truly dedicated to his dream of becoming a painter. Everything changes when Arduino discovers Cosimo has a terrible secret. Arduino has a tough decision to make. Will he reveal what Cosimo has done even if it means the end of his apprenticeship, or can he find a way to do what is right and hold on to his dream?

The Apprentice is an intriguing and fast paced story. As I read with my children, they were so wrapped up in Arduino’s story that at the end of each chapter they would beg me to read more! In addition to being an engaging story, Ms. Llorente provides historical information concerning life and social customs during the Renaissance, life as an apprentice, and even a bit on the differences in the situations of men and women. All of this information is smoothly incorporated into the story so it doesn’t feel forced or slow the pacing of the story.

I enjoyed reading The Apprentice. Arduino’s story is captivating, and the ending is absolutely wonderful! Fans of children’s historical fiction would do well to give this story a try.

Adeline’s Aria by Laynie Bynum

Adeline’s Aria by Laynie Bynum
Infernal Echo #1
Publisher: Fire and Ice YA
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

What would you give up to be with your idol? Your reputation? Your best friend? Your sanity?

Addie is a small-town high school senior with a best friend to take care of and college plans to figure out. Jude is a drop-dead-gorgeous British rock star turned actor and one-half of Hollywood’s favorite “it” couple alongside his co-star, Lana Thatcher.

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Addie’s always admired Jude from afar. Now he’s right in front of her.

I found the premise of Adeline’s Aria extremely intriguing. Meeting a celebrity crush is something many people dream about, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened when Addie not only met Jude but also began a secret relationship with him!

Addie is a very likable character. As a young woman on the cusp of graduating from high school, she’s still trying to work out what her next step will be. Does she go to college? Pursue her love of photography? Both? Addie is smart, talented, and completely devoted to her family and friends, but what I like most about her, is how real she is. Sometimes she’s totally confident and has it all together. At other times, she’s a mess who needs the comfort of her mom and her best friend. She’s doesn’t have it all figured out, and that’s okay. When Jude comes crashing into her life, Addie is understandably swept off her feet, but through it all, she stays true to herself. I admire her quite a bit.

Jude is definitely a rock star. He’s talented, attractive, and I love the description of his tattoos. I also love the fact that (Un)Lost by The Maine is on his playlist! However, there is more to Jude than his on-stage persona. He’s a regular guy who is sweet and kind but also has faults and family drama. I will say that his occupation does seem to amplify some of his problems quite a bit. While Jude loves his work, he’s also trapped by it to a certain extent. Everything he does is scrutinized by the public. I admire his resilience in being able to live in the spotlight and not completely lose himself.

I love how Addie and Jude meet! I can’t say much without spoiling the story, but I will say this. It could have gone horribly wrong, but Addie handled herself extremely well. I can only hope if I find myself in a similar situation, I’m as cool under pressure as Addie was. From the moment they meet, they certainly have chemistry, but I do think their relationship moves a bit too fast. After spending a few hours together, things start to get pretty serious. Jude is very open with Addie from the start, which I like, but his life moves at a different pace, and Addie soon finds herself out of her depth. Consequently, Addie and Jude often find themselves at odds as they try to figure out how to have a serious adult relationship. I found myself wishing they would just slow down and have an honest conversation. Despite this issue, I have a lot of hope for Addie and Jude’s future.

I enjoyed reading Adeline’s Aria. The relationship drama was intense at times, but the ending made it all worthwhile. I look forward to finding out what comes next in this series!

The Change by C.V. Leigh

The Change by C.V. Leigh
The Wolves of Faol Hall #1
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Kincaid pack Alpha, Alistair, has called his family back to their ancestral home in the Scottish Cairngorms. His wife, Megan, is losing control of her ability to shift and it has him rattled. When it comes to light that Nathan Trevell, Megan’s ex and the lycanthrope who turned her, has travelled from the States and is in the UK, closing in on his family, Alistair is even more determined to keep everyone safe.

Nathan isn’t deterred by the Kincaid pack. He’s in the UK for a very specific reason, a reason that threatens to turn the lives of the Kincaids upside down – and possibly endanger them.

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The Kincaid family needs each other now more than ever.

The Change is an intriguing story filled with lots of diverse characters. At first, the number of characters seems overwhelming. However, Ms. Leigh has done an excellent job of defining each character. I had no problems keeping them straight in my mind as I read.

The Kincaids are certainly a dysfunctional family with a multitude of issues, but it is clear they truly care about each other. Each of the brothers are very different, and I’m not sure I have a clear favorite at this point. Alistair is oldest. He’s the alpha always trying to do what is best for his family, but the responsibility is heavy on his shoulders. Jacob is a tough nut to crack. He’s the strongest physically, but he’s more than muscle. Derek seems to be the peacemaker of the family. He tries to smooth rough edges of his brothers, especially the constant friction between Jacob and Zane. Zane, the youngest, is still trying to prove himself as an essential part of the family, but also mark himself as different. Will the Kincaids let their differences tear them apart, or will they use their specific talents to emerge as a stronger pack?

This story opens right at the beginning of a serious family crisis. I could feel Alistair’s urgency as he calls the family home, and the pacing never lets up. The tension continues to build with each page turn! Ms. Leigh also manages to fill in some pertinent background information without slowing the pace down a bit.

I must also say I liked Ms. Leigh’s portrayal of shapeshifters. Some stories have a tendency to either romanticize the life of a shapeshifter or show it as something horrible and violent. Ms. Leigh has found the balance between the two extremes. She highlights both the beauty and the brutality of the life they live.

The conclusion is very satisfying, but definitely left me wanting to know more. I have a feeling that though the immediate crisis has passed, things are going to be rough for the Kincaid family for a while. I can’t wait to read the next installment of this series!

Guilty Knowledge by Linda Griffin

Guilty Knowledge by Linda Griffin
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (211 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Poinsettia

Detective Jesse Aaron has no leads in the murder of Rosa Logan when pretty blonde Sariah Brennan claims to have seen the killer—in a vision. Unfortunately the man she identifies is dead—or is he?

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How much does Jesse really know about Sariah?

Jesse’s life changed the moment Sariah walked into the police department. She claims to have seen the killer in a vision. It would be easy to dismiss her as claims as crazy, and Camille, Jesse’s partner, is ready to do just that. However, Sariah knows details about the crime that weren’t released to the public. Did she have a vision, or is she somehow involved in the crime?

Sariah is a tough character to figure out. She manages to be both innocent and mysterious. Like Jesse, I wanted to believe her claims of having seen the killer in a vision, but something about her just didn’t seem right. Jesse tries to keep his relationship with Sariah professional, but something about her draws him in. Before he knows it, he’s falling in love with her. Their awkward flirty banter was cute at first, but her lack of honesty made natural interactions between them almost impossible. Consequently, it was hard for me to relax and enjoy their relationship. It just felt uncomfortable after a while. I shared Jesse’s frustration with Sariah’s secrecy. As I read, I continued to hope that Sariah would open up to Jesse before it was too late.

Ms. Griffin kept me guessing as I read. I was never quite sure how involved Sariah was in the mystery until everything about her past was finally revealed. My heart broke for Jesse when he realized how little he really knew about Sariah. Despite this issue, I am pleased to say I have a lot of hope for Jesse and Sariah. By the end of the book, Sariah is in a much better place. In the future, I believe she will be more open with Jesse. They have been given a second chance and I believe they will use it wisely.

I enjoyed reading Guilty Knowledge. The mystery is interesting, and Jesse and Sariah’s happy ending makes their bumpy beginning worth it. I recommend it to fans of romantic suspense looking for a quick read.

A Shadowed Fate by Marty Ambrose

A Shadowed Fate by Marty Ambrose
Claire Clairmont #2
Publisher: Severn House
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (180 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

A shocking revelation from an old friend leads Claire Clairmont on a dangerous quest in this second in a fascinating historical trilogy based on the ‘summer of 1816’ Byron/Shelley group.

1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the ‘haunted summer of 1816’ Byron/Shelley circle, is reeling from the series of events triggered by the arrival of Michael Rosetti two weeks before, which culminated in a brutal murder and a shocking revelation from her old friend, Edward Trewlany.

Stunned by her betrayal at the hands of those closest to her, Claire determines to travel to the convent at Bagnacavallo near Ravenna to learn the true fate of Allegra, her daughter by Lord Byron. But the valuable Cades sketch given to her by Rosetti is stolen, and Claire soon finds herself shadowed at every turn and in increasing danger as she embarks on her quest. Is the theft linked to Allegra, and can Claire uncover what really happened in Ravenna so many years ago?

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First, anyone wishing to read this book must first read the previous book, Claire’s Last Secret. This novel picks up exactly where the other left off and builds upon events and characters previously introduced.

I truly enjoyed getting to know Claire in the first book, and I relished the opportunity to spend more time with her not only to learn more about her past, but also to follow her quest for the truth about her daughter’s fate. Claire has always had a vibrant personality, and while she is less impulsive than she was in her youth, old age has done little to dim her spirit. I’m also pleased to say I saw a lot of character growth in Claire in this installment. In the first book, Claire seemed like a woman still haunted by her past in many ways. She never got over Byron, and she carries a lot of hurt regarding her relationship with him. Claire and her sister Mary did not part on good terms either. In A Shadowed Fate, Claire begins to find some closure. As Claire travels through Italy, she has the opportunity to reflect on various parts of her past, and in doing so begins to forgive not only others, but herself. These glimpses into the past reveal the events that made Claire the woman she is.

Ms. Ambrose has chosen to tell this story in a slightly different format. Claire’s Last Secret was told with sections that alternated between Claire’s life in 1816 and 1873. This book alternates between Claire’s adventures 1873, old journal entries from Allegra, and sections Claire reads from Byron’s confession. I enjoyed the different perspectives, and I especially enjoyed seeing Byron through the eyes of his daughter in her journal entries.

As with the first novel, A Shadowed Fate is not a story to race through. While the danger surrounding Claire and her mission are very real, the beauty of the scenery and atmosphere is what I’ll remember most when I think about this book.

The conclusion is satisfying if a bit abrupt given the story’s leisurely pace. Some pieces of the mystery surrounding Claire’s daughter have been solved, but Claire’s journey is far from over. Ms. Ambrose has again left me wanting to know more!

I’m delighted that I had the opportunity to continue reading this series. I highly recommend A Shadowed Fate to anyone wanting to lose themselves in the Italian ambience Ms. Ambrose has created.