Southbury Teen Review Blog

Books, music, movies, and more!

The Body at the Tower April 29, 2013

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee

The Agency 2

Mary Quinn is back in this exciting sequel to A Spy in the House.  Now, a full-fledged member of The Agency, she is given her first official assignment.  She is to pose as an apprentice builder to investigate the suspicious death of a bricklayer at St. Stephen’s Tower- the unfinished Houses of Parliament.  Thankfully petite Mary is able to don the ragged garb, chop off her hair and pose as a young man.  As “Mark” she introduces us to the world of the working poor.  Mary’s assignment brings forth memories of her own difficult childhood on the streets of London, where she once dressed as a boy for her own safety.

Mary is thrust into this underbelly of squalor and depravity.  She attempts to aid Jenkins, another young worker on the job site while investigating the mysterious case.  If all that wasn’t difficult enough, Mary’s old sparring partner James Easton is again in the picture.  Back from India, a weakened James coincidentally enters Mary’s building site.  Will James keep her secret or blow her cover?  And more importantly, will their acquaintance lead to romance?

Lee again makes Victorian London a focus of this novel.  Through Mary the reader is able to view the horrors of poverty.  Reminiscent of Dickens, the back alleys and dark basements roil with filth and sadness . Class distinctions and gender roles pigeon-hole many of the characters.  Through her work for the Agency, Mary is able to transcend these. Identity is a major theme in this novel.  As Mary hides her femaleness by cutting her hair and binding her chest, she is also hiding deeper secrets.  Described as exotic, we learned that Mary is half Chinese in the first installment of The Agency.  Her real last name is Lang, but was changed to better assimilate into British society.   She has so far shunned this part of herself, shutting out memories of her past. While distancing herself from her Asian roots, Mary has also learned to use her heritage to her advantage. She easily treads the boundaries of class, race and gender.

I have already said I am a fan of this series. Victorian England, mysteries, and intriguing protagonist, Lee delivers another winner. Through the course of the first two novels, Mary has matured.  I am curious to see Mary as she grows in age, experience and confidence.  The third book in The Agency series, The Traitor and The Tunnel is next on my list.

Advertisements
 

The Last Free Cat by Jon Blake February 14, 2013

The Last Free Cat - Jon BlakeJade finds a stray cat in her backyard and tries to convince her mother to keep it.  Sounds pretty normal, right?  Wrong.  This is the not-so-distant future where cats are highly regulated after an outbreak of cat flu.  Now only the super wealthy can afford to buy a registered cat from few companies holding monopoly over the breeding industry.  Never one to follow the rules, Jade keeps Feela, the mysterious feline, hiding her from the authorities.  After all, harboring a non-registered cat is punishable with ten years in prison.

After the death of her mother, Jade needs to find a safe haven for Feela.  With the assistance of Kris, a spunky and intelligent homeless boy, Jade attempts to rescue Feela.  And while she’s at it, she may as well bring down the whole cat breeding conspiracy.

The Last Free Cat is definitely a page turner.  Once I began following Jade’s adventures,  I couldn’t put the book down.  Jon Blake has given us a unique look at dystopian society while commenting on government, animal breeding, and authority.  Or am I just reading too much into this?  Doesn’t matter.  This is a great read.

 

Vixen by Jillian Larkin February 13, 2013

vixen

It’s the roaring 20’s.  The jazz is smooth, the hair is bobbed, the dresses are short, the liquor is bootleg and the nights are long.  Al Capone and the mob rule Chicago.  A few steps away from the speakeasies and jazz halls resides seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody.  Glo, to her friends, is enamored by the flapper lifestyle.  But the party’s over now that she’s engaged to high society elite Sebastian Grey.

To ensure Gloria stays on the straight and narrow, her cousin Clara Knowles has been brought in from New York.  “Country Clara” isn’t as innocent as she seems.  You see Clara was a fixture of the NYC scene way before Glo bobbed her hair.  Now she’s been sent to Chicago to straighten up.  This is Clara’s second chance and she intends to not make the same mistakes twice.

Gloria won’t find it easy to settle down.  She aspires to be a jazz singer, and she’s actually pretty good.  To confuse matter more, she’s falling for one of the musicians at the club.  But not only is she engaged to someone else, Jerome is African-American (remember this is the 20’s!)

Jillian Larkin has successfully given us a brilliant debut with Vixen.  This first book in The Flappers series delivers.  The characters and storyline immediately hooked me.  The ending will have you wanting more.  I can’t wait so find out what happens next.  I guess I’ll have to read the next installments in the trilogy, Ingenue and Diva.

 

Beautiful Days: Bright Young Things #2 by Anna Godbersen

beautiful days

Beautiful Dayscontinues right where Bright Young Things left off.  Cordelia Gray and Letty Larkspur have shed their former images of small town girls and embraced the city life of the roaring twenties.  After reuniting with her long-lost father, Darius Gray, Cordelia discovers his wealth is the result of criminal behavior.  Also profiting from those bootleg bucks is Cordelia’s half-brother Charlie.  Welcomed by Astrid, Charlie’s fiancée, Cordelia and Letty become accustomed to this lavish lifestyle

Tragically, Cordelia’s father is shot.  Killed by Thom Hale, son of Gray’s rival and object of Cordelia’s affection.  Charlie, Cordelia’s erstwhile brother is now in charge of the family business.  Flapper Astrid has settled into the estate in Long Island but may be having second thoughts about the future.  Letty Larkspur is pursuing a career on Broadway with renewed fervor.  Misadventure continues to plague our trio of beauties as the decade comes to a close.

The saga continues with The Lucky Ones, the third book in the Bright Young Things series by Anna Godbersen.

 

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Bright Young Things

1929. New York City. Two girls from rural Ohio arrive in the big city. Letitia Haubstadt and Cordelia Grey are ready to leave behind the only lives they’ve known in search of new glamorous ones. Letitia, dreaming of making it big on Broadway, reinvents herself as Letty Larkspur. Cordelia is searching for her long-lost father, who just happens to be millionaire bootlegger, Darius Grey. Parting ways, the girls follow their own paths towards the inevitable lure of flappers and philosophers, speakeasies and the stage. Cordelia is immediately welcomed at Dogwood, her father’s estate. Here she meets her half-brother Charlie and is befriended by his stunningly beautiful socialite girlfriend, Astrid Donal. Exemplifying this luxurious lifestyle, Astrid takes Cordelia under her wing as she learns to navigate life as a wealthy criminal’s daughter.

But all that glitters is not gold. Letty soon learns it takes more than talent to make it as a singer. Cordelia becomes enamored with the son of her father’s rival. And Astrid’s home life is far from charmed. The three girls soon realize there’s more to life than champagne and the Charleston.

The author of The Luxe series is back with the first installment in what promises to be another enthralling series set in yesterday’s New York City. Reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald with a hint of Gossip Girl, Godbersen captures the carefree excess of New York in the roaring twenties.  Look for other titles in the Bright Young Things series.