Tag Archives: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Review & Giveaway: Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

The prettiest people often have the ugliest secrets…

“Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has turned into an entirely different person. The once spirited teen is now passive and reserved. A change Lord and Lady Darlington can’t help but be grateful for.

It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been… even as their carefully constructed façade rapidly comes undone.

Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one… the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever.

When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long.

Wentworth Hall is a lush historical novel by debut author Abby Grahame, which is spot-on perfect for fans of Downtown Abbey!”

First off let’s acknowledge that the number of Downtown Abbey fans that would fall in the teenage age range are probably few (sad but true right?)…however that’s exactly what this novel will remind you of and it works…in fact it works spectacularly. It’s one of those books that you pick up and you do not put down. I read it in one sitting and that can be hard for me to do with a pre-schooler controlling my reading privileges these days.

Enter the once grand estate of Wentworth Hall, a crumbling family residence teeming with the young, beautiful and rich of the Edwardian period (some admittedly only the once rich but shush….that’s a supposed to be a secret). Follow along as they navigate coming of age, the rough waters of young love and secret betrayals of today and years gone by. It’s a world that’s only too easy to fall deeply into within the first few pages. One would never guess this to be by a newbie author as it shines in all the right places. Abby Grahame’s sense of timing and pace are impeccable. The characters and setting are written to perfection and surprises seem to lie around every single Edwardian corner.

It’s a book for young adults who enjoy historical fiction and also adults who love young adult fiction and/or historical fiction. Readers that found bliss within the pages of The Luxe series will fall in historical love all over again. And with a cover  like that it’s got great shelf appeal and reader’s advisory potential. For those non-librarians….that means we can more than likely get it into a teen’s hands and out the door, fingers crossed they open the cover once that happens. But if they do open that cover and begin to read…I guarantee they’ll be hooked.

There is also hope of a continuance of some sort since many of the plot lines simply scream to be explored. It will intriguing to find what author Abby Grahame will do next, she is definitely one to watch. But don’t take my word for it…dip into the pages of Wentworth Hall by checking out an excerpt and enter to win your very own copy below.

 Fabulous Book Giveaway

 Oh, you know you want a copy and luckily I have two copies of this luxurious historical novel to give away to two US readers.  This double giveaway will end midnight EST May 14, 2012. The charmed winners will be chosen by random number generator and contacted by e-mail.

To enter just comment below and tell us what book, TV series or movie has you slightly obsessed right now. We all have our favorites…let’s share. Are you a “Downtown Abbey” fanatic? Do you crave “True Blood”? Hunger for The Hunger Games? Or live to follow every move on “The Game of Thrones”?

Want extra entries? You can get an extra entry by doing any of the following:

Be/Become a Follower of Stiletto Storytime

Be/Become a Follower Stiletto Storytime on Twitter

Tweet or Blog about this Giveaway (Please leave link in comments)


Filed under historical fiction, New Books, The Luxe, Young Adult Books

Blog Tour: Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl

“Immediately compelling and action-packed, this carefully researched work of historical fiction introduces young readers to the childhood of the famous yet elusive Beryl Markham, the first person to fly solo from England to North America. As in her debut novel, Prisoners in the Palace, MacColl propels readers into a multilayered story with an unforgettable heroine and evocative language that brings the backdrop of colonial British East Africa to life. A fascinating read for anyone with a thirst for adventure.”

As Michaela MacColl showcases her second novel she proves to all that her calling in historical fiction extends far beyond what we saw in her debut novel Prisoner’s in the Palace (Stiletto Storytime Review) which brought itself immediately to so many readers’ attention in such a positive way. In particular the author has a great talent for combining historical fact and well-created fiction into a seamless tale that is in the end as a whole so much greater than it’s individual parts.

Completely different and yet utterly special in it’s own right Promise the Night is based on the true life story of Beryl Markham’s unique childhood in the wilds of British East Africa and more specifically her interaction with the Nandi tribe. Told in flashback from the present day (1936) feat of her famous flight from England to North America, the tale can be somewhat slow at times but proves to still keep young readers in it’s clutches with it’s adventurous nature and wildly audacious young Beryl leading the action. Also interesting is the use of mixed media in the telling combining traditional prose with journal entries and even newspaper articles.

With it’s call to high adventure and remarkable leading lady the book will be a hit with audiences of both genders in both the middle grade and young adult markets. It also shines as a historical fiction work about a lesser known historical figure of the female gender which always lends itself well to school projects and reports from an educational stand point. Well-researched and as always with Ms. MacColl appealingly written, the book will shine for many readers and many purposes.

Book Giveaway

Thanks to the generousity of the always fabulous Chronicle Books one lucky reader at Stiletto Storytime will receive a copy of not only Promise the Night but MacColl’s debut novel Prisoners in the Palace as well.  Giveaway ends midnight EST January 30, 2012. This giveaway is open US/Canada only. Winners will be chosen by random.org and notified by e-mail address and/or Twitter. Good Luck to all and Happy Reading!

Since adventure is key in MacColl’s latest tale:

To enter simply comment below and share your favorite adventure tale as a child or young adult.

Want extra entries? You can get an extra entry by doing any of the following:

Be/Become a Follower/Subscriber of Stiletto Storytime

Be/Become a Follower Stiletto Storytime on Twitter (Please leave name in comments.)

Be/Become a Follower of Author Michaela MacColl on Twitter (Please leave name in comments.)

Be?Become a Follower of Chronicle Books on Twitter (Please leave name in comments.)

Tweet or Blog about this Giveaway (Please leave link in comments.)


Filed under Blog Tour, Contests, historical fiction, Middle Grade, New Books, Young Adult Books

Review & Giveaway: Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza’s dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady’s maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant’s world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?

Too often historical fiction for children and teens gets relegated to the dreaded “school assignment reading” category or it’s only appealing to those who are bookworms at heart and read large amounts of just about anything they can get their hands on. The average young reader won’t pick it up and often won’t even give it a second glance on the shelf. Michaela MacColl and Chronicle Books have fixed that problem with Prisoners in the Palace. Not only it it a captivating and well-written Victorian era novel, it also has some major shelf appeal for young adults. The book literally shines with it’s metallic foil cover and modern day make-over of Queen Victoria along with a back cover uniquely designed like a Victorian broadsheet (think TMZ on paper). The book presents a well-thought out mix of the old and new while staying true to it’s subject matter- a great combination for young adult readers. In a new twist to Queen Victoria’s ascent to the throne, MacColl has created a work that will keep teens interested and flipping the beautiful pages until the very end. Every page reflects her research, timing and attention to detail perfectly. It’s a must not only for young adult readers but also for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Today I am happy to welcome Michaela to Stiletto Storytime and what better topic for a guest post than censorship. As a librarian I have to say I have been on both sides of censorship in some ways. I have dealt with the parent that is upset that the picture book about a dirty puppy has the word “stupid” in it. She felt it should be pulled from the shelf. (Yes, this really happened). I have also read books that our library system may have had classified in the children’s fiction section (typically books for 12 and under)  and made the decision based on content to move them to young adult (13+). I firmly believe in everyone’s right to express themselves but as a children’ librarian I am a stickler for designating books for the ages that are appropriate. In the case of Prisoners at the Palace, I think both the author and the publisher have done a good job of setting both the age range and content appropriately. Although as Michaela shows…someone will almost always disagree……



“What makes an historical book appropriate? Or as I was told recently, not appropriate?

I had made tentative plans to go to a bookfair in Westchester County, a wealthy suburb north of New York City. The PTA wanted me to do a presentation and sign books. I love doing this, so I agreed. The Principal and the Bookfair chairperson would read the book and make a final decision. I just heard that they have decided against me and The Prisoners in the Palace. Although they will sell my book, they don’t feel comfortable with the content for all students in the middle school and they don’t want to appear to be promoting it.

Prisoners in the Palace is recommended for ages 12 and up. That was Chronicle Books’s (my fabulous publisher) decision and I completely endorsed it. The story is about two seventeen year olds, Princess Victoria and her maid/spy/friend Liza Hastings. The Princess’s romantic life is almost entirely in her head and her great love affair with Prince Albert is still four years away. Liza has a chaste romance where both parties have the best of intentions. There are hints that the Duchess of Kent (Victoria’s widowed mother) might be having an affair with her Comptroller of the Household, Sir John Conroy.  There is a wholly untrue scandal about the Queen having an affair. And then there’s the sub-plot with the maid, Annie.  Before the start of the book, Annie was dismissed preemptorially from Kensington Palace because of lewd behavior (this was a tidbit I found in the historical record). When we meet her several months later, she is a prostitute – a common fate of servants who were fired without a “character” or recommendation. There are hints that Sir John may have “had his way with her.” I don’t want to give away anymore – but those are the basics. For a generation raised on Gossip Girl, Twilight, The Jersey Shore and even the Disney Family Secret Life of an American Teenager, this seems pretty tame, doesn’t it?

The Bookfair Chairperson told me that the Annie sub-plot was the issue that gave the school pause. (I was a little confused that Annie being taken advantage of was objectionable but that she was to be commended for keeping the baby – but that’s a political discussion that has no place here!) They thought it was too much for their youngest readers (this would be sixth grade).

Let me be clear – this bookfair had not made a firm commitment yet. The bookfair chairperson who wrote to me couldn’t have been more gracious. She personally enjoyed the book and didn’t consider anything in it to be gratuitous. I responded in a like manner – I appreciated her thoughtful comments, my next book would be solidly middle grade and perhaps I could visit next year.

But I’m worried. If this novel isn’t appropriate, what is? Prisoners in the Palace does tackle the powerlessness of women in the 1830’s. It was a sad and undeniable fact that young women servants were completely at the mercy of the men of the household. Liza, my heroine, is a recent orphan without any means of support. Her situation can’t much more precarious. As a child, even the future ruler of Great Britain, Victoria has zero control over her life. Annie is a cautionary tale for Liza and Liza’s role is to make sure that the future Teen Queen knows a little something about the real life outside the palace walls. How can this not be a good message for kids, twelve and up to learn? Especially since they learn it in context of a well-researched story that paints a portrait of early Victorian England?

I have two daughters, one fourteen and one twelve. They were always in my mind when I wrote. Frankly, I’m a bit of a prude and I’m not interesting in writing something that I have to “talk about” with the kids. There are many authors out there who write this kind of book well, and I’d much rather “talk about those books” with my girls.  I’d rather that my readers talked history and a good story.

To see if I’ve been disinvited anyplace else, please visit my website, www.michaelamaccoll.com


Book Giveaway

Thanks to Chronicle Books (one of my favorite publishers due to their unique releases and attention to detail) readers can use the promotion code PRISONER at Chronicle Books and get 25% off plus free shipping on their very own copy of  Prisoners at the Palace. One lucky winner will receive a copy by simply leaving a comment below with their e-mail address. US/Canada addresses only. Giveaway ends on November 12th at midnight EST. Good luck to all!

You can also see other reviews from the Blog Tour of Prisoners in the Palace & other features here.


Filed under Author Interviews & Posts, Blog Tour, Books for Girls, Girly Books, historical fiction, Young Adult Books

Review: Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

https://i0.wp.com/4.bp.blogspot.com/_QZmf0_wntTc/THgTgBi1a6I/AAAAAAAAAHg/MQ1Fn0p7U-I/s200/Forge+Laurie+Halse+Anderson.jpg The year is 1777. The setting is the infamous camp of Valley Forge. The boy is Curzon, a slave and veteran soldier of the Continental Army. Growing up in slavery, Curzon has endured years of beatings and humiliation, now an escaped slave he has become a soldier and is one of the over 11,000 trapped for the winter at Valley Forge, starving and freezing from the harsh weather and lack of supplies. However the sufferings of a soldier are nothing to one who knows the agony of being a slave and even worse the endless pain of loving one.  His once companion Isabel has left him in search of her younger sister who was sold in South Carolina and he worries daily about her welfare as he himself struggles to survive. He wonders whether he will ever lay eyes on Isabel again but most importantly he wonders if she is free.

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s sequel to her National Book Award finalist Chains, Forge takes readers into the world of the Curzon, companion to Isabel. Illuminating the plight of slaves during this time in history, Forge also brings to life the struggles and world of the American Revolution.  With incredibly detailed descriptions of the conditions of slavery along with historically accurate depictions of the battle for independence and richly drawn characters, Laurie Halse Anderson has proven why she is a recipient of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

As the second book in the trilogy, Forge makes this period in time and the horrendous conditions of Valley Forge not only accessible but also understandable for young readers. Containing an appendix of historical data and vocabulary words, the book is a not only a insightful read but also an informational teaching tool. The tale of Curzon and Isabel is also further enhanced by quotes and references to documents from that period in time from notable figures such as John Adams and former slaves such as Olaudah Equiano. Readers will hold their breath at it’s suspenseful ending which will only leave them wanting more and eagerly anticipating the final installment in this moving historical saga.

Forge will be released on October 19th 2010.


Filed under Award Winners, Children's Literature, historical fiction, Middle Grade, New Books, Young Adult Books

New Young Adult Books

https://i0.wp.com/photo.goodreads.com/books/1272990811l/7638313.jpgKatla Gudrun LeBlanc is stuck in Minnesota. Far from her California home, the white blonde teenage fashionista is dealing not only with her parent’s recent divorce but also trying to survive a dramatic change in setting. Outdated, old fashioned and at times just plain odd, her new home has yet to become anything close to what she considers acceptable, especially the climate. The cold is the one thing Kat hates the most and everyone knows the mid-west is not know for warmth as fall sets in. When odd happenings escalate and whispers about her past in this town reach her ears, things take an even weirder turn than ever imagined. Is Kat destined for something out of this world or is she finally just cracking up from all the oddity and stress of being a new student at Norse Falls High?

A modern day fairy tale woven from old legends thought dead, Stork is a book full of originality, humor and edge of your seat suspense.  Wendy Delsol has pitch perfect characterization in her sassy protagonist and mystical setting creation, bringing to life an original story that is both freshly real and yet magical at the same time.  Filled with present day pop culture references such as the latest fashions and brand name coffee, the book also fuses together ancient Icelandic myths and customs for the perfect blend of old and new. This combination makes for a whole new layer of depth to the saga of Kat and her destiny.  Throw in a love interest that will make any heart pound and a few death-defying scenes and you have one of the best young adult books of the year.

Stork is nearly impossible to stop reading and will take readers on an amazing journey of tradition and modern day fun. Twists and turns abound but it will all end in a revelation readers will never see coming.



It’s a decade of abandon, decadence and freedom and it’s coming to an exquisite end. New York City in 1929 is full of dark speakeasies and brave young girls enjoying the latest styles and an exciting new way of life. Social constraints are out the window, hemlines and hair are shorter than ever and the path to luxury and stardom await in the city that never sleeps.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped to the Big Apple in search of more than their small town Ohio lives could offer. Once in the city of their dreams they wind up with more than either could ever imagine and more often than not more than they can handle.

Meanwhile the beautiful socialite Astrid Donal thought she knew it all but might find out otherwise as the summer goes by and the roaring twenties come to an end. From the lush estates of Long Island to the stages of Broadway, New York shines as bright as the young girls in Bright Young Things. Three young lives delicately interwoven with three unpredictable fates begin the start of an alluring and addictive new series.

In Anna Godbersen’s newest book since the end of the beloved Luxe series, she astounds with another young adult period novel about the history of New York and the girls who called it home. Creating the old New York of the 1920’s with dazzling description and authentic detail, once again Godbersen makes the past come alive. In a tale just as exciting as her former works, readers will fall head over heels for this story of glamour and mystique. Bright Young Things will leave readers enchanted by Godbersen’s beautiful rhythms, astounded by another fantastic cover choice and wanting more. With beautiful historical nuances and delicately scripted characters Bright Young Things doesn’t just glitter; it shines.

As before with the Luxe series, there is a great interactive website for Bright Young Things.



Filed under Girly Books, historical fiction, New Books, The Luxe, Young Adult Books