Rummanah Aasi
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! This week I am waiting on two books: an adult historical fiction and a YA companion novel.

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict
Publish date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

 This is another biographical historical fiction book in the same vein as The Paris Wife. I don't know much about the personal life of Albert Einstein so I'm really curious about this book. 

A vivid and mesmerizing novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history.

What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Marić, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.

In 1896, the extraordinarily gifted Mileva is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zürich. There, she falls for charismatic fellow student Albert Einstein, who promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science. But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Publish date: April 11th, 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins

 I absolutely adored Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertali and this companion novel features of one his best friends Molly Peskin-Suso. Molly was a hard character to like at first glance, but she grew on me as I learned more about her. I also hope we see what Simon has been up to!

“I don’t entirely understand how anyone gets a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. It just seems like the most impossible odds. You have to have a crush on the exact right person at the exact right moment. And they have to like you back.”

What does a sixteen-year-old girl have to do to kiss a boy? Molly Peskin-Suso wishes she knew. She’s crushed on twenty-six guys…but has kissed exactly none. Her twin sister Cassie’s advice to “just go for it” and “take a risk” isn’t that helpful. It’s easy for her to say: she’s had flings with lots of girls. She’s fearless and effortlessly svelte, while Molly is introverted and what their grandma calls zaftig.

Then Cassie meets Mina, and for the first time ever, Cassie is falling in love. While Molly is happy for her twin, she can’t help but feel lonelier than ever. But Cassie and Mina are determined to end Molly’s string of unrequited crushes once and for all. They decide to set her up with Mina’s friend Will, who is ridiculously good-looking, flirty, and seems to be into Molly. Perfect, right? But as Molly spends more time with Reid, her cute, nerdy co-worker, her feelings get all kinds of complicated. Now she has to decide whether to follow everyone’s advice…or follow her own heart.
Rummanah Aasi
  I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan. I've been trying to fix my Sherlock show hole by watching and reading other mysteries until the new season starts. I was really excited to hear of new YA series that feature the great detective and was really looking forward to reading A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. 

Description: The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.
  From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

Review: I really wanted to like A Study in Charlotte as it had everything that I enjoyed: Sherlockian plot and characters, mystery, and even just a hint at a promising romantic relationship, but there were some things that really annoyed me and dulled my excitement.
  In Cavallaro's debut novel descendants of Dr. Watson's and Sherlock Holmes' try to live up to and with their ancestors' legacies. Stuck at Sherringford, a Connecticut boarding school, Londoner expat James Watson craves excitement, action, and romance. He tries to vent his rage on the rugby field during practice and hone his writing skills at night. When he hears of a girl named Charlotte Holmes, who is a genius, plays violin, and has helped police solve crimes as a toddler, James believes he is predestined to be best friends with Charlotte given their ancestor's relationship. When a student turns up dead after harassing Holmes and fighting with Watson, and his death scene is staged like "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," Watson and Holmes become both suspects and detectives.
 While I had no big issues with the mystery that held my attention, my main problem with the book came from the main characters. There was an overabundance of winks and elbow nudges to the original Sherlock stories that plagued this book. Normally, I'm all for literary allusions but in A Study in Charlotte, it came off as forced and appeared everywhere instead of cute easter eggs sprinkled in the story. Both Watson and Charlotte were confined to their ancestor's personality traits such as Holmes' anti-social behavior and opiate fixation and Watson's fanboy-ish obsession with Holmes that they didn't come off across as real teenagers for me who had their own personalities. There were a lot of topics that the author could have explored to make her book different and her own such as death, drugs, rape, and betrayal. I think readers who are unfamiliar with the Doyle's short stories may not be bothered with this aspect of the book, but it really did feel like I was reading a Doyle retelling set in modern times than an actual modern, fresh take on Sherlock Holmes. I'm not sure if I'll continue this series, but I think I'll give the Every series by Ellie Marney a chance instead.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, underage drug use, and mentions of sexual assault that take place off the page. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Lock and Mori by Heather Petty, Every Breath by Ellie Marney, Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, Stoker and Holmes series by Colleen Gleason
Rummanah Aasi
I didn't know much about Julie Berry's latest book, The Passion of Dolssa, when I picked it up and that was a good thing. I only knew that the setting was Medieval France and it featured strong female characters. The book has received several starred reviews in library journals and was listed on several recommendations list. This book is not for everyone, but I would definitely recommend it if you are in the mood for a serious, well written historical fiction novel.

Description: Dolssa is a young gentlewoman with uncanny gifts, on the run from an obsessed friar determined to burn her as a heretic for the passion she refuses to tame.
  Botille is a wily and charismatic peasant, a matchmaker running a tavern with her two sisters in a tiny seaside town.
  The year is 1241; the place, Provensa, what we now call Provence, France—a land still reeling from the bloody crusades waged there by the Catholic Church and its northern French armies.
  When the matchmaker finds the mystic near death by a riverside, Botille takes Dolssa in and discovers the girl’s extraordinary healing power. But as the vengeful Friar Lucien hunts down his heretic, the two girls find themselves putting an entire village at the mercy of murderers.

Review: The Passion of Dolssa is a story within a story. The overall arcing story is that of a friar from 1290 who is collecting papers and testimonies that will show how the inquisitions on the Spain and France border were done in the name of God. The tale of Dolssa troubles him and that is where we are introduced to our main cast of characters and where our second story starts.
  Botille is a sassy teenager who makes money in her seaside village of Bajas by matchmaking. Losing her mother at a very age young and having an alcoholic father has made Botille and her sisters very close. Unlike the other girls in their village, Botille and her sisters have to fend for themselves. Along with Botille's matchmaking skills, elder sister Plazensa runs the tavern and baby sister Sazia tells fortunes with uncanny accuracy. I absolutely loved these three ferociously independent sisters. It was refreshing to see sisters who genuinely love each other and get along so well with one another.
 To the north, in Tolosos, there is a much different girl than Botille whose name is Dolssa. Aristocratic by birth and a mystic by the grace of God, she spends her days with her “beloved,” Jesus, who wraps her in his murmurs and consumes her with his love. Her passion, which is referenced in the book's title, cannot be contained, and Dolssa begins telling others how much her beloved cherishes all people. The simplicity of her message is seen by the inquisitors as a threat to the church, a devil’s deception, and there is only one place it can end: in a public burning. Miraculously, Dolssa escapes the pyre. She wanders until she meets Botille, who saves and shelters her.
  To be honest, when I read about Dolssa and the religious aspect of the book, I was not sure if I would even finish the book, much less actually enjoy it. I was afraid that I would not find Dolssa approachable, but when she meets Botille and becomes open minded, I did not mind her so much. I was so relieved to find that Berry combines religion and the slice of life of medieval France in a balanced, beautifully crafted story which is not easy to do. Like any great historical fiction novel, I learned a lot while reading the book. I didn't know much of the Inquisition beyond the quick gloss in my history classes.
 While the plot is great in its simplicity, Berry brings her story to another level by establishing a convincing, descriptive setting by sprinkling some Old Provencal language in the dialogue. It is quite clear that the author has done extensive research about the Inquisition, a time period which is not touched upon in YA literature (of my knowledge). The story is also told from many perspectives in addition to Botille and Dolssa and each of these point of views were important to the story and exposed the motives of various characters, particularly revealing how worthy ideas can turn into terrorizing actions, and how fear and self-preservation can make friends and neighbors turn on one another.
  The book's pacing is quite slow at first as Berry takes her time in laying the foundation to her book, but after the first initial chapters, the pacing picks up as Dolssa and Botille meet. Although the book covers heavy topics and has several dark moments, there is also lighter moments in the book and hints at romance in the book. There are also suspenseful moments as the Inquisitors come close to finding Dolssa. My favorite parts of the book are the strong female friendship that develop between Dolssa, Botille, and Botille sisters. These women are not afraid to sacrifice their lives and comfort to help one another.
  I was so thankful to find a glossary and additional information in an author's note that talked about the religious discord, inquisitions, wars, and other female mystics that were referenced in the novel. I only wished that the list of characters was placed in the front of the book instead at the end. Some readers will shrink away from picking up this book because of the religious-centric themes in the book, but I didn't find the religious aspects heavy handed or preachy but rather a fascinating discussion on the different ways people interpret their faith and spirituality.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong violence throughout the book as people are burned alive at the stake, tortured, and captured. There is some crude humor and a lecherous clergyman who seduces and sleeps with young women. Due to the mature topics and writing style, I would recommend this book to older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The Apprentice's Masterpiece: a story of Medieval Spain by Melanie Little, The Day of Atonement by David Liss, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth (especially if you are interested in female friendships in tight situations)
Rummanah Aasi
 I first saw The Forgetting Time in a book review journal and the premise caught my eye. The book crosses a wide variety of genres, but I did not expect it to touch upon the idea of reincarnation. Depending on your viewpoint on reincarnation, this book will either bit a hit or miss with you. It was a miss for me, but there were parts of the book that I enjoyed.

Description: Noah wants to go home. A seemingly easy request from most four year olds. But as Noah's single-mother, Janie, knows, nothing with Noah is ever easy. One day the pre-school office calls and says Janie needs to come in to talk about Noah, and no, not later, now - and life as she knows it stops.
  For Jerome Anderson, life as he knows it has stopped. A deadly diagnosis has made him realize he is approaching the end of his life. His first thought - I'm not finished yet. Once a shining young star in academia, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, a professor of psychology, he threw it all away because of an obsession. Anderson became the laughing stock of his peers, but he didn't care - something had to be going on beyond what anyone could see or comprehend. He spent his life searching for that something else. And with Noah, he thinks he's found it.
  Soon Noah, Janie and Anderson will find themselves knocking on the door of a mother whose son has been missing for seven years - and when that door opens, all of their questions will be answered.

Review:  The Forgetting Time is a fictional exploration of the concept of reincarnation and its impact on one family. Single mom Janie Zimmerman is at her wits end with her four year old son Noah. He screams whenever he takes a bath due to his reoccurring nightmare of drowning and has recently been kicked out of preschool because he has been talking about guns and the scary parts of the Harry Potter books. He constantly asks Janie if he can "go home now" and if his "other mother" is coming soon. Noah's behavior spurs Janie to address her sons erratic and troublesome behavior by visiting psychiatrists and specialists which results in only in draining Janie's savings and in a tentative diagnosis of early-onset schizophrenia. Janie doesn't believe the diagnosis is right and in desperation she does an internet search for "another life" and ends up watching a documentary featuring Dr. Jerome Anderson, who has studied young children who has similar experiences as Noah. Once these three characters meet, the book becomes a mystery as Anderson tries to delve into Noah's psyche and attempts to find his other family.
 The Forgetting Time is a readable and ambitious novel. I liked how the concept of reincarnation is worked into the story, but I would have liked the book to include a bit more of background into reincarnation. There are several excerpts from a real book called Life Before Life: Children's Memories of Previous Lives by Jim Tucker, which describe real-life cases of apparently transferred memories, which I found fascinating, but the story in comparison to these excerpts fell flat. I think the book would have benefited from using Tucker's case as an inspiration board for her story instead of including it.
 There are a few subplots that are included in the book that don't have much of an impact as I had hoped. For instance, Anderson has been diagnosed with aphasia, a form of dementia that involves the gradual loss of language and while this has been mentioned with his character introduction, it is not used efficiently throughout the book. Anderson is also grieving the loss of his wife and son, which is important to the character but also not really addressed in the novel. The murder mystery was just okay and was easily solved with the other family was brought into the plot. Overall Guskin's debut novel tells a sentimental story with a murder mystery at its core. I would recommended it if you want to know more about reincarnation, but otherwise skip it.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, allusion to sexual situations, and underage drug use. Recommended for adults.

If you like this book try: Life Before Life: Children's Memories of Previous Lives by Jim Tucker, Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood, The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
Rummanah Aasi
  I really enjoyed Kwame Alexander's Newbery winning book, The Crossover. I have been recommending the book to both reluctant readers as well teens who love basketball. I will definitely will do the same with Booked.

Description: In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel The Crossover, soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.

Review: Although soccer plays a big part in the book and in Nick's life, the real focus of Booked is family relationships. Nick is dealing with his parent's impending divorce and how the sudden announcement is affecting his relationship with his parents, especially with his father. his ties to his parents are strained.
While I didn't like this book as much as The Crossover which I thought had more energy, I still enjoyed it. The book does a great job in balancing soccer and that of Nick's issues at home, humor, a dash of romance, and even incite to bullying. The chapters are short and the poems vary in length and in style. I also liked the nod to Langston Hughes' poetry. Being a bibliophile and a librarian, is it no surprise that I especially loved how reading and the love of words are used throughout the book. For example, Nick's father has written a dictionary and it is part of Nick's "homework" to read and learn the words in the dictionary which Nick hates to do. It is not until Nick's crush tells him that she finds his large vocabulary sexy that it changes his outlook on both learning new words and eventually reading. There are also some vocab words that are peppered throughout the story, which I didn't know and will now be adding to my own vocabulary.
I would certainly be remiss if I did not mention the awesome Mr. MacDonald aka "The Mac" who is a rapping librarian and who relentlessly tries to entice Nick with books. With Booked, Alexander has shown younger readers that reading and learning words is cool. I just hope they will hear the message.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson, Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff
Rummanah Aasi

Image Credit

 I wanted to write a book review, but in light of the tragic loss our nation suffered a couple of days ago a book review just seems trivial. Like thousands who stand in long lines to donate blood and/or financially donate to the, I, too, wanted to show my solidarity, love, respect, and honor for Orlando.
  Thanks to my library professor, Carol, I found a live, collaborating reading list called the #PulseOrlandoSyllabus that is being compiled by librarians, teachers, and others who are contributing their book recommendations to help those in need of comfort, support, and looking for further information about the GLBTQ community. Many thanks to Lydia Willoughby for starting this project!
  I added my favorite titles to the children, middle grade, and young adult sections. Please contribute your favorite GLBTQ resources to this list. If you are a teacher or a librarian who is looking to start your own GLBTQ collection for your school and/or library, this is a great place to start.

Rummanah Aasi

Description: When Esquire magazine planned an issue to salute the American jazz scene in 1958, graphic designer Art Kane pitched a crazy idea: how about gathering a group of beloved jazz musicians and photographing them? He didn’t own a good camera, didn’t know if any musicians would show up, and insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone. Could he pull it off?

Review: Jazz Day is remarkable poetry collection in which the author recreates an iconic 1958 Harlem photograph spotlighting many famous jazz musicians in just 21 poems. The poems flows beautifully as the sets up the background starting with Kane's inspiration of the photograph to providing short glimpses of the musicians' biography. Since I don't listen to jazz, a lot of the musicians were new to me and I learned a great deal from the poems. My favorite part of the book is the illustrated reproduction of the famous photograph. The illustrator beautifully captures not only the photograph in great details in acrylic and pastel painting but also captures the tone and the excitement of the photo shoot in progress. There is also an extensive resources page with thumbnail biographies, list of source notes, and bibliography for further reading. Jazz Day is a great resource for teachers and librarians who would like to do a lesson on music and poetry.  

Curriculum Connection: Art, music, and poetry. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for strong Grade 3 readers and up. 

If you like this book try: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, Harlem Hell Fighters by J. Patrick Lewis

Description: Some girls are perfectly happy never doing anything out of the ordinary. But Addie was anything but ordinary. She longed for thrills and excitement! At a time when a young lady appearing onstage was considered most unusual, Addie defied convention and became a dancer. And when she married the world-famous magician Herrmann the Great, she knew she had to be part of his show. Addie wanted to shock and dazzle! She would do anything to draw the crowds, even agree to be shot out of a cannon. But when Herrmann the Great died, Addie couldn’t disappoint her loyal fans — the show had to go on. What could she do?

Review: Anything But Ordinary Addie is a very fun read. Like many people, I also thought women were only the magician's assistant, but this pictorial biography should me that I was very wrong. Adelaide Herrman was a 19th century female magician. From a very young age, Adelaide did not want to be just any ordinary girl. Her independent spirit fueled her passion to push the limits of her gender. She joined a dance troupe, later joined the circus, and  delighted crowds by riding the bicycle-like “boneshaker.” She was introduced to magic when she boarded a ship from Europe to the U.S. where she met her husband Herrmann the Great. After a tragedy, she transitioned from a magician assistant to an established magician. Like the subject, the illustrations of this pictorial biography are larger than life and very lifelike. The colors are vibrant and bold. Each page draws you in and you begin to feel as if you are in the 19th century and Adelaide is performing right before your eyes. In addition to great story and illustrations, I also loved the female empowerment message.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 1 and up.

If you like this book try: Miss Mary Reporting by Sue Macy, The House that Jane Built by Tanya Lee Stone, Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough
Rummanah Aasi
Amanda Steven's The Visitor is one of my most anticipated reads of this year. Like many fans of the Graveyard Queen, I have waited quite some time for this book to come out after the huge revelations that were revealed in The Prophet. The Visitor is well worth the wait and it is packed with surprises, twists and turns in the plot, and an abundant amount of creepiness. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description: Restoring lost and abandoned cemeteries is my profession, but I'm starting to believe that my true calling is deciphering the riddles of the dead. Legend has it that Kroll Cemetery is a puzzle no one has ever been able to solve. For over half a century, the answer has remained hidden within the strange headstone inscriptions and intricate engravings. Because uncovering the mystery of that tiny, remote graveyard may come at a terrible price.
  Years after their mass death, Ezra Kroll's disciples lie unquiet, their tormented souls trapped within the walls of Kroll Cemetery, waiting to be released by someone strong and clever enough to solve the puzzle. For whatever reason, I'm being summoned to that graveyard by both the living and the dead. Every lead I follow, every clue I unravel brings me closer to an unlikely killer and to a destiny that will threaten my sanity and a future with my love, John Devlin.

Review: Amelia has always known that she is different. She has the ability to see the dead thanks to her family history, but as we learn in The Visitor, her sixth sense is also the tip of the iceberg. Stevens does a wonderful job in introducing a new mystery and restoration subplot while also delving deeper into her own characters backstories and character arc.
 Cleaning out the storage under her house, Amelia finds an item that kicks off her search to find the truth behind an image that looks exactly like her. She uncovers the mystery of a cult mass suicide and a family whose history intersects with her own. What I love about the mysteries in the Graveyard Queen series is that they are important and add to the overall plot arc to the series and are not treated as a subplot. The mystery had me invested right from the start and I had my guess that turned out right on a few things but the details surrounding Amelia surprised me.
  Amelia continues to be a great heroine. She is smart, pragmatic, and brave especially in times where I would have gladly turned away and ran for my life. She is much more powerful than she thought she was and I'm curious to see how her new revelations will change her life.
  There is romantic tension in this book, which thankfully does not involve a love triangle. Though Amelia and Devlin are close physically they still feel so far away from one another. Devlin's distance and his comings and goings were distracting and frustrating as I wished he would just spit out what was going on with him, but I am sure that was done on purpose. There is a hint that we will get more of his backstory in particular with his family's ties to a secret society. Though the book does not end in a cliffhanger, we have many unanswered questions about Amelia's future and thankfully, we don't have to wait long since the next book, The Sinner, comes out in September.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence, disturbing images, some language, and allusions to sexual situations. Recommended for mature teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The Sinner (Graveyard Queen #5) by Amanda Stevens released September 2016, Phantom Evil by Heather Graham, Left to Die by Lisa Jackson, and for YA readalikes try Wake series by Lisa McMann and The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows of the deadly connection the young men share, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth. Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

Review: I really like the author's idea of loosely retelling Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities with a romantic fantasy setting, however, I think this is the case where the book's premise is actually much better than the actual book. Instead of London and Paris set during the French Revolution, we are in the near future and New York City is divided between the ruling Light and oppressed Dark New York. Light New York essentially represent the forces of good, whereas the Dark magicians, use their magic for evil and live in squalor. Lucie Manette, born in Dark New York, but now lives in Light New York protected by her boyfriend, Ethan, son of Charles Stryker, one of Light New York's ironfisted, elite rulers. Lucie is also famously known as "the Golden Thread in the Dark," an iconic figure for the "sans-merci," violent revolutionaries who aim to end the Light's tyranny over the Dark. Further endangering Lucie and Ethan is Carwyn, Ethan's illegal doppelganger, the product of Charles Stryker's use of magic to save Ethan's life.
 There is much for the author to play with in her story, but nothing if fully developed. The world building is vague at best where magic used by the various characters are not explained. Lucie and Ethan are boring characters and failed to hold my attentions. Carwyn is mildly entertaining with his one liners, but he too also comes across as stock characters and can't carry the story alone. Though I liked the connections to Dicken's original story, the pace is very even. Maybe readers who are unfamiliar with the famous work would appreciate this one, but I think it will be a hard push. If you are looking for a fantasy retelling of a classic definitely check out For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund instead.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is minor language, scene of underage drinking, some strong violence, and an allusion to using drugs in a night club. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Description: Staid, responsible Elodie Buchanan is the eldest of ten sisters living in a small English market town in 1861. The girls barely know their father, a plant hunter usually off adventuring through China. Then disaster strikes: Mr. Buchanan reneges on his contract to collect an extremely rare and valuable orchid. He will be thrown into debtors’ prison while his daughters are sent to the orphanage and the workhouse.
   Elodie can’t stand by and see her family destroyed, so she persuades her father to return to China once more to try to hunt down the flower—only this time, despite everything she knows about her place in society, Elodie goes with him. She has never before left her village, but what starts as fear turns to wonder as she adapts to seafaring life aboard the tea clipper The Osprey, and later to the new sights, dangers, and romance of China. But now, even if she can find the orchid, how can she ever go back to being the staid, responsible Elodie that everybody needs?

Review: The Forbidden Orchid is set in 1861, Waller tackles plant hunting, the opium trade, and environmental activism in her sophomore novel. Elodie Buchanan is an ordinary girl and the eldest of 10 daughters. She is shrewd and responsible, helping her mother care for her sisters and the household in her father's absence. Mr. Buchanan is a plant hunter, who travels for extended periods to faraway places. When Mr. Buchanan fails to deliver an extremely rare and valuable orchid to a client, the entire family is threatened. Elodie begs her father to return to China to fulfill his contract and secretly plots to help him.
 The first half of the book is extremely slow as the author carefully details the banality of small English town life. We hear all talks of adventure and China, but we don't see any action about three-fourths of the story. Despite the very slow start, I did like Elodie, who manages to be witty and pragmatic for a girl her age. I also liked her struggle of defying social conventions, but also wanting to be loyal to her family and her duties as a daughter while yearning to be an independent woman.  The story definitely picked up for me when Elodie reaches to China, however, this portion of the book speeds by fast and I wanted to learn more about the Opium Wars and the politics behind it. There is some romance, but it started too quickly and seemed rushed. The Forbidden Orchid has elements of a good, researched historical fiction, but the slow pace and the journey to search for an orchid may not hold many reader's interest. I would only recommend this book to readers who love historical fiction.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is discussion about opium users and a scene at an opium den. There is also allusion to prostitution/sex slave and assault. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee, The Quietness by Alison Rattle,
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