I obsess over Forever Young Adult’s Book Reports. I wish I had created the format myself. I desperately want to create a book review format that is fun and quick to read but is not completely stealing theirs. So in order to tell you about 2 amazing books I am going to borrow from their format by attempting to create my own. Maybe we can perfect our own book reviews over time that is remotely as awesome as FYA’s. Also, hopefully FYA does not mind that I am encroaching upon their format. I do it with respect and mutual love of Meg Cabot, The Hunger Games, and drinking games.
BOOK #1: A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper
This book is also book #1 in the Montmaray Journals trilogy. I fell in love with this book from the cover. Sophie FitzOsborne is a princess of Montmaray, a tiny island nation somewhat near Spain, France, and England. Their tiny island is only home to a handful of villagers, King John (Sophie’s uncle) who is crazy, Veronica (Sophie’s slightly older cousin, the King’s daughter), Toby (Sophie’s slightly older brother), Henry (Sophie’s younger sister), Rebecca (the only person King John will tolerate), and Rebecca’s son Simon. Sophie’s mother and father died years before, and with King John crazy and confined to his bedroom, the older cousins are basically in charge. Sophie keeps count of their humdrum lives on the island in her journal. Things are pretty quiet, except – oh, wait – it’s 1936 and there are rumblings of conflict in Europe that reaches even tiny Montmaray.
I admit that the first portion of this book is pretty low-key. Don’t except a lot of action. However, we do get to learn about the amazing characters and get a description of Montmaray. But soon unexpected visitors arrive that will change their lives forever.
BOOK #2: The FitzOsbornes in Exile
In Book #2, the FitzOsbornes are living with their aunt Charlotte in England. I will not go into much detail on the plot or I may ruin things in book 1, and I suspect not too many people have read it yet. But please do! This book was SOO GOOD. I totally loved it! Even more than the first. It’s the first book in a long time that I didn’t want to end. The characters are fabulous – all fully developed and different from one another. The plot is compelling – from the more light-hearted (romantic?) sections to the heavier, war-is-coming portions.
**Fun Fact: Kelly over at Stacked showed us a double take with the cover of FitzOsbornes. I find it completely fascinating when covers have doubles. And especially when the play a game of “One of these things is not like the other.”**
So, to break it down —
Livability (how much you want to live in the world that was established in the books): 4/5
Montmaray sounds lovely, though a little isolated. They only hear from people when ships stop by with their mail. It’d probably be a good place to vacation to get away from it all…until near the end of the book. 😦
No, Don’t Go! (how much the characters stay with you when you’re done): 5/5
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t want to stop reading. All day when I was done, I kept wanting to pick up the book again and read more pages that didn’t exist. And not because there’s a cliffhanger or anything. Just because I generally enjoy the characters and want to spend more time with them. Fortunately there will be a 3rd book. Unfortunately I have no idea when it comes out. Please hurry, Ms. Cooper!!
I Capture the Castle
Similar cover, similar main character. If you like that one, go read these!
I used to LOVE historical fiction when I was a teenager. I’m a total history nerd, and I always loved when I’d read a great fiction book that made me want to learn more about real facts. I don’t feel like I’ve read too many great YA historical fiction books in the last few years. I’ve read some that were ok, but only these have left me feeling like I subconsciously learned some things and inspired to learn more. There were definitely a few times when reading The FitzOsbornes in Exile when I turned to the Internet to confirm a fact or check to see when something would happen. Ms. Cooper definitely did a lot of research, and even though Montmaray is a fictional country, the story felt completely real. And for any librarians/teachers reading, there is an author’s note at the end – of The FitzOsbornes in Exile at least. I can’t remember about A Brief History of Montmaray but I’d guess there’s one there too.
FYI: Yes, that is totes a picture of Tootie from Meet Me in St. Louis. She is exactly who I kept picturing as Sophie’s younger sister Princess Henrietta aka Henry. Henry is awesome. She loves to get into trouble, is a total tomboy, and refuses to be denied things just because she’s a little girl in the mid 1930s. One of my only complains about The FitzOsbornes in Exile is that Henry is not in it enough. A few of her spunky moments include times with her pet pig, nearly causing a riot at Buckingham Palace, and aiding in the capture of a crazed assassin.
Sometimes books in journal entries are a hit or miss for me. I don’t necessarily want to be fully removed from the action and only told about it later, but Sophie is very good at remembering conversations and is often designated secretary, so entries are written with full dialogue. There’s also a risk of an unreliable narrator, but I believe Sophie to be very trustful and reliable, so I think everything is just as it happened.
If you are a Goodreads friend, you’ll see that I gave A Brief History of Montmaray a 4/5 and The FitzOsbornes in Exile a 5/5. So what are you waiting for? Go read them!!!