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Velvet by Mary Hooper

Homeless and starving, Velvet was fortunate to find a job at Ruffold’s Steam Laundry and a tiny room to call her own. In 1900 Victorian England, she fights for survival every day against the heat and backbreaking labour. When an opportunity arises for a higher position, Velvet works her fingers to the bone to keep her role as a personal laundress for the wealthy spiritual medium Madame Sayoya.

However, mistakes do happen and Velvet gets fired. By a stroke of luck she is welcomed into the home of her best client. Now a part of the spiritual community, Velvet follows the rules to a T to ensure every séance of Madame’s goes without issue. She falls in love with Madame’s handsome assistant George and plans her future of finery. As time passes, cracks form in her wonderful world and Velvet must face her past and confront dangerous secrets.

Velvet takes an age-old story of a struggling girl in London during a period when fortune-tellers, mediums and paying for spiritual consultants were a fashionable hobby. Mary Hooper takes it a step further by weaving other historical aspects that are less flattering about this time period. It’s an easy and engrossing read that will keep you turning pages to learn more about how mediums tricked innocent patrons and if Velvet can survive being stuck in a web of lies.

I’ve always had a fondness for historical fiction. Perhaps it began with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia books. I was always fascinated by historical England just as much as what occurred in Narnia. I absolutely fell in love with the imagery and storytelling of Victorian England. It’s extra enjoyable when part of the setting is around the corner from where one presently lives. Hooper does her research and she does it well. The tone, the language and the events of story are engaging without being dry. The only criticism I have about the book is how weak at times Velvet appears, and although I understand it’s a period equation, that’s how women behaved back then. I can’t help but wish there was a bit more spunk to her character.  If this title is on your to-read list, get it read! It’s a great YA book that’s got some romance but has more depth by placing survival as the main focus.

Olympic Mascot Statues

I am sick this week. Most likely the flu. In between coughing I’m sleeping.  Nevertheless I wanted to share some things I’ve seen. The London 2012 Olympic Mascot’s Wenlock and Mandeville are terrible, but that’s not going to stop me from enjoying the 84 statues that are placed around London. They’re painted like some of the capital’s most loved attractions. Find the maps here, and they’re actually relatively easy to find unlike the others statues that have been around in the past. I hope to find more, but I need to get better first.

My total count so far is 21/84 and here are the best 10.

Fateful by Claudia Gray

 

 

Tess Davies has served the wealthy Lisle family for most of her life. Forced to live in squander whilst working to the bone, her only hope is to start over in America after accompanying the family abroad. But an encounter with a handsome stranger the night before the voyage temporarily puts her plan out of focus. He’s hot, he’s manly, and he’s just saved Tess’s life and then instantly disappears. She puts the event out of her mind as she focuses on her duty to the Lisle’s as they board for their coming journey. Yet there’s more to this handsome stranger than Tess realises and it’s honestly the least of her worries as she and the Lisle’s settle in on the RMS “Titanic”.

I really wanted to like this book. Entranced by the cover (how could one not?) and intrigued by the blurb I was hungry for a disaster story. Adoring the history around the Titanic it was wonderful to be transported to a different point of view (a servant girl’s) rather than just how the wealthy enjoyed the voyage. Regardless, I couldn’t like the book. I praise Gray for giving herself a challenge. Writing about the Titanic and weaving an evil supernatural society into the logistics isn’t an easy task. Regardless, I felt that Tess has too many loopholes. I didn’t buy the love story either, and that is what ruined the book for me. I wanted to believe in Tess and Alec, but it was just so easy. ‘I see him! I love him!’ Doesn’t cut it. And he’s a werewolf, big surprise!

What kept me reading, and on the edge of my seat was when the Titanic hits the iceberg. We all know it’s going to happen, and what occurs after, but how does Tess cope? Will she make it? What about the family she serves? Do the readers want them to survive? Reading through the tragedy creates such a level of suspense that before you know it; the end of the book arrives.

I think Fateful is an ideal book for YA readers, especially on the younger side of the spectrum. It’s got passionate love up to first base, a heroine that young girls will want to succeed and protagonists to root against. Blending history with fantasy is a difficult task, and even through the holes, Gray is able to create truly romantic supernatural tale.