Genre: Historical Fiction

Goodbye, Scarlet & Robin: Lion Heart (2015) by A.C. Gaughen

Goodbye, Scarlet & Robin: Lion Heart (2015) by A.C. GaughenLion Heart by A.C. Gaughen
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on May 19th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Adaptations, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Historical Fiction, Love & Romance, Medieval, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Goodreads
four-stars

Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.Only the greatest loves can survive great danger. . . Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape, she learns that King Richard's life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine needs Scarlet's help to free him. For a lifelong thief, this newfound allegiance to the crown-her family-is a strange feeling.Scarlet knows that helping Eleanor will put her and those she loves back in Prince John's sights. Desperate not to risk anyone's life but her own, Scarlet formulates a plan to help save the king on her own. But fate-and her heart-won't allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long. Even if Scarlet and Rob can together stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England, will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

**Thank you, Bloomsbury, for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!

It’s the end of an era. With the publication of Lion Heart, the Scarlet trilogy by A.C. Gaughen is over. It has been an epic and wonderful ride, but alas, it’s over. However, there’s always one solution: Re-read! I’m excited to own the first two books, and you can bet I’ll get a finished copy of the final installment.

I was privileged to see A.C. Gaughen when she participated in a YA Author panel at a local library. She signed my copy of Lady Thief and it was absolutely brilliant to hear her talk about the Scarlet trilogy! It was even more amazing to get a chance to chat with her. She is one cool person, and I love that just as she illuminates strong female characters in her writing, she actually works in a job that is focused on empowering women and girls. So brilliant!

And now, for my thoughts about Lion Heart.

What I Loved

The Characters: Of course, I loved meeting all my old friends from the previous two books—Much, Bess, Scarlet, Rob, Winchester, Eleanor…and then there are the baddies such as Prince John and Lord De Clare. They certainly add tension and a fair measure of angst at different points in the narrative, so hold on!

The Politics: I felt this book captured more of a political tone with the whole situation behind the tax that Prince John was supposedly trying to raise to bring back Richard. As Scarlet takes on her new title (given to her by her father, Richard the Lionheart) she must navigate the world of the nobles and learn how to outsmart Prince John and his evil plot to take over the kingdom. I enjoyed watching Scarlet continue to evolve into her new role, and her passion for justice for her people is just as pronounced in this third book.

Scarlet + Rob: What’s not to love about the relationship and romance between Robin Hood and Scarlet? (Aka Marian) These two are one of my favorite YA couples and for that reason these books will probably be re-read regularly.

Quotes that Made Me Think About Spirituality:

“It were a place that weren’t supposed to be filled with love, but that’s how it had always been. Our love filled the broken bits and made us whole again. There weren’t no perfect time to love him, not ever, and it had always been with the threat of death and hurt hovering round us. And we’d love each other anyway. Sure, and true.”

“It seems a precious thing, for someone to know the very worst part of you and love you anyway.”

“My heart holds my love, my hope, and my faith. My heart is unyielding, my heart is stalwart, and my heart is true.”

“But now I choose light and fire and love. Now I choose freedom.”

The Difficult Moments:

Waiting for Scarlet & Rob to be reunited: The beginning of the story opens with Scarlet imprisoned by Prince John. She’s been separated from her crew for several months, and though she (spoiler) escapes in the beginning of the book, it’s still quite a few chapters before Robin discovers she’s alive! You can imagine that I was turning the pages anxiously, waiting for the two to be reunited.

More bloodshed: As you know from the end of Lady Thief, bad people kill good people in this series. I hate to say it, but there’s more of that in Lion Heart. This was treacherous time for certain groups of people, and I do applaud A.C. Gaughen for depicting the historical period as accurately as she could. You can imagine the conditions she depicts on the pages of the trilogy are pretty close to life in the 12th century.

Danger for Scarlet & Rob: Yes, there are more moments in which Scarlet’s life is threatened or she gets hurt, and more danger for Robin as well. One of the scenes towards the end of the book is especially nail biting inducing. So be prepared! In spite of this, you’ll know from Scarlet and Lady Thief that Scarlet’s passion for justice and her knife throwing skills are certain to save the day.

Who Should Read This Book:

It’s a no-brainer if you read Scarlet and Lady Thief that you should read Lion Heart. It releases today! Yay! If you haven’t read the first two books, and you love a good young adult novel with a focus on a particular period in history (and illuminating a legend!), then by all means, run, don’t walk to the bookstore and pick up Scarlet. Read immediately!

The Final Illumination:

I’m definitely feeling the feels now that I’ve finished Lion Heart. I think I dragged my reading of the third book out a bit because I knew once I finished, that was it. I’m still glad I read this series, and know that I’ll return to it again. I absolutely love the Robin Hood legend, and of course, Maid Marian! Reading these books has renewed my interest in this period in English history so I’ve now added several books to my TBR about this period.

Are you planning to read Lion Heart? Have you read the first two in the trilogy?

four-stars
What Katie Read

ARC Review & Giveaway: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (2015) by Anne Blankman

ARC Review & Giveaway: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (2015) by Anne BlankmanConspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman
Published by Harper Collins on April 21st 2015
Genres: Death & Dying, Europe, Historical Fiction, Holocaust, People & Places, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Goodreads
five-stars

Acclaimed author Anne Blankman returns to the shadowy and dangerous world of 1930s Germany in this thrilling sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog, perfect for fans of Code Name Verity.The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: She used to be part of Adolf Hitler's inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives in England, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.But then Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen's world turns upside down. When she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she'd escaped—and return to her homeland. Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel's name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time—or will Hitler discover them first?

“Life is so short and so precious, and I don’t want to waste another second of it wondering how you feel about me or what’s going to become of us. I love you. If anything happened to you, the world would stop for me. I would want it to stop because I can’t go on without you.” (259-260)

What I Loved:

The History: Like Prisoner, Blankman researched A LOT for this sequel set in 1933. One thing I love about historical fiction is the history lesson that the reader receives while reading the book. This story was no exception, and though I read a lot of WWII-era books, this story is unique in that it is set in the 30s and is told from the perspective of a German who grew up in Hitler’s inner circle. That alone provides a fascinating dimension to the story, and I knew almost nothing about the real-life murder/conspiracy that Hitler’s thugs were involved with in Munich. The fact that I learned so much more about Hitler and this mysterious fire that actually happened drew me further into the book.

You don’t want to miss Blankman’s imagining of this “conspiracy” from Gretchen and Daniel’s perspectives. I also really enjoyed the inclusion of Winston Churchill in the story. This was a welcome addition to the narrative that solidified the fact that many individuals leading up to the war and during it, chose to take a stand for justice, even in the face of danger and death. Many of these individuals were honored for their roles (and books like this one as well as Code Name Verity have led me to acquire some nonfiction titles about those who played a role in the resistance during the war).

I loved that Blankman included an extensive afterword and shared info about what was real and what wasn’t. Extensive biographies in the back of books are my friends! I get very excited when I see these biographies. In my ARC, the biography begins on page 402 and continues to page 405.

Gretchen’s Bravery: German in the 1930s is a scary place for certain groups of people, especially someone that has defied Hitler and shared information about him that he never wanted revealed. That’s Gretchen Whitestone for you! Does that keep her from returning to German to follow he one she loves? Of course not! Gretchen’s bravery is revealed again and again in the story, and though I loved her as a character in Prisoner, that sentiment was only strengthened in the sequel.

I also appreciated watching Gretchen’s further working through of the tension between what she grew up hearing from Hitler about the Jews and Communists and what she thinks as an older and more experienced young woman.

Gretchen & Daniel: I appreciated the deeper glimpse into Daniel and Gretchen’s relationship—including its complexities and challenges. Things don’t always go well for them, and they have their ups and downs, like any relationship. However, they are brave enough to work through them, and as I mentioned earlier, Gretchen and Daniel will both go to great lengths for each other.

The Suspense: Just like Prisoner, Conspiracy featured several nail biting moments of suspense! This is one aspect of the book that kept me reading—there are definitely some moments in the book when you wonder, are these characters going to make it out of this? Though some readers might think it’s a little too providential that certain characters are saved, etc., the fact is that these kinds of providential situations did occur before, during, and after the war!

Who Should Read This Book:

If you read Prisoner of Night and Fog, you must make sure you’re in line to read the sequel. You won’t want to miss a moment of Gretchen and Daniels’ journey. By the end of Prisoner of Night and Fog, you assume everything will be fine—Gretchen and Daniel are together, and life can go on. But, you quickly realize that not all is as it should be in the beginning of Conspiracy, and once you start reading the book, be warned. You might not put it down until you discover how this new predicament of Gretchen and Daniel will work itself out.

Blankman provides flashbacks to remind readers of the first book, but I strongly recommend you read Prisoner first.

You know that I’m a great fan of historical fiction, especially Middle Grade, YA, and Adult fiction set during WWII. This is one of my new favorite YA series, and you’ll remember in my review of Prisoner of Night and Fog, that I read the first book in one afternoon for Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon. I remember being so excited about the release of Prisoner, so when I finally had my hands on a copy, I wanted to dive right in. Needless to say, Prisoner of Night and Fog was one of my favorite YA releases last year, and one of my favorite debuts.

When Danielle at Love at First Page offered to loan me her ARC, I was beyond excited and thankful! Later on, I received my own ARC of the book, which I so appreciated as this will be one I hang onto for a long time (Thank you, Heather Doss, of Harper!).

A Spiritual Illumination:

A clear desire for justice burns within Daniel—he makes it clear from the beginning of the book that he is willing to do almost anything to see justice win. Gretchen’s compassion and love for him also drives her to help him with this task of exonerating himself. To me, this was a clear spiritual aspect of the book—the desire for justice that is reflected in both Daniel and Gretchen. But also, there’s this idea of making sacrifices for love, and this is another spiritual aspect that stuck out to me in the book.

I loved the sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog! What about you? Have you read it or are you planning to read it?

If you don’t have it yet, you can enter my giveaway to win a copy (US Only)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

five-stars
What Katie Read

Journey to Sherwood Forest: Scarlet (2012) by A.C. Gaughen

Journey to Sherwood Forest: Scarlet (2012) by A.C. GaughenScarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on February 14th 2012
Genres: Action & Adventure, Historical Fiction, Legends, Myths, Fables, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Goodreads
four-stars

Posing as one of Robin Hood's thieves to avoid the evil Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only Big John and Robin Hood know the truth-that the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. It's getting harder to hide as Gisbourne's camp seeks to find Scarlet and drive Robin Hood out of Nottinghamshire. But Scarlet's instinct for self-preservation is at war with a strong sense of responsibility to the people who took her in when she was on the run, and she finds it's not so easy to turn her back on her band and townspeople. As Gisbourne draws closer to Scarlet and puts innocent lives at risk, she must decide how much the people of Nottinghamshire mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles and temper have the rare power to unsettle Scarlet. Full of exciting action, secrets, and romance, this imaginative retelling of the classic tale will have readers following every move of Robin Hood and band of thieves.

Today, I’m bringing you a glimpse into the world of Robin Hood, Will Scarlet, and Sherwood Forest…because a trilogy is concluding this year. In May, to be exact. If you haven’t met A.C. Gaughen’s Robin and his band of Nottingham, you might want to consider it.

Without further ado, I share my thoughts on Scarlet!

Suggested age range: 13 and up

Illuminations

“I do what I do because I will always believe that no matter how awful life gets for however many of these people, there is something I can do about it. There is something I will do about it.”

One thing that Robin Hood and his band of merrymen/woman stand for is justice. At least, they want to see the poor treated fairly, and for the most part, this isn’t happening due to the harsh taxes imposed upon the common people. It doesn’t help to have the Sheriff and his men intimidating and terrorizing the population, so Robin, along with John, Scarlet, and Much do what they can to provide food and relief for the people. Sometimes the rich give willingly to help Robin Hood, and sometimes they don’t. The whole ‘steal from the rich and give to the poor’ issue could be discussed at length, but I want to stick to this notion of the band wanting to protect the people of Nottingham from the Sheriff and his thugs.

An aspect of the narrative I loved is the way we’re reminded that Scarlet, along with Robin, wants to help make life better for people around them. They recognize injustice, and they don’t just sit around. They do something. As reflected by the above quote, there is “something” to be done about injustice. These aren’t passive characters—they are actively doing “something” in order to help those around them.

“ ‘We thank God for your help. We all do.’ ”

For the most part, the people are thankful for Robin and Scarlet and company. But what makes the story even more interesting is that sometimes they aren’t, and tensions arise. Sometimes bad things happen. People don’t get out of prison.

“Because we always have a choice, even when it feels like we don’t.”

This quote illuminates another gem of wisdom—we make choices and we take responsibility for our choices, even if when it’s hard. Even if it doesn’t feel like it was our choice.

Scarlet makes a choice to hide her identity, and naturally, there are consequences for that choice. Being able to communicate honestly with those closest to her is something she struggles with, but the story shows her growing in that, and I’m looking forward to seeing how she changes and continues to evolve as a character in Lady Thief.

Who Should Read This Book

Robin Hood fan? Check this out. Female protagonists that disguise themselves as guys? Check this out. A story set in 12th century England? Go for it! Sherwood Forest? Friar Tuck? Rescuing the poor out of prison? All of these points are reasons for you to try Scarlet. And, guess what? There are two more books in the trilogy to read. The second one, Lady Thief, is already published, and the third, Lionheart, will be on shelves on May 19th!

I love reading re-workings of classics, and so I was naturally drawn to this series. Readers told me it was good, and the author of Undertow, K.R. Conway, said it was fabulous! I felt like I couldn’t pass it up. Fairy tale re-workings are amazing, but this is different in that it’s based on a legend—and with a legend there is the idea that it’s based on a real historical figure. However, we can’t completely know, and that’s where the imagination comes in. I love that A.C. Gaughen includes a segment at the end about her process of writing this book and researching for it.

The Final Illumination

So, yes, I’m a little late getting to the Scarlet party, but I’m here now, with bells on. This was a fantastic read! Of course, I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and when it’s a narrative that incorporates an English legend, I’m even more interested. So I knew I was going to read Scarlet at some point—it was just a matter of when. I love the spin Gaughen takes on the Robin Hood legend. There’s adventure, intrigue, and even the hint of romance.

There were a few aspects of Scarlet’s character that I was surprised about, considering her real identity, and the whole issue with her liking Robin but not admitting it—that annoyed me a bit. I can understand that her issues kept her from communicating clearly, but considering her background, I did think she would have handled the situation with John and Robin a little differently. Then again, there is her age to consider—she’s fairly young. She’s an interesting character, that’s certain, but I wanted to feel more drawn to Scarlet. That may change in the second book.

To conclude, I enjoyed Scarlet, and have high hopes for the sequels. I’m even more intrigued by the Robin Hood legend, and thank you to A.C. Gaughen for that bibliography in the back of the book. I just may have to snatch up Stephen Lawhead’s Hood one of these days.

Have you read Scarlet? What about Lady Thief? What did you think? Are there other Robin Hood re-tellings you would recommend to me?

four-stars
What Katie Read
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