A sweet historical romance hobbled by cliché.

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PLAYING BY HEART

It might seem like Emilia and Maria live lives of ease and decadence, but behind the fancy dresses are two young teenagers who work hard and are deeply affected by events beyond their control.

Emilia is a talented musician who composes her own music, while her sister Maria is a talented scholar with a gift for languages. Their father is proud of them, but he also sees them as tools with which to gain a stronger foothold in 1737 Milan’s noble society. His vision of their future clashes sharply with Emilia’s, which involves a betrothal to a certain handsome violin player. And Maria feels called to join a convent and serve the poor, but as the eldest daughter, she is expected to contribute to her family’s social standing instead of following her own wishes. Martino explores the gilded passageways of Hapsburg-era Milan’s white aristocracy with technically accomplished descriptions of privilege, luxury, and teenage longing. The writing is sometimes rich and nuanced, though it often falls victim to cliché. For example, when the music teacher praises Emilia’s love for writing music with “true heart,” Emilia thinks to herself, “And in doing so, he’d captured mine.” The romance at the heart of the book tends to miss the mark of real passion with weak arrows of platitude.

A sweet historical romance hobbled by cliché. (Historical fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5467-9945-0

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Sensitive subject matter that could have benefited from a subtler, more sober touch.

RESISTANCE

A Jewish girl joins up with Polish resistance groups to fight for her people against the evils of the Holocaust.

Chaya Lindner is forcibly separated from her family when they are consigned to the Jewish ghetto in Krakow. The 16-year-old is taken in by the leaders of Akiva, a fledgling Jewish resistance group that offers her the opportunity to become a courier, using her fair coloring to pass for Polish and sneak into ghettos to smuggle in supplies and information. Chaya’s missions quickly become more dangerous, taking her on a perilous journey from a disastrous mission in Krakow to the ghastly ghetto of Lodz and eventually to Warsaw to aid the Jews there in their gathering uprising inside the walls of the ghetto. Through it all, she is partnered with a secretive young girl whom she is reluctant to trust. The trajectory of the narrative skews toward the sensational, highlighting moments of resistance via cinematic action sequences but not pausing to linger on the emotional toll of the Holocaust’s atrocities. Younger readers without sufficient historical knowledge may not appreciate the gravity of the events depicted. The principal characters lack depth, and their actions and the situations they find themselves in often require too much suspension of disbelief to pass for realism.

Sensitive subject matter that could have benefited from a subtler, more sober touch. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-14847-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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