Pitched for Downton Abbey fans but lacking both the style and the accuracy.

MANOR OF SECRETS

Upstairs, Lady Charlotte pines for a more adventurous, purposeful life, while downstairs, kitchen maid Janie doesn’t allow herself to consider any possibilities other than servitude.

The Manor is home to the Edmondses and all of the servants they require. Charlotte, age 16, understands that her mother, the icy Lady Diane wants her to marry dull Lord Andrew, but it’s a handsome footman who catches her eye and kisses her. She also forges a friendship with maid Janie, drawn to her adventurousness as well as her practical skills, though the admiration is not mutual. Alternating chapters reflect the two girls’ perspectives. The arrival of Charlotte’s cosmopolitan aunt, the Lady Beatrice, creates new questions in Charlotte’s mind about societal expectations and also about the mysterious coolness between Beatrice and Diane. References to corsets, airplanes, Worth gowns and “suffragettes” place the tale around 1910, as Old World values were beginning to shift. Longshore works in interesting details about period food and clothing, but characters’ speech and behavior often seem off, as, for instance, when servants riff on Shakespeare and the oh-so-proper Lady Diane refers to a “shiner.” The choppy prose style relies heavily on sentence fragments: “This was a test. Of her fortitude. But also of her ability to disregard the wall that separated mistress from servant.”

Pitched for Downton Abbey fans but lacking both the style and the accuracy. (Historical romance. 12-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-56758-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun.

STARSIGHT

From the Skyward series , Vol. 2

As if the threat of huge, raging monsters from hyperspace isn’t scary enough, hotshot fighter pilot Spensa Nightshade becomes embroiled in an alien empire’s politics.

On a desperate mission to steal hyperdrive technology from the crablike invading Krell who are threatening to destroy her beleaguered home colony on Detritus, Spensa, who is white, holographically disguises herself as a violet-skinned UrDail and slips into a Krell pilot training program for “lesser species.” The discovery that she’s being secretly trained not to fight planet-destroying delvers but to exterminate humans, who are (with some justification, having kindled three interstellar wars in past centuries) regarded in certain quarters as an irrationally aggressive species, is just one in a string of revelations as, in between numerous near-death experiences on practice flights, she struggles to understand both her own eerie abilities and the strange multispecies society in which she finds herself. There are so many characters besides Spensa searching for self-identity—notably her comic-relief sidekick AI M-Bot, troubled human friend Jorgen back on Detritus, and Morriumur, member of a species whose color-marked sexes create trial offspring—that even with a plot that defaults to hot action and escalating intrigue the pacing has a stop and start quality. Still, Spensa’s habitual over-the-top recklessness adds a rousing spark, and the author folds in plenty of banter as well as a colorful supporting cast.

Not quite the wild ride of Skyward (2018) but still great fun. (Science fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55581-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli.

DEAD WEDNESDAY

For two teenagers, a small town’s annual cautionary ritual becomes both a life- and a death-changing experience.

On the second Wednesday in June, every eighth grader in Amber Springs, Pennsylvania, gets a black shirt, the name and picture of a teen killed the previous year through reckless behavior—and the silent treatment from everyone in town. Like many of his classmates, shy, self-conscious Robbie “Worm” Tarnauer has been looking forward to Dead Wed as a day for cutting loose rather than sober reflection…until he finds himself talking to a strange girl or, as she would have it, “spectral maiden,” only he can see or touch. Becca Finch is as surprised and confused as Worm, only remembering losing control of her car on an icy slope that past Christmas Eve. But being (or having been, anyway) a more outgoing sort, she sees their encounter as a sign that she’s got a mission. What follows, in a long conversational ramble through town and beyond, is a day at once ordinary yet rich in discovery and self-discovery—not just for Worm, but for Becca too, with a climactic twist that leaves both ready, or readier, for whatever may come next. Spinelli shines at setting a tongue-in-cheek tone for a tale with serious underpinnings, and as in Stargirl (2000), readers will be swept into the relationship that develops between this adolescent odd couple. Characters follow a White default.

Characters to love, quips to snort at, insights to ponder: typical Spinelli. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30667-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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