A Riotous Romp

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings, #1)The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a corker. A fun romp with the dissolute and self-centred Monty and his faithful and close confidante, Percy. Along for the ride is Monty’s sister Felicity who is not your average Regency chick. After embarking on their Grand Tour, things go horribly awry for Monty and his party when he decides, out of spite, to pilfer a small box from the home of a French Minister, the Duke of Bourbon. Their trip turns into a daring and breathless chase across France, Spain and Italy as they are robbed, kidnapped and enlisted as pirates along the way.
Monty and Percy are developing a close relationship, closer than society would like and, to make things even more complicated, Percy reveals he is epileptic – an affliction that will see him thrown into an asylum.
Lee maintains a good narrative pace, and the characters are engaging and likeable. The historical details feel accurate and cover a wide variety of issues of the period. Of particular interest are the treatment of black people such as Percy, and conventions around the roles of women such as Felicity. Monty is the lens the reader sees these things through, and he learns as we learn.
Heartily recommended for ages 14 and up.

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The Runaway King hits his stride

The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy #2)The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Runaway King picks up a few weeks after Jaron, thought to be dead for a number of years, came back to Carthya to take his rightful place on the throne. Vargan, the king of neighbouring Avenia, is a clear threat and makes no secret of his desire to wrest the throne from Jaron’s grasp. Too emotional to attend his parents’ funeral, Jaron takes refuge in a favourte part of the castle grounds, only to become the victim of an attack by none other than Roden, one of his former fellow “trainees” from the last book. During their encounter Roden reveals he has joined the pirates – the very people who had been commissioned to kill Jaron and the king and queen. Roden gives Jaron an ultimatum – give himself up to the pirates so they can finish the job, or they will attack Carthya and destroy it to get to him. Of course, Jaron refuses and stands his ground. After a brief tussle, Jaron is knocked out an when he comes to, Roden is gone.
Jaron is surrounded by people doing things in secret: his betrothed, Amarida, seems to be in cahoots with Conner, his enemy and former captor who is now himself in jail; Gregor, a regent, wants to become Jaron’s Chief Steward, which would give him more power than Jaron would be confortable with. He doesn’t know who to trust, execpt Imogen – the servant girl who helped to save him, and Mott – the servant who trained him at Conner’s estate.
Not sure who is an ally or an enemy, Jaron resolves to go the pirates himself, as Sage, and defeat them from within before Roden returns in 9 days. This sets the scene for lots of action and intrigue. As in The False Prince the rest of the story is fast-paced and engaging. There are anxious moments, and moments of revelation as the conspirators and their allys are revealed and defeated. And just when we think everything is smooth sailing, Avenia starts an invasion – setting the scene for the third and final instalment. I really hope Jaron grows up a bit more in the next book – he needs to stop being so hot-headed all the time, but I can’t wait to find out what happens. Bring on Book 3!

Anh Do really is The Happiest Refugee

The Happiest Refugee: A MemoirThe Happiest Refugee: A Memoir by Anh Do

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this biography/autobiography. I really hope the rumours I have heard about Anh not actually writing this book turn out to be false.

This is a story not just of Anh, but of his whole family and their triumph over very difficult circumstances. The writing style is VERY easy to read and I whipped through this in a day. The stories from Anh’s childhood are poignant and fascinating – there is much self-deprication here, and gratitude.

Certainly, as I read of the terrifying ordeal Anh’s family went through on the boat getting out of Vietnam, I realised just how lucky I was to be born here in Australia. The troubled relationship with his father and, later, the wonderful reconciliation were lovely to read.

Anh comes across as a loving son and brother, and his devotion to Suzie, his wife, is palpable. They truly seem like soulmates and it is clear by the end of the book that Anh is very happy with his lot here in Australia.

I thoroughly recommend this as a light but very interesting holiday read.