Size Doesn’t Matter (59): The Swift Boys & Me; An Offer from a Gentleman; A School for Unusual Girls

Size Doesn’t Matter (59): The Swift Boys & Me; An Offer from a Gentleman; A School for Unusual GirlsThe Swift Boys & Me by Kody Keplinger
Published by Scholastic on April 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 272
Format: Paperback
Source: Gifted
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two-half-stars

The lyrical and moving middle-grade debut from YA author Kody Keplinger!

Eleven-year-old Nola Sutton has been best friends and neighbors with the Swift boys for practically her whole life. There's the youngest, Kevin, who never stops talking; the oldest, Brian, who's always kind and calm; and then there's Canaan, the ringleader and Nola's best-best friend. Together, they have a summer of fun adventures planned.

But then everything changes overnight.

When the boys' dad leaves without even saying good-bye, it completely destroys the Swift family, and all Nola can do is watch. She tries to hold on to them, but they are changing. Kevin stops talking, Canaan starts hanging out with mean boys, and Brian is never around. Nola just wants things to go back to the way they were -- the way they've always been.

Is Nola strong enough to save the Swift boys from themselves, or has she lost them forever?

Shortly before I read The Swift Boys & Me, I DNFed Kody Keplinger’s latest YA novel, Run. Though I liked The Swift Boys & Me enough to finish it, these combined experiences make me feel like Keplinger’s moving in a direction I may not want to follow as a reader. That said, The Swift Boys & Me is an excellent middle grade title for kids dealing with loss or friendship problems.

I admit that I struggled with this one a bit. Like Run, it’s got a southern setting and is written with some dialect, though thankfully less strong than in Run. It’s totally a personal thing, but I really do not like reading southern dialect. Add to that the younger voice, and The Swift Boys & Me was not my favorite reading experience. Also, there’s a horrible woman at my office named Nola, so that was a personal issue too.

Still I think Keplinger does a nice job with the story she’s telling, and I think kids who read it will learn some good things from it. Nola’s dealing with the loss of her best friends, the Swift boys, after their daddy leaves them unexpectedly without saying goodbye. Brian goes and stays with friends, Canaan (her super best friend) starts hanging out with the neighborhood bullies and being mean to her, and Kevin stops talking at all. The Swift Boys & Me deals with the way that grief and loss can change a person, and also just with, on a broad level, the way that interpersonal relationships change as time passes.

I hate feeling like an old geezer, but the voice was just too young for me to be really into this book. Add in some personal pet peeves and this was not my favorite Keplinger. I’m probably won’t read anything more by Keplinger unless it’s a contemporary romance, but, for those who like southern fiction, this one and Run are probably worth trying.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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Size Doesn’t Matter (59): The Swift Boys & Me; An Offer from a Gentleman; A School for Unusual GirlsAn Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn
Series: Bridgertons #3
Published by Avon on August 25, 2015
Genres: Historical, Romance, Retelling
Pages: 421
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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three-half-stars

Sophie Beckett never dreamed she'd be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton's famed masquerade ball—or that "Prince Charming" would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.

Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other—except, perhaps, this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid's garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet, if he offers her his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy tale love?

Imagine my delight at beginning An Offer from a Gentleman only to discover that it’s actually a Cinderella retelling! I had no idea, but it very much is. Though the cover is still a lie, because Sophie doesn’t leave her shoe behind, but whatever.

Quinn actually puts a fairly unique spin on Cinderella, which surprised me to be honest because there are a million retellings and the Cinderella is hard to do anything interesting with at this point. Sophie’s got the evil stepmother using her for free labor, but she didn’t have the loving father; in fact, her dad wouldn’t admit that Sophie was his bastard, though it was obvious to everyone she was, claiming instead that she was his ward.

Instead of the shoe on the cover, Sophie forgets a glove, which Benedict uses to try to track her down. Unlike with the original tale, Benedict’s not successful, and he’s capable of telling with his eyeballs that the stepsisters are not the girls he met, rather than having them try on the glove. His eyeballs are not good enough, however, to recognize Sophie two years later without a face mask and working as a maid for another family.

Sophie and Benedict have an instalove thing at the masquerade ball she crashes wearing her grandmother’s gown, but they have to fall in love slowly over time. He doesn’t recognize her and she, for various reasons, doesn’t want to tell him who she is. I like this a lot, except for the fact that Benedict keeps pushing her to be his mistress even after she’s said no very sternly several times. It’s totally realistic for the time but it isn’t the most romantic thing ever.

Quinn also got Sophie right. She’s got the Cinderella sweetness of character, but she’s not a pushover, which often happens with nice girl heroines. I also really like everything about the evolution of Posy’s character. That epilogue was my favorite one thus far.

Though not my favorite ship of the series, An Offer from a Gentleman was such a fun read. I’m very much enjoying this binge.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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I received this book for free from ALA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (59): The Swift Boys & Me; An Offer from a Gentleman; A School for Unusual GirlsA School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin
Series: Stranje House #1
Published by Tor Teen on May 3, 2016
Genres: Historical, Alternate History
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: ALA
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three-half-stars

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the "beau monde" who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies-plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father's stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible-until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads-or their hearts....

I’ve been eagerly anticipating A School for Unusual Girls ever since I saw that cover and the Meg Cabot blurb. Everything about it screamed Christina-catnip, and the cover did not lie. A School for Unusual Girls was a delight from start to finish. If you like historical fiction about brilliant young ladies and their ships, then this, my friends, is for you.

You can count on me to be one hundred percent pro historical fiction about incredibly smart girls training for work as spies. Like, yes, hello, please and thank you. Georgiana’s taken by her parents to Stranje house, meant to be a house of torture to turn problematic young ladies into dull, marriageable prospects. Instead, it turns out to be a safe haven for smart girls.

Baldwin does a wonderful job with the writing and the setting. I really love the historical underpinnings in A School for Unusual Girls, and the way Baldwin does a thoughtful “what if” sidestep at the end. I’m so excited to see where things go in Exile for Dreamers. The one thing I wasn’t so sure about was the diversity. Maya, the Indian girl, has a lot of potential but very much fades into the background in this book. More problematic is Madame Cho, who so far plays into some Asian stereotypes and is described as “oriental” several times. She, too, is solely background at this point.

There are two cute ships so far, and I anticipate more for some of the other girls as the series continues. Both ships are antagonistic to start, which YAS. There’s an excellent angry kiss for one of them. I’m quite pleased with how the romance is rolling out.

I’d recommend A School for Unusual Girls to readers who loved The Dark Days Club or The Dark Unwinding.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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2 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (59): The Swift Boys & Me; An Offer from a Gentleman; A School for Unusual Girls”

  1. Brandy says:

    I love that your reading the Bridgeton books. Those books were my salvation my first couple years of teaching. Well, books 1-3 since those were the only ones out. And then 4 when it came out (which is still my favorite-I lOVE Penelope).
    Brandy recently posted…Dr. Fell and the Playground of DoomMy Profile

  2. Awww, I’m sad about The Swift Boys, but I totally get what you mean. The southern / low income setting of it and Run were hard for me to get used to as well. I feel like both those books are just much more specific than her previous ones. They’re personal, and you’re only going to really like them if you can relate to the issues the characters are dealing with. And yeah, the voice in this one was super young. I hope that now that she’s gotten these stories down she can get back to the more fun contemporary romances =/

    ANGRY KISS? Well obviously I have to get A School for Unusual Girls now…
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…ARC Book Review: Vicarious by Paula StokesMy Profile

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