The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy, LBGTQIA+
Pub date: Oct. 2nd. 2018 (read Oct. 2018)
Series: Montague Siblings #2

I’m a little bit on the fence for how to rate The Lady’s Guide. On one hand, it was wonderful, but I just didn’t love it quite as much as The Gentleman’s Guide. There were parts of this that I loved, but I also thought the plot progression was a little awkward and slow moving at times.

Felicity was my favourite character from The Gentleman’s Guide and I thought this book had a really strong start with her getting proposed to, but deciding to pursue medicine instead, despite being routinely ignored by medical schools since it’s the 1700’s and she’s a woman. Mackenzi Lee is great at writing historical fiction that induces that perfect level of righteous rage and indication at the injustices the characters face because while their dilemma’s are historical, the issues they face are not. Felicity is discriminated against because of her sex and dreams of more than just a life as a wife, something I’m sure many women can still relate to. But Felicity is unwilling to give up on her dreams and pursues a medical career through whatever means necessary.

I loved Johanna in this book. I love that she had a great love of the natural world as well as a love for make-up, dresses, and all things fancy. Felicity boxed herself in, thinking that her ambition made her different from all other women, looking down on Johanna for still embracing femininity. But Johanna and Sim both proved that what you look like doesn’t define you and that having ambition outside of your traditional gender roles doesn’t make you better than any other woman. They both helped Felicity to grow and understand that just because your progression doesn’t look the way you want it to (going to medical school), doesn’t mean that you can’t adapt your ambition and your path. Sometimes we just won’t get what our heart desires, but it doesn’t mean we have to be cut out entirely from those dreams, we just need to adapt them.

Sadly I just didn’t find this book quite as funny as The Gentleman’s Guide though. I loved that the plot of this book also featured a lot of travel around Europe, but something about it just didn’t flow as well. Some parts were really fun and interesting, while other parts dragged. The ending is very ambiguous, with two parties debating the best course of action. Both positions had merits, but I felt that Johanna and Felicity’s motivation wasn’t really clear and that the story lacked resolution. With the exception of the petticoats, I just felt the story wasn’t really that clever. It was interesting, but I wasn’t really impressed with how the story played out and I wanted more. Like I said, I liked all the awesome female characters in this book, particularly Johanna, but I felt Sim was a little underdeveloped.

So overall, I think I will rate this 3.5 stars. The author definitely did some fun and interesting stuff with the plot and characters. I love that diversity is a priority for her and I liked that Felicity was asexual, something not often represented in literature. But I didn’t find this book as funny and it was one of the key things I wanted from this book.

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Pub date: Sep. 4, 2018 (read Oct. 2018)

The most overwhelming feeling I have upon finishing this book is that I’m just so glad it exists. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is about Boko Haram and the many girls and children they have abducted to their cause since 2009. You may recall in 2014 when Boko Haram kidnapped 276 female students from their dormitory in Chibok, Nigeria. Because of the large number of girls that were kidnapped, the crisis finally garnered international attention and forced the Nigerian Government to take real action in rescuing the stolen girls.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t a one off event. Boko Harem has been pillaging and killing in the North of Nigeria since 2009 and while many of the Chibok girls have escaped, been released, or been rescued since then, many have not. Boko Haram is a radical Islamic group that believe in Sharia law and absolute Islamic government. They kill men and kidnap girls, women, and children, forcing them to convert to islam and act as slaves in their outposts hidden deep in the Sambisa Forest. The boys are radicalized and the girls either act as slaves or are married off to Boko Haram fighters called the Rijale.

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is a short book told from the point of view of a kidnapped young girl. She is not one of the Chibok girls, but she was stolen from her village along with several of her friends. She dreams of winning a scholarship to attend university and become educated, but instead she is forced to convert to Islam, change her name, and marry one of the Rijale and attend to his home. Her dreams sustain her through the ordeal and remind her of who she is and that Boko Harem does not adequately represent Islam. But it kills her to watch her best friend lose her grip on reality, fall for her new husband, and begins touting the benefits of Boko Harem and Sharia Law.

There’s nothing I would change about this book. I thought it struck a wonderful balance between introducing us to Nigerian village life and the hopes and dreams of these young girls to the devastating contrast of life under Boko Haram. It’s easy for Westerners to become desensitized to these stories, and I loved that Nwaubani spent the first half of the book developing characters before focusing on the girls kidnapping. It’s an upsetting read, to be sure, but an important one to remind us of the atrocities that Boko Harem has committed, and that are still ongoing.

Thanks to HarperCollins Canada and HCC Frenzy for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is currently available in stores.