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  • An entertaining story

    Reviewed by A. L. Peevey for Readers' Favorite In 1880, Carissa Beaumont is a twelve-year-old girl taking care of her opium-addicted mother, Lisette, in Blood and Silver by Vali Benson. Very savvy for her age, Carissa has made herself indispensable to Miss Lucille, an unscrupulous madam, while quietly keeping several steps ahead of her. Carissa and her mother go with Miss Lucille when she leaves San Francisco with her “best” girls, at the invitation of an old friend, and moves to the silver boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory. There, with the encouragement of the sheriff and the help of the town doctor and China Mary, who controls the local opium trade, Carissa begins a quest to end her mother’s addiction and to escape Miss Lucille’s clutches. Despite the help of others, will Carissa’s plans succeed before it is too late? The story in Blood and Silver by Vali Benson has been meticulously researched, so the frontier town of Tombstone comes to life. We can hear its clamor, smell its dusty streets, and touch the silver ore being mined there. The cast of characters is memorable, particularly China Mary, who rules her own part of town along with the opium trade. Benson also skillfully manages to intertwine such adult themes as prostitution and drug use without graphic details in this young adult novel. She also carefully introduces Lisette’s and some of the other characters’ backstories throughout the book, bringing these fictional people to life and adding to the richness of the story. We receive an entertaining story set in a historical, legendary place without leaving the comfort of home.

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  • An enthralling historical read

    Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite Blood and Silver is a work of fiction in the historical western and drama sub-genres and was penned by author Vali Benson. Written for young adult audiences, the work is accessible to all readers as it does not contain graphic content. The setting is Arizona, 1880, in a town where a young girl finds herself lacking in options when her drug-addled mother is unable to help her. Wise and plucky, twelve-year-old Carissa Beaumont hatches a plan to help her mother and escape the brothel in which she lives, but it involves making some unlikely friendships that may bring yet more danger that she was not anticipating. Author Vali Benson has created an accessible and updated take on the western genre which can be enjoyed by young adult readers and nostalgic adults alike. At its center, the story takes on the bond of Carissa and Mai-Lin, an emotional arc that resonates strongly and is well developed in the narrative presentation and dialogue of the characters. Both girls are hardy and quick-witted for the era, which makes for an exciting and nail-biting adventure when they have to find ways to get out of trouble. All of this is set against a fiercely accurate historical backdrop, where it’s clear that Benson has put a lot of work into researching the way of life, the cultural and racial mix of people, and the grim realities of life in the old west. Overall, I would definitely recommend Blood and Silver as an enthralling historical read.

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  • An incredible story

    Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite Blood and Silver by Vali Benson is set in the old west and filled with a smart heroine, a guilty madam, and a chance encounter with destiny. Carissa Beaumont lives in Tombstone, Arizona with her mother who “works” for Miss Lucille at her brothel. However, the evil woman has made her mother a drug addict and her a servant with the threat of child prostitution hanging over her head. Desperate to get her mother out of this hellhole, she gets in touch with a doctor. Doctor Henderson tells her that the only person who can help them is China Mary. But here is the thing, China Mary is not someone you can easily meet and you don’t want to cross her. Will Carissa find her in time to save her mother? Will China Mary help her? Blood and Silver by Vali Benson is entertaining and heartbreaking. This is the kind of young adult fiction that needs to become more popular. Carissa is not your usual heroine of the genre. She is too young, too desperate, and stuck in a horrible situation. The author explained her situation incredibly well, she allowed readers to get familiar with Carissa and become invested in her progress. Her relationship with China Mary was beautiful. She acted like a mother to Carissa like hers never did. There is something to be said about reading a story from the perspective of a child. It hits different, it makes you feel different emotions and makes you feel desperate. We read the story at Carissa's pace and her speed. We experience her life as she tackles one problem at a time. This was an incredible story.

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  • A real page turner

    1880 – Twelve-year-old Carissa has travelled to Tombstone Arizona with her mother, Lisette, who is a forced drugged-up prostitute for Miss Lucille who has moved her girls from San Francisco looking for a wealthier life. They are to reside with another Madam who runs prostitutes, though she is mysteriously killed just after they arrive and so Miss Lucille is now the owner of the whole place and all her girls. Whilst attending to the murder the sheriff of the town take a shine to Carissa and her mother and wants to help them and so the town’s doctor is called to check up on Lisette. He tells Carissa there is nothing much wrong with her except she is being given too many drugs and that she needs to be weaned off them to make her better. He offers to help by telling her he will sort out help via China Mary who will supply the drugs but in a lesser strength which Miss Lucille will never know about. China Mary knows everything about Tombstone and is more than happy to help Carissa and her mum, even helping her get a job at the Grand Hotel in the town where the rich like to stay. Blood and Silver was a very strange read for me. You see I don’t really think the title suits the book, even if I think the title is great. Silver isn’t really made part of the plot until over 60% of the way through (I know Tombstone is a silver mining town) and there isn’t a lot of blood. There is also no big mystery, red-herrings, plot-reveal, etc. However, I just couldn’t put the book down. It is a straightforward story of one young girl looking to help her mother and a wild-west town who have taken her under their wing and want to help her. I don’t know much about the wild-west as it has never been something that has interested me before, so I have never heard of Tombstone, which is a real place and has been featured in numerous books, movies, etc. I’d also never heard of China Mary who was a real person. With these in mind, it made the book all the more realistic and intriguing. Like most girls in that era, Carissa is old beyond her years and has seen far more than she should ever have for a girl her age. She has lost her father and brother, had to live with someone drugging her mother and forcing her to be a prostitute, plus she has to work for free for the Madam of the house, cooking, cleaning, looking after the women. The historical aspect of the book had been very well researched and it did feel like I had stepped back in time. It is a fascinating read. It might only be a short read at 142 pages but it is so worth it. It is beautifully written, tore at my emotions, and had me engrossed from the first page.

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  • Female role models

    Tombstone, Arizona, setting for Blood and Silver, doesn’t sound like a great place for a fresh start. But life in San Francisco, where Lucille and her “ladies” come from, couldn’t have gotten much worse, especially for one of the ladies, Lisette, and her daughter Carissa. Lisette, an ex-Southern Belle, ends up with Lucille after losing everything, except Carissa, in the Civil War. Carissa is determined to get her mother and herself into better conditions in friendly Tombstone. Blood and Silver’s backbone is its powerful female characters. Most formidable is China Mary, based on one of Tombstone’s actual first Chinese inhabitants in the late 1800s. China Mary helps Carissa to heal Lisette and brokers employment for the enterprising young Carissa. Lucille is more ruthless of a businesswoman than China Mary. Carissa and her new friend Mai-Lin model a devotion to their female elders and to the noble ethics their role models instill. Like a movie, dialogue and interaction propel the action in this short novel. Characters develop through their differing accents, choice of words and level of impassioned tone. Scenes are set with colorful descriptions of period dress and silver mining practices. The Wild West grabs attention in its wily personalities, harshness and renegade ethos. The writing is appropriate for middle grade readers. Blood and Silver is a moral as well as an entertaining tale for younger audiences. Through Carissa’s quest for an improved life in a frontier town, history teaches about the timeless benefits of good friends, hard work and family ties.

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