Around ten years ago, someone in my book club selected Moloka'i as our monthly read. I wasn't sure I'd like the book as I knew very little about HawaiAround ten years ago, someone in my book club selected Moloka'i as our monthly read. I wasn't sure I'd like the book as I knew very little about Hawaii or leprosy, but it was a chance to learn. By the end of the novel, I was in tears and had scheduled a trip to visit the islands. It was a major hit at our book club meeting and I fondly recalled the book for several years. Last month, I was searching NetGalley to see what was newly released when this book showed in my queue. WHAT, A SEQUEL? I quickly requested it, waited days to find out if I'd be granted the approval, and messaged my former book club members to tell them about it. When I was awarded the book, I moved it up the queue and read it this week. This novel was truly a wonderful read and lived up to the first book; it's a high recommendation from me.
The sequel starts in the 1920s at an orphanage where Ruth, a young girl, has been dropped off by her parents, for adoption. While she didn't have leprosy, Ruth's parents did which meant they couldn't raise her for fear of further spreading the disease. Ruth waited years to be adopted because she's half-Japanese and half-Hawaiin; few potential adopters were interested in taking her with them after a visitation. All Ruth wants is her own pet -- a cow, a dog, anything... but the orphanage can't allow it. One day, a Japanese couple arrive and adopt her. Ruth finds a wonderful home and everything she deserves falls into place -- for a few years. Her adoptive father's brother asks them to move from Hawaii to California to help farm his land. They do, but they find resistance to Japanese by Americans. By the time Pearl Harbor occurred, life for anyone of Japanese descent in mainland America was impacted. Ruth and her entire family, including new husband, Frank, and their two kids, were placed in various relocation camps across the Western US. Pain, death, and regret follow the family for a few years.
As a reader, I came to tears several times, but they also have wonderful moments and relationships that deliver a strong balance in emotional terms. About 2/3 into the book, Ruth receives a letter from her biological mother explaining why she was given up for adoption. Should Ruth meet the woman? Who is she and what is her connection to the characters from the first book in the series? Author Alan Brennert delivers a powerhouse of emotions and history in this sequel which I feel is definitely a parallel match. Not only do we learn about the culture of Hawaii but about Japan in this second installment. To understand what happened to Japanese-Americans in the 30s and 40s was difficult and crushing. It was equally as crushing as the deaths at Pearl Harbor and in WW2 as a result of all the fighting, but the focus here was on those around Ruth and her family.
The book ultimately chronicles Ruth's life from age 3 to 55 when she's grown with her own kids who are beginning to think about marriage in the late 1960s after the Korean War efforts. We walk step-by-step with her as she loses family members, gains new ones, finds her connection to animals in a second life, and understands who she really is. The language in this book, whether it's Hawaiin, Japanese, or American English, is inspiring. It shows the flavor of the world Ruth lived in, both good and bad. At times, I laughed. Others, I teared up. To see a 50-thousand foot version of someone's life throughout the middle of the 20th century during many horrific wars is quite impacting. We learn of a few different things that happened during the first book that we didn't know then, but from a different perspective. We re-visit a few of those scenes again just to make connections. It's quite comforting and eye-opening to learn things that we hadn't know happened to Ruth's family before she was born.
I can't say enough good things about this sequel... perhaps in a few parts it was a tad slow and repetitive, but that's so minor, it didn't bother me. I still give this book a full 5 stars....more
Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors, and when The Clockmaker's Daughter came out this year, I was one of the first to jump on NetGalley to get aKate Morton is one of my favorite authors, and when The Clockmaker's Daughter came out this year, I was one of the first to jump on NetGalley to get a copy. I was so excited to be awarded the book and added it to my August reading queue. It made for a good alternate style given I'm also running a children's book readathon this month! Although not my favorite of all her novels, it's an enchanting story and covers a lot of beautiful generations within a couple of families...
What I loved the most about this book was how you never quite knew who was speaking in the beginning of a chapter. It took a few paragraphs or a page or two before it became obvious. Some might be bothered by this approach, but it added to mystery and ambiance for me. The Radcliffe family was quite peculiar, and I wondered whether it would turn out to be accidental death or murder for one or two characters. As the story unfolds and we learned about Elodie in 2017/8 discovering the past, everything comes flooding forward. There are memorable characters in this book and I recommend it for that reason alone. On the flip side, there are over 30 main characters, so it gets a tad difficult to keep focused if you have to put the book down for more than a day at a time. Don't read it with anything else like I did.
Morton is the queen of lyrical words and astounding settings. The plot is strong, and the twist at the end is great. Along the path, it's much lighter tho... less about the mystery and more about hearing what happened to people over a century. I found myself eager for more action than present in the book. But it still captured my heart and attention. A solid 4 stars....more
Earlier this year, the Crooked Lane publishing company suggested several books that I might be interested in reading. Final Resting Place: A Lincoln aEarlier this year, the Crooked Lane publishing company suggested several books that I might be interested in reading. Final Resting Place: A Lincoln and Speed Mystery by Jonathan F. Putnam is one of those books. It is the third book in this mystery series and will be published in July 2018. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC and took on this historical novel today. At first I was a bit apprehensive... it had politics (which I don't normally like or discuss) and some basis in fact (I know a bunch about this time period, would it all line up?)... how would it all materialize as a book to read ~180 years after the fact. But rest assured, Putnam has done well!
The book takes place in the late 1830s when Abraham Lincoln was still a practicing attorney and just entering into politics. His best friend, Joshua Fry Speed, serves as his Dr. Watson during the day and his bed-mate at night. No... I'm not suggesting anything was going on there, nor is the author. I bring this up only because it reminded me that people would sleep in the same bed together back then. As an avid genealogist, I find this entire time period in America fascinating. Disputes over territory with Great Britain, kicking Native American off their land, Whigs and Democrats having duels (remember Burr and Hamilton?). It's like a rich history lesson and I seem to be on a kick reading several historical fiction novels lately.
In this caper, elections are front and center. When the current Town Land Recorder is killed, it appears like a political opponent had something to do with it. Throw in backstory about Lincoln's first fiancee (all real!) who died of meningitis, a decade-old feud over who loved her, and Honest Abe's rough & rude father and step-brother, there are tones of side stories to keep this plot moving along. The pace is good, a fair balance between life nearly two centuries ago and the need for some expediency in action in modern times. The trial was eye-opening. The duel was amusing. But the camaraderie within the primary characters and between the protagonists and antagonists was quite strong.
Resurrection of long-dead actual people as fictionalized characters has been done before. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Here it definitely did. This story had a very palpable voice and connection. I could feel the tension between the political rivalries. I could see the respect they still shared for one another (something lacking in today's leaders) and the differences in how men and women were treated. Putnam paints a good picture of life in America in 1838, and you feel transported to the tenacity people demonstrated to get ahead but still follow the rules. A few people misbehaved, but they apologized and often received fair judgment and punishment.
The book contains an afterthought chapter from the author who describes what is real and what was potentially fictional. I LOVE this part, as I could see where he drew a line in what he would make up or keep strictly accurate. This is the kind of approach I wish other authors would take when writing historical fiction, as sometimes readers like to know where the line has been blurred. Kudos to Putnam for generating some interest in a time period we only ever attribute to the Civil War. There were a lot of expansionist activities occurring in the Midwest during this time period, and the true nature of our political parties beginning to veer off into different directions was taking place. But we also saw the birth of law and trials. The courtship between men and women. And then ways in which people traveled from one part of the land to another.
All in all, a very exciting read. It fit well into my expanding genre selections, showed some opportunity for a great series to explore on the literary forefront, and gave me something analytical with many hidden truths to think about. Thank you for sending this book my way!...more
Last year, I read another novel by Nicola Cornick and found myself eager to try The Phantom Tree when I saw it listed on NetGalley. I was awarded theLast year, I read another novel by Nicola Cornick and found myself eager to try The Phantom Tree when I saw it listed on NetGalley. I was awarded the book about a month ago and scheduled it for this week. If you've never read something from Cornick, think of it as a combination of historical fiction, fantasy, romance and mystery. All four elements are usually incorporated into her style and provide a very intense and sometimes Gothic read. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from her.
This story takes place in two different time periods in the UK -- the mid 16th century and modern times. In modern times, a ~30ish woman named Alison has re-connected with a former boyfriend who has announced a discovery that he's found a portrait of Anne Boleyn, a rarity. Alison knows this is really a painting of Mary Seymour, the daughter of Queen Katherine Parr (Henry VIII's last wife) and her second husband. But how does she know? And will she and Adam reunite or will the reasons they separated a decade ago still keep them apart? In the 16th century, Mary and her cousin are teenage girls dealing with the potential of forced marriages and interested lovers. One becomes pregnant. Another seems destined to be a witch. But then something odd happens, the girls are separated, and the child is lost seemingly forever. How are the stories connected? Who's related to whom in the current day? It's quite a fantastical story, but one I really adored.
My favorite aspects of Cornick's novels are her writing style. Pages will describe a scene or a setting and you are immediately transported there. It's lyrical and haunting at the same time. Occasionally it can be a lot to handle (I'm often a plot guy), but it's breathtaking to just read a few paragraphs from time to time. You'll know how writers live in their heads coming up with something so detailed they can't help but want to share it with their readers.
I also really connect with the historical truths in the books. Mary Seymour was thought to have died quite young and disappeared, but some feel she actually survived. Cornick takes that notion and runs with it in this book, and while parts are fabricated, it's woven in such an endearing way, you like the fictional components. It draws you in and gives you a fair balance of story and facts. That's the kind of read I enjoy!...more
Why This Book After reading Rebecca several years ago, I placed My Cousin Rachel, another of Daphne du Maurier's famed novels, on my To Be Read (TBWhy This Book After reading Rebecca several years ago, I placed My Cousin Rachel, another of Daphne du Maurier's famed novels, on my To Be Read (TBR) shelf. Earlier this year, a Goodreads buddy, Michael, and I were chatting about various books when we decided to do a buddy read together, selecting this wonderful Gothic edition. We were both interested to see if it lived up to the hype and how it compared to the author's other words. We agreed on early March and got to it this week. I've only started doing buddy reads in the last few months, but they are quite fun... I recommend them.
Approach & Style I purchased the Kindle Reader version from Amazon to read on my iPad. It contains ~350 pages and took me four days to read. The novel is written in first person point of view and told from the perspective of Philip Ashley, a 24-year-old English man set in a somewhat unknown time, but likely the early/mid twentieth century given some of the details in the background setting. The language is intense and full of amazing imagery and astounding descriptions.
Plot, Characters & Setting The novel centers around the Ashley family. Philip's parents die when he is less than a year old, but his cousin Ambrose raises him in their England home. At some point years later, Ambrose unexpectedly marries a widow named Rachel who is half-Italian and grew up in Tuscany. It's an odd pairing, as she has a bit of a reputation for husband-hunting and spending lots of money. After ~2 years, Ambrose mysteriously dies and Rachel disappears. Philip is distraught, but searches for her in Italy. Rachel eventually shows up in England looking to meet her pseudo-stepson, and that's when the story really begins to get interesting. There's an air of darkness concerning Ambrose's death--was Rachel involved? She has a suitor of sorts who follows her from Tuscany--yet both claim there is nothing but friendship. Philip intends to crucify his cousin Rachel after reading a few letters from his late cousin, Ambrose; however, things take a surprising turn when more secrets are revealed and there's a bit of romance developing in the background. Add in a few traditional English families, an inheritance upon Philip's 25th birthday, and a possible proposal to/from a neighboring family... and you've got quite a Gothic story unleashing it's power on you.
Key Thoughts 1. du Maurier truly engages the reader with lyrical and ethereal descriptions of everything going on in the story. You will feel like you are sitting at a table in the house watching everything occur around you. The super-fine details are what challenge your intellect to decide what is real and what is not.
2. As a plot, it's classic -- did she or didn't she kill him? But here's the interesting part... that question hardly ever comes up in the book. It's not a mystery in terms of researching the past to see if murder actually happened. It's entirely psychological in the relationship between Philip and Rachel... where you listen to the words or what isn't said, think about whether you trust either of them... and in the end, you just wish you could have spoken to Ambrose yourself to get the answer.
3. I went back and forth multiple times deciding whether I liked Rachel and Philip as characters and as human beings. Humanity and kindness are huge themes in this novel. Attitude and disinterest are also keen to make themselves present within the relationships. Sometimes I wanted to throttle both, other times, the tenderness was admirable. The last few chapters truly push the envelope in terms of engaging more doubt before there is a final reveal.
4. While reading the first ~75 pages, I was also editing my novel. I had on my 'writer glasses' and couldn't stop analyzing the word choice in du Maurier's initial chapters. It was disconnected and hard to attach myself, too. I also found a few words that were repeated a couple of times on the same page (a pet peeve for me in my own writing) and after the third or fourth, I slapped myself and realized it wasn't important. 99 amazing words on every page and 1 every so often that didn't work. That's way too high of a percentage to ever get stuck! Stick with it past that initial 15% mark and you're in for quite an intellectually stimulating ride.
5. If you love Italy or the quintessential proper English culture and decor, you will enjoy this novel. The only thing that bugged me from time to time was not really knowing enough about Philip prior to meeting Rachel, so I could form a strong enough opinion on who he was as a person, i.e. before he became mesmerized by his cousin Rachel.
6. My favorite part of the whole book... Philip ALWAYS refers to her as 'My cousin Rachel' until a certain event changes their lives... then she simply becomes 'Rachel.' The meaning of the novel is hidden in that ever-so-small alteration in their relationship and future.
Summary du Maurier is quite skilled at creating scenery, characters, and undetermined truth. We really never know who to believe, even in the end. But it works. Whereas Rebecca was a stronger plot, I think My Cousin Rachel pushes the envelope more in terms of who should we believe. Either case, I really enjoyed the read, especially discussing it with Michael, who is an author you might want to take a look at (new book coming out in April '18). I plan to review the author's bibliography this summer to see if there's another potential novel of hers I'd like to read. Overall, I'd give this 4+ stars as I really enjoyed it, but there was some repetition and missing pieces so I couldn't quite knock it up to a 5-star rating....more
Given two of my favorite genres include historical fiction and cozy mysteries, I expected to enjoy A Poisonous Journey, the first book in the Lady EveGiven two of my favorite genres include historical fiction and cozy mysteries, I expected to enjoy A Poisonous Journey, the first book in the Lady Evelyn series, written by Malia Zaidi in 2015. I was definitely thrilled with this book and pleasantly surprised to learn there were already 3 published in the series. What a great find for this enthusiast of history, detective stories, and charming characters set in foreign lands.
Lady Evelyn, a mid-20s former orphan (her parents died young and she was raised by a strict aunt) who escapes to Greece to visit her best friend and cousin, Briony, is the star of this caper. She's intelligent, funny, kind, and open-minded, and those are just the surface traits worth mentioning... there's so much more. Longing to find a purpose for her life, she settles in with her cousin and begins meeting many of the Greek neighbors and townspeople in 1920s Crete. When one of the group is found dead, the suspect list is at first empty, but as more comes to light on the deceased, it begins to grow larger and larger. Although she isn't investigating the mystery, events unfold where she asks questions and thinks out loud to a few people, thus opening and closing doors as to who the possible culprit could be. When a few side stories (antiquities theft, romance, clandestine affairs, and secret pregnancies) begin to collide, Evelyn finds herself in the middle of it all with a dashing suitor willing to help find the answers.
Zaidi has created a very strong protagonist who jumps off the pages despite the century time difference between when the story was written and when it takes place. Among the language, setting and relationships, readers find charming connections and introspective thoughts about the beauty of life nearly 100 years ago. With no Internet, DNA or quick-n-easy access to get answers, she has to use deduction and behavior to understand what's happening around her.
What appealed to me the most in this story is how although the mystery is front and center, the book is really a story about 'a few weeks in the life of a character we can all identify with on some or multiple level(s).' Whether she's having a conversation with the maid, relaxing at a picnic with friends, or corresponding with her aunt to explain the rushed exit, I want more Lady Evelyn. Zaidi matches the style and tone of her word choice with the time period, the relaxed and casual setting with the quiet island life, and the descriptions with the lyrical flow of a single woman from a well-to-do family learning about real life outside her immediate circle of experience.
Many of the supporting characters are well-developed, too. They feel real and shine as either sounding boards or a pivotal and unwitting distributor of clues to Lady Evelyn. I felt a steady stream of low-key suspense (that's exactly how this type of story was meant to be shared) that kept me turning the pages with keen interest in how it would all unfold. When a key 'chase scene' puts Evelyn in the line of dangerous fire, we worry despite knowing she'll be okay in the end. Although the different sub-plots help direct the main one, they also stand on their own as key stories within the book to help build the world in which Evelyn resides. It's part of the way Zaidi generates interest in each chapter, all leading to a very appropriate conclusion for what would likely have happened during this time period.
Kudos to the author for making quite a splash for me with this book. I look forward to reading the next book later this year!...more
4 out of 5 stars to See What I Have Done, a historical fictional account of the "Lizzie Borden Axe Murders," written by Sarah Schmidt and set to be pu4 out of 5 stars to See What I Have Done, a historical fictional account of the "Lizzie Borden Axe Murders," written by Sarah Schmidt and set to be published on August 1, 2017. Many thanks to NetGalley, Grove Atlantic Monthly Press and the author for providing me with an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) of this fantastic book.
Why This Book I've become a NetGalley member and saw this in the update feeds of a few fellow Goodreads' members. I am fascinated with historical re-telling of real-life stories and knew a little bit about the Lizzie Borden murders. I thought this would be a great way to learn more and read the debut novel of a new author. And if you're interested in some additional facts about the whole affair, check out this site: http://www.history.com/news/9-things-....
Approach & Style I read the electronic Kindle Reader version on my iPad over three days. The book mostly takes place over a 3-day period, covering the day before, the day of, and the day after the murders occurred. It takes place in the small Massachusetts town in the Borden home.
There are about 15 chapters with each one told from the perspective of all the main and supporting characters. You see and hear the voice of each person before or after the murders occurred, learning different facts that weren't clear to everyone else.
I believe most of the main facts are accurate, but there is likely some embellishment in the thoughts and actions of the other characters. For example, the uncle's motivations behind hiring a supposed accomplice are not fully explored in the book but were more detailed in real life. As is traditional in historical fiction, there is some element of drama being added in to help support some of the known information. It felt natural to me, and nothing seemed to throw me at any point, which means the author has done a fine job at telling this story.
Plot, Characters & Setting
I'm breaking this area into two sections to set the stage of what has previously occurred and what actually happens in the book. Since this is a real-life story, I don't think any of this counts as a spoiler, but if you want to be surprised about what's actually covered in the book, you may want to skip this review.
Background covered thru conversations Andrew and Sarah Borden were married and had two daughters, Emma and Alice. Alice unfortunately died in infancy from dropsy. A few years later, Lizzie was born, but Sarah never quite recovered and passed away. Andrew later married Abby, who became a stepmother to his two surviving daughters. Sarah's brother, John Morse, would visit from time to time, checking in on his nieces in their small hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts. Though they lived in somewhat poor conditions, the Bordens were very wealthy; Andrew was just unwilling to spend any money. Abby hires a house maid, Bridget, recent Irish immigrant. At first, the ladies are friendly, but over time, Abby becomes more and more difficult, which leaves Bridget wanting to escape the family's clutches, as she feels there is a dark cloud surrounding both the family and the home. Emma loses her chance at getting married when Lizzie orchestrates a small blackmail scheme in order to keep Emma from leaving. But Emma eventually moves away from Fall River on her own, leaving Lizzie behind. Lizzie's mental state is somewhat questionable as a result of these actions.
Action in novel Lizzie and her father have a peculiar relationship. They love one another, but for a nearly 30 year old woman, Lizzie certainly plays a few too many games to capture his attention. She also raises pigeons in the backyard to keep her mind occupied. Lizzie does not like her stepmother, Abby, and often treats her poorly. Lizzie also plays mind games with Bridget, the house maid. Lizzie has some great lines, and quite a number of times, I had to stop reading and think about what that loon was trying to do. She might actually scare me if I met her in person, and I don't scare easily.
The Bordens are planning to have a small party in a few days. Abby tells Bridget what needs to be cleaned and arranged, but it is too much for one person. Bridget asks Lizzie to help with some of it, but Lizzie has a fit and tells Bridget it's not her responsibility. Bridget is trying to escape the house and has been saving up enough money. As she's telling the neighboring house maid, Mary, Abby overhears Bridget's confession and steals the money, so Bridget is unable to leave. Bridget is very upset and agrees to clean up for the party but begs to leave afterwards. Abby says she'll think about it, but truly has no intention of letting Bridget leave. Andrew is off at work when a visitor arrives. It's his former brother-in-law, John Morse, who has stopped in to check in on his nieces.
Uncle John has a flashback to a conversation the previous day with Benjamin, a somewhat friend of his, who has been hired to "do something" to Andrew Borden, as revenge for the way he treats his daughters. John sees the pain and struggle in Emma and Lizzie, and wants to teach Andrew a lesson. Benjamin hides out in the house and the barn for several hours. Andrew arrives home and is angry to learn from Abby that John has shown up unannounced. Abby then tells him that Lizzie knew earlier in the day he would be stopping, but failed to tell anyone. As revenge on his own daughter, Andrew harms her pigeons. Lizzie is distraught over the whole situation. The next morning, an odd series of events occurs involving Abby supposedly leaving to visit a sick friend, the uncle heading in to town to meet some bankers and Andrew preparing to leave for work, too. Lizzie and Bridget are mulling about the house. Bridget hears strange noises but can't find anyone. Soon after, Lizzie comes running to find Bridget and tells her that her father has been cut. He's resting on the couch in another room but looks very sick. Bridget runs for the doctor. Everyone assumes Abby is out with the sick friend. But events quickly turn when the cops arrive and find Abby has also been brutally murdered with an axe, just like Andrew.
Emma is brought back to the house. Benjamin is hiding out in the barn, then meets with John. John asks him why he killed Abby too, as the plan was only to harm Andrew. Benjamin wants his money, but says he never got to hurt anyone. When he arrived, he found both had already been killed. John doesn't understand but when the cops arrive, Benjamin escapes. No one knows he was there until years later when he surprises Lizzie and asks for his money. Emma, Bridget and Lizzie band together to help clean up the house, trying to get some rest before the bodies are moved to the mortuary. Lizzie says many odd things but no one accuses her of murder. She doesn't seem upset that her father has died, but she is also given sedatives to keep her calm. A few days later, she's arrested but is not found guilty. The book doesn't cover the trial, instead it's told in a few small sections as part of the conclusion to the book. We learn what happened to Bridget, Lizzie and Emma in the future years, as well as John and Benjamin.
Strengths I am not certain how much knowledge the author had of all the events beyond what people may have already read about or seen on TV. Perhaps she had access to all the police reports, trial summaries and information handed down to future generations. But what she's done with it is truly amazing. She's brought to life this once great family and shown us the complexities of living in the 1890s beneath one's means when there was money to do things in a better way. She's shown the crazy and tender side of Lizzie. She's made Andrew and Abby into very peculiar people who either were indeed crazy themselves or truly just impacted by raising someone like Lizzie. Nothing is clear cut, as the author offers up scenes and emotions, but the reader gets to choose how to interpret the action. It feels very accurate from what I know of the true story. The embellishments add drama but don't take away from the sense of reality that occurred. The writing feels authentic to the 1890s. The descriptions clearly show what the house looked like and how the family lived. I love how the murders were handled, as they weren't. But it was fantastic. In one scene change, we go from a few missing hours of time to suddenly Lizzie yelling her father has been cut. You might think it is awkward, but it really is integrated quite well. It's exactly representative of the missing hours in the real story, since we don't for certain know what happened.
For those who are a tad squeamish, there are a number of scenes describing how different people react to the dead bodies. And some of these characters have an unhealthy fascination with blood and cuts. If you can't handle a few descriptions about how some of the characters touch the bodies and want to feel where the axe has cut open flesh and bone, you may not want to read this one. I loved it, but as much as I find this kind of detail cool... what two of the characters do is absolutely insane... are there really people like that? Oh my!
Concerns I would have liked more background on why they thought Lizzie was guilty. No evidence is provided, but very little of the arrest and trial is included in this novel. It leaves you wanting more. I would have liked to see a fact sheet in the back, letting us know what was embellished and what was real. There is some information showing the timeline of events, but you won't know on your own without reading other literature or websites, which makes you wonder which parts are true, e.g. the whole concept of Bridget and the stolen money or the events with the pigeons.
Questions & Final Thoughts It's a solid book. It deserves a 4 rating, given how well the author has told a story that actually happened but with some flair and drama to make the intricacies even more complex. It is an easy read and leaves you more curious about the events and the author's future in writing. I will definitely pick up another book if and when she writes another one.
About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at http://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators....more
Why This Book I saw this sho4 out of 5 stars to Carnegie's Maid, a historical fiction novel set to be published in January 2018 by Marie Benedict.
Why This Book I saw this show up on NetGalley and wanted to read something about the Carnegie family. I've been on a hunt to read/learn more about all the "tycoons" of America, curious about all the connections between them. I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction, so I requested this one and was approved. I picked it up last month because of a trip to the Vanderbilt Estate, even though it's a different family. Wanted to immerse myself in the culture before the trip.
Plot, Characters & Setting Andrew Carnegie, a leading member of one of America's tycoon families, has settled in Pittsburgh with his mother and brother. A woman who leaves Ireland to help earn money to send her family back home, learns that the lady's maid hired for Mrs. Carnegie has died during the Atlantic voyage. She takes her place and becomes Clara Kelly, despite not having all the knowledge a lady's maid should have. She learns quickly, befriends some of the other staff, even fights with a few. Over time, she convinces everyone she is a good maid, but there is much more to her than they realize; she's got strong business acumen and become a confidante of sorts to Mrs. Carnegie's son, Andrew. Their relationship grows and begins to cause a few folks to question what is going on in the Carnegie household. This is a story about the relationship between the Carnegie family and their staff, love between two unexpected souls and the vicious rules of society.
Approach & Style I read the Kindle version on my iPad over 3 days. It is about 250 pages with short chapters, told from the perspective of Mrs. Carnegie's maid during the 1860s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, America.
Strengths The story is simple and complex, quite beautifully told from the maid's perspective. Only she's so much more than a maid, and you can hear every bit of pain and love in her voice. Benedict does a fantastic job at transporting us to the setting of the story, which makes it a strong connection. It's a slow-build to see and feel the love, but quite believable.
I learned a bit about how Carnegie grew to fame and fortune. The book has made me curious to know how much of this story is true, hence why I am on the lookout for a biography on him and the family. A good author makes that happen... thanks, Ms. Benedict!
We only see a glimpse (less than ten years) of the life between these characters, then it jumps to when they are much older. I loved seeing a future glance rather than everything that happened over the years after Andrew and Clara met. Usually I don't like missing details, but in this story, it worked quite well.
Concerns The writing is a little clunky at times; sometimes it's as it should be, given the story takes place 150 years ago. But on a few occasions, I thought simpler phrases or imagery would have helped with the complexity in the differences between the time period and today.
Author & Other Similar Books This is the author's second book, as she has a debut titled 'The Other Einstein.' I don't know a lot about it, but I am curious to check out the description to see if it's something I'd want to read.
I read a bunch of historical fiction and have encountered books like this before; however, seeing it about a famous American family, and learning of a potential 'hidden' relationship, was different and exciting.
Final Thoughts Good read. Quick. Informative. I liked the style. Characters well-drawn. Matches the style of the time period. Overall, better than average.
About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon @ http://mybook.to/WGS. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at http://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators....more
I chose this book purely based on its cover. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor looked gorgeous, and after seeing it all over Goodreads and thinkinI chose this book purely based on its cover. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor looked gorgeous, and after seeing it all over Goodreads and thinking about the Cotswolds, I fell in love. Then I learned it doesn't take place in England, but in Ireland, as well as that it's based on a true story. Wow! Knock me over with a feather... all that said, it was a good book and I enjoyed it very much. I'd give it somewhere between a 3.5 and 4 stars rounded up.
Two young girls take pictures of faeries in Ireland during World War 1. One of them is a transplant from South Africa returning because her father must fight in the war. She bonds with her cousin, they become somewhat famous for their pictures as everyone thinks it's real. Was it? In current day, a somewhat distant relative / friend (I'm being vague to not give it away) returns to the village to take care of her aging grandmother after her grandfather passes away. She's contemplating breaking off an engagement and starting life anew. The stories intertwine and we learn what really happened with the photo of the faeries.
If this weren't based on a true story, I'd have said the plot was too simple. Knowing it comes from a real-life experience, it makes the book a bit better. The author created a beautiful story. The characters felt real. I enjoyed the current story more than the historical one, tho. I felt the book had some literary merit, but at times, it was repetitive and listless... yet I also found it enchanting and vivid in many other places. I think it's meant to be that way if you're not aware of or fully caught up in the true story.
Gaynor's writing is quite strong and made me keep reading. I will definitely sample more of her work in the future....more
Each month on my blog, This Is My Truth Now, followers choose a novel from my Book Bucket List that I have to read. For July, The Night Circus by ErinEach month on my blog, This Is My Truth Now, followers choose a novel from my Book Bucket List that I have to read. For July, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was selected as the winner, and although it was in a genre I don't often read (fantasy), I really enjoyed it. There were many parts I would give all five stars to, but there were also several where I thought it was just 'good' and received three stars; in the end, it's earned a combined 4 stars from this bookworm... and now I'll explain why!
One of the reasons I struggle with fantasy is the lack of understanding all the rules in a fictional setting that seemingly has no bounds. In a realistic book, I know that someone who truly dies won't come back to life, people can't just suddenly appear through magic, and spells can't confuse me as to what is real and what isn't. I've come to love those things in more lighthearted stories, but when I am entrapped in a very somber / serious / beautiful piece of fiction, not knowing the rules can sometimes induce a difficulty to fully connect with the story or characters... and in The Night Circus, there were moments where I found myself asking the questions "Why couldn't you just cast this spell?" or "Why didn't you change the game?" or "Wait, how exactly can you do X but you can't do Y?" When I do this, I'm pulled from the story and suddenly less interested or focused on the outcome. So... for fantasy to truly pull me in, there need to be ground rules established from the beginning so I have structure. I can't help it, I'm a boundaries-type kinda guy for the most part. Since this happened a bit too often in The Night Circus, I found myself thinking the book was just average. The book also jumps time frames in no particular order, which I am usually fine with, but when I have to keep track of time lines and what magic is happening in which person's life, I am either not smart enough or just not well read enough in this genre! HOWEVER... on the flip side, these not-so-amazing parts for me were more than counter-balanced with tons of POSITIVE and THRILLING aspects.
Wow, was this an ethereal and beautiful story. I lost track of all the similes, metaphors and analogies between the words on the page. It was lyrical and enchanting... from the circus itself to the competition to the love/romance and the death. I tore through the pages in certain sections because I just kept digesting its absolute brilliance and didn't want to stop and think about it - just wanted to breathe it all in at once. I might be in love with Celia Bowen, the main character for most of the novel. What she goes through and how she turns everything into gold is just stunning. I'd forgotten what she even looked like as it was more just this concept of magic I attributed to her... she was a weaver, a spellbinding enchantress... and when she was pushed back down again, or lost Marco from time to time, I was devastated.
Morgenstern's creation of a fantastic world is utterly gorgeous beyond words. From how the circus looks and appears to the creation of the clock that holds it all together. I found myself unable to put the book down several times -- only if I truly had to stop for something important. I would read another Morgenstern again, and I can't wait to see what else she has to offer. So thrilled with this choice, thank you everyone!...more
3 out of 5 stars to Jonathan Richards's book, Nick and Jake: An Epistolary Novel, published in 2012. I'm not ashamed to admit it, but I had to look up3 out of 5 stars to Jonathan Richards's book, Nick and Jake: An Epistolary Novel, published in 2012. I'm not ashamed to admit it, but I had to look up the word "epistolary," as I had no clue what it meant. Usually I'm good at determining the meaning of a word by breaking it up into smaller words, using my etymological skills; I am either getting old or I just had brain freeze; it shouldn't have been that hard since it's Latin and French. Epistolary means "written in the form of letters," which is exactly how this novel was created.
Why This Book All hail NetGalley! I liked the cover. I enjoyed the overview. It seemed like something different, once I knew the definition of the word epistolary. It became #9 on my NetGalley reads this year. For those unfamiliar, go check it out at http://netgalley.com, a site where publishers and authors provide an opportunity to win free books in exchange for honest reviews. Family was visiting for the Easter holiday and had just left, so I opened this book on my iPad Kindle Reader and finished it in about 2 hours, as it's only about 200 pages.
Overview of Story Nick and Jake work in the newspaper business in the 1950s, but they've never met at the beginning of the story. It's a few years after World War II, where McCarthy's fear of the Reds and Communism has taken over the country. The head of the CIA and other operatives are working across the world to track down any Communist supporters and arrest them, but if you even said something nice about Russia, or once passed someone on the street who was a Red supporter, you'd be accused yourself. Nick's accused himself, but gets out of it and leaves for Paris, having nothing but ill-feelings towards the US government despite his love for the US itself. Jake's already moved to Europe and publishing a newspaper, but they develop a friendship through their columns and words, supporting one another through various personal crises. Nick even gets divorced and re-married during the course of the story. The book is full of other characters, all who seem to be playing each other on different sides in the Red War. You can never quite tell who is being honest and who is a secret agent. But over the course of a few months, a few "stings" are executed to catch the criminals, ending with a bit of freedom and a small surprise or two.
Approach & Style 1. For starters, the book is written in the form of newspaper articles, telegrams and letters. Of the 10 major characters, they lives in the US, Europe and Asia, staying at houses, hotels and with friends. You get to see various post styles and handwriting samples, trying to figure out who is connected to who throughout each section.
2. The book is full of made-up and real characters... from fictional people in novels like the Great Gatsby to Senator McCarthy and George Bush. It includes Christine Jorgensen, the first person to have a sex-change (man to woman) and various family members of the primary characters who could be gay or are playing gay, including Maurice Chevalier. It's quite and unusual cast.
3. Humor and satire can be your friends.
Strengths This is a highly imaginative story, full of facts and fiction. As a reader, if you are familiar with all the books being used as fan fiction, and you know a lot of about the real people involved in Senator McCarthy's war, you will love this book. It's very clever and instantly transports you back to the fear-mongering of the 50's. I am not familiar with the depth from this time period, but reading the transcripts of one "trial," if that actually happened (the way people were questioned), I'm super ashamed for the USA for that behavior. I have a feeling this was not an exaggeration, too.
The writing style is quick and easy, full of different handwriting styles, formats and voices. It's a fun and quick read, as you maneuver your way through each of the sections to try and figure out who is good and who is bad. The friendship between Nick and Jake is a really strong basis, especially when you realize it was the 50s and one or two of them might be playing the other!
Open Questions & Concerns 1. What was with the obsession with the male body part in this book? I understand the sex-change story-line as that is an important piece of history, but Nick's obsession with his own member... Jake's curiosities about surgery, the way it became common conversation in letters... I thought I was reading an entirely different book at a few points.
2. Some of the characters and history were lost on me, as I'm not too familiar with McCarthy other than the basics of the communist war. I also didn't read all the books being noted in this novel, so I feel like I missed out on some of the clever writing. That's my fault, not the books... though I think the description and overview could have been more clear, so I knew going into it what I was getting myself into.
Final Thoughts I wasn't too keen on the novel when I first started it, but by about 15 minutes in, the quirky and clever writing made it a much easier read. It's sharp and has good focus. I suspect had I more historical info on what had actually happened, this might have been a 4 out of 5 stars. So if you do, then you should read it. If you don't... or the discussion of the male body part doesn't appeal to you (I feel so peculiar putting that in a book review that's not an erotic or romance book...), then perhaps this isn't for you. But be warned... it's an odd one... funny... not dirty at all... just a bit different.
About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at http://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.
Why This Book I ordered this online many months ago based on the description I'd read in Goodreads. Then a friend of mine, Valerie, was planning to read it. We decided to do a buddy read together earlier this month.
Plot, Characters & Setting A Russian girl loses her mother and her place in a family. She meets strange creatures who no one else can see. Her father remarries to provide her with a mother figure, then has more children. Something happens in the background where there is a war between religions, people and culture. It's a battle to maintain your village and your family, but also to connect the past with the future.
Approach & Style I read the paperback version over a two-week period. It's 312 pages or 28 chapters long. Chapters are about 10 to 12 pages, told in third person.
Strengths It had absolutely beautiful imagery and lyrical prose. You truly feel transported to a new world full of complex characters, interesting plots and high imagination.
There is a lot of great history and views on religion, politics and royalty. You believe you are in Russia dealing with true occurrences and fantastic situations.
Concerns The language was too confusing for me, often leaving me wonder what was real and what was fantasy. I'm not normally a fantasy reader, so it might have been partially my fault.
Names on the characters change a bit too often, which made it slightly difficult for me to recall who each person was.
Final Thoughts I had been in a reading slump and was working on the final chapters of my own book. I might have been distracted while reading this one. I wanted to love it, but I didn't. I think it's a strong book, and for that, I settled on a 3 rating. It is good, just not the right match for me.
About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at http://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators....more
3 stars to Lauren A. Forry's Abigale Hall, a mystery and suspense novel I received via NetGalley and Skyhorse Publishing as an ARC (Advanced Reader Co3 stars to Lauren A. Forry's Abigale Hall, a mystery and suspense novel I received via NetGalley and Skyhorse Publishing as an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you to both for this opportunity, as I enjoyed the book and have posted a review below.
Story Rebecca, 12, and Eliza, 17, are orphaned sisters in 1940's London shortly after the end of WWII, their mother dying from the German Blitz and their father committing suicide after several issues post-war. The girls were awarded to their Aunt Bess, who could barely afford to keep herself above water due to a gambling problem. When she can't take it anymore, Bess sells them to an elderly man in Wales who needs help around his estate. Rebecca seems to suffer from some emotional problems and needs constant supervision, while Eliza was hoping for a proposal from Peter. Eliza could live on her own, but won't let her sister be alone; and then they are both forced to leave without any notification to any friends.
When the sisters arrive, they are taken to Mrs. Pollard who runs the estate; however, both girls quickly learn they will be mistreated far worse than they had been by their Aunt Bess. Eliza begins to hear stories about several missing girls over the last 30 years -- who once worked at the estate -- but vanished under mysterious circumstances. As Eliza looks out for Rebecca, Rebecca begins to grow more sick and is eventually taken away by Mrs. Pollard to the hospital to get better. Eliza finally meets the master, Mr. Brownewell, who comes from a long line of very peculiar men; however, he seems to carry his own tarnish, as the townspeople suspect he killed his fiancee nearly 30 years ago when he thought she was looking at another man in the wrong way.
Eliza tries to keep things status quo as she searches for the answers, but soon discovers she cannot trust anyone. Eliza also begins to hear and see the ghost of Victoria, Mr. Brownewell's late fiancee, roaming the halls, claiming to have stolen all the missing girls. Meanwhile, Peter realizes that Eliza has been kidnapped and tries to find her, but many people -- all caught up in the macabre game being played -- stand in his way, nearly killing him a few times. When he finally finds Eliza, he steps right into a trap set by the villain behind the entire Gothic horror. But who is it? And who will survive...
Strengths The characters are vivid and intense. And there aren't a tremendous amount of them, which certainly helps make it a good story. You've got Eliza and Rebecca who are the sisters dealing with the situation. Their Aunt Bess plays a role in the send off to Wales. Peter is chasing after Eliza. Peter's got 3 or 4 people he interacts with on his search. And in Abigale Hall, there are 3 or 4 characters who help run the estate. Plus the ghost or not-so-dead Victoria (you will have to read to find out)!
The estate, Thornecroft, is a beautiful setting but has a ruthless charm about it. Abigale Hall is one of the main rooms / areas, well described, but keeps you guessing whether it's a good or a bad place to be. The concept of ghosts is used intricately and constantly keeps readers wondering whether or not the characters are loopy or really seeing what they think they are seeing. It helps you stay focused and want to keep reading each chapter to figure it out.
Suggestions I thought the book was a little longer than it needed to be. It wasn't repetitive, but at times it felt a little too drawn out. I assume it's to build the fear factor and the thrill of the chase; however, at times, you want to skim a few sections just to see how far the author was going to take each of the scenes. With a little more editing and focus on key word replacements, I think it could have really put the fear in a few more readers.
All of the characters were just mean. Maybe that's how it was in the 1940s after the war and in England, but I felt like I just wanted to smack several of them for the way they treated each other; and I'm not even counting the villains in the book. Even the ones who were friends or even just acquaintances felt like they had a bit of a nasty tone about them. It could be totally realistic, but it was a bit of a turn off for me.
Comparisons At many points in the novel, I kept thinking about the direct comparison to Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca, and that's not considering both books have a main character named Rebecca. Both books have sprawling estates with a Gothic haunting ghost; Rebecca has Manderley and Abigale Hall has Plentynunig's Thornecroft. Both have a very menacing but possibly innocent caretaker. Let's see a rumble between Mrs. Pollard and Mrs. Danvers!
There are some interesting themes about shoes in this book that made me think of the Wizard of Oz witches... between Dorothy's shoes and the legs of the witch underneath the home that crashed into Oz, you can't help but see the comparison when one of the characters in Abigale Hall ends up with a head in the oven and nothing hanging out but a pair of legs.
Plus, both the sisters have trouble with their shoes the entire book. Was a little odd!
Not to mention Hansel and Gretel pushing the witch in the oven. So many re-appropriations of fairy tales could be seen.
Final Thoughts I'm glad I read the book, and there were definitely parts full of horror the creepy factor. I was hoping for a bit more macabre, and the end certainly brings some intensity and major crazy... but it should have pushed the envelope a bit more to truly be a horror book. It's a good read, but I didn't think "wow, this is an awesome and scary book." I'd read another one by this author as the writing flowed well and created memorable characters. But give me something even more gruesome next time!
About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at http://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. :)...more
3 stars to Nicola Cornick's House of Shadows, an ARC I received through NetGalley last week in exchange for an honest review. I realized it takes time3 stars to Nicola Cornick's House of Shadows, an ARC I received through NetGalley last week in exchange for an honest review. I realized it takes time to build up a good rating before publishers choose you to read new releases by famous authors, and so I set about choosing books by new authors or unknown authors that I might enjoy. Little did I realize, Cornick has several published series I could have gotten familiar with. While this book's plot and setting initially attracted me, I feel it could have been stronger in the execution. Let's get to the details of this one:
Story Holly receives a phone call from her 6-year-old niece in the middle of the night, noting her father (Holly's brother), Ben, has gone missing. Holly takes the long train from London to a distant Oxfordshire town where their family owns an old English home. Ben had been staying there for a few days doing research on the family tree when he disappeared. Holly's just separated from her fiance and chooses to stay at the country home and search for Ben. As she traces clues, she learns he may have stumbled upon (1) the pearl and (2) the crystal mirror that the Winter Queen of a German duchy, Elizabeth Stuart, of the English Stuarts (Charles and James, Scottish kings) used with her husband, Frederick, as powerful objects to create fire and floods when in their wars. They were originally given to Mary Queen of Scots by her cousin Elizabeth I of England, as a wedding present after being previously stolen from another member of the family. The story is told through three time periods: (1) 1630's with Elizabeth, (2) 1800s with Lavinia and (3) 2000s with Holly. Somehow they are all connected, and it seems someone used the power of the pearl and the mirror to wreck havoc over the centuries. But how it all comes together, who is related to whom, and what happened to Ben are at the crux of this multi-level story.
Strengths 1. The story is intriguing. Real people (Elizabeth, Frederick, Mary, etc.) are woven with fictional people to create an imaginative story to capture readers attention. You'll find yourself flipping between the book and Wikipedia trying to figure out which parts are true. Did the pearl exist? Was the affair real? Did she really go on to have 11 children that eventually gave rise to most of the European thrones?
2. The story is very descriptive and you will clearly picture all of the setting and backdrop. It seems quite beautiful. You can separate easily from the views of the house in 2 of the 3 time periods, given it didn't exist in one of them. The best word I can use is to say it is "pretty." It sounds like the author has been dreaming of this story for a long time, so kudos to her for bringing it to full fruition.
Suggestions It felt like something was missing, and the parts that were present didn't fully line up for me. I love telling stories over multi-time periods, trying to figure out the connections among each of the characters. And some parts of this story handled it well; however, the ending was rushed which felt like I didn't have time to absorb the consequences of each lie, affair or murder that occurred over the 400 year period. I think there should have been less focus on the current story's secondary characters (Ben's potential affair, Holly's hook-ups, the multiple friends who didn't really contribute much) and more focus on drawing out the connections among the different families over the years.
Final Thoughts Given it had some good parts and some so-so parts, I give this one a 3... I'd recommend it for fans of this genre who like things a little open-ended, who like royal and non-royal connections and who love the English countryside.
I'd read a sample of this author's work again, as the writing and language was good (a little slow at times), but the plot would have to be pretty strong for me to jump on the next one. That said, it is a fair book -- just not as good as others in this genre that I've read and loved....more
3- stars to Rachel McMillan's The White Feather Murders, her third historical cozy in the "Herringford and Watts" mystery series. This book was a toug3- stars to Rachel McMillan's The White Feather Murders, her third historical cozy in the "Herringford and Watts" mystery series. This book was a tough one for me to review as I had a hard time staying focused, but I did like the story-line. Something about it said "keep trying" but ultimately, in the end, I wasn't too keen on it.
Why This Book? After joining NetGalley last month, I looked for books I could read immediately through automatic requests, as I needed to increase my review % and receive newer releases I wanted to read. When I saw the description of this book, and the cover, I thought it would be a good new series to read, even though I usually start with Book 1. It landed in my queue and I read it over the last few days.
Story The book (and I assume the series) takes place in the early 20th century in Toronto, Canada, just prior to England entering World War 1. There is a lot of tension in the air over whether immigrants from Germany and Italy are truly becoming Canadian citizens, or if they are secretly helping their home countries back in Europe. (Sounds familiar, eh?) Everyone was suspected of being an alien enemy!
Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts DeLuca are "lady detectives" who have become popular for solving crimes in the last few years, and they are called in by Miss Mueller, a German-Canadian woman, who fears for her brother's life. He's being beaten and harassed because he is German, even though he supports England and Canada in the war. The local police and the Mayor tolerate Merinda and Jem's investigations, probably more than expected for the time period when women were foolishly not allowed to do much except mind the home and children; however, the corrupt Mayor really thinks both are frustrating and troublesome.
Suddenly, several men they know are found dead with a white feather strewn across their bodies. And then the German boy they were investigating is found dead with the same type of feather. But it's when a car rams into Merinda and Jem that they realize someone is after them. Their families try to get the ladies to stop investigating, but the women are determined to solve the crime. And in the end, they do. But the path along the way is dangerous and misleading, especially when corruption lurks behind every stone they turn over.
Strengths The story feels real and the setting is clear. You feel a connection because this happened, even if you don't hail from Canada.
It's good to see two female leads, especially in historical fiction. Their actions feel accurately depicted.
The book has several small story arcs supporting the main investigation, which helps create a more robust world to read about.
Why I Struggled There were too many characters who weren't properly described or given enough distinction. I often felt confused as to who was on which side, finding myself skimming a few pages now and again to get to the end.
I never connected with the characters. The book felt too plot-driven with little focus on likability for the plight other than knowing it was unfair. I wanted the underdogs to win because that's just who I am, but it wasn't the writing that drove me to that conclusions.
I had high hopes but it felt too flat. I would have liked to see more drawn out scenes to help me understand why certain things happened. It was as if in the matter of one page, a body was found, they decided who did it and moved on.
I still don't understand the end and how the killer just gave up. I won't give away spoilers, but it must have been an old-fashioned villain's way of doing things. Not what I expected!
Final Thoughts Overall, the book had some good parts, and I wanted to like it more. I don't think I'll go back and read the rest of the books, but I might check out reviews on each of them, and this one, to see what I am missing. I admit I read more quickly than usual, and didn't stay invested in it like I normally do. It may have been my fault that I didn't like it that much.
On a side note, I watched the "Julie Bowen" episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" this week... as I love my genealogy. And she was researching two ancestors; one from Civil War days and one for WW1 where her great grandfather ran the national office of the American Protective League where they registered "alien enemies." Reading about it in a book (in Canada) and watching it on TV (in America) happening at the same time nearly a century ago... made me think... we never learn our lessons, do we?
3 out of 5 stars to Lisa See's Peony in Love, a historical fiction book released in 2007 by Random House set in 17th century China.
Why This Book I3 out of 5 stars to Lisa See's Peony in Love, a historical fiction book released in 2007 by Random House set in 17th century China.
Why This Book I found it sitting on a bookshelf in my condo's laundry room. I read the jacket description, which sounded like a beautiful tale of love, emotions and a little bit of history. I brought it home with me that afternoon, knowing it would come in handy. And when I finished up a few ARCs, I needed a different kind of book; I saw this on my own shelf, which reminded me it was time to try something a few years old. I picked it up and began reading last week. It took longer than usual, but I'll explain why later.
Overview of Story The Peony Pavilion is a play that the character of Peony has read many times. When her father, of some wealth in 17th century China, puts on a showing of the famous play on his estate, 15-year old Peony is excited. But it's when she sees a boy for the first time, she cannot control her thoughts. Unfortunately, she's already paired off in an arranged marriage with a boy from another family, as well as the fact that as a girl, she's not even allowed to be seen with any males other than those in her own family.
The book follows the story line of the play, which seems to be spilling over into Peony's life. When she begins unknowingly starving herself, Peony dies and enters the afterworld on her own. She's unprepared to deal with the consequences and is remorseful that she never found love. She soon sees the boy she fell in love with in a dream, learning he was the man her father had arranged in the marriage. She longs for him but cannot have him, as she is dead and he is very much alive.
Soon, her family members begin dying and join her in the afterworld. The boy moves on and gets married. Peony inserts herself to their life from the great beyond, leading to unfortunate circumstances for all involved. As she meanders her journey, Peony learns what is needed for her to move beyond the "waiting place" and into her new existence as no longer alive.
Approach & Style 1. The book is centered around a play within the book which mirrors the main character's life. At times, it's a little difficult to tell which is real life and which is the play.
2. The language is very ethereal, flowery and imaginative. This is less about plot and more about the beauty of Chinese beliefs about what women are allowed to do, what happens in death, and how to live one's life.
Strengths 1. The love story is a strong one. You see and feel the poetry in the words and the relationships.
2. It's very descriptive of life in a warrior state in 17th century China. I learned a lot of history that I wasn't privy to beforehand.
3. You see everything thru Peony's eyes, which helps create a very strong world and point of view.
Open Questions & Concerns I am shocked at what Chinese women were put thru... between the sacrifices women made for men, the binding of feet and the cultural expectations and limitations. It was very upsetting. I understand these were customs for hundreds of years, with deep-rooted beliefs... some are just awful from today's standards. Even awful back then.
Author & Other Similar Books This is the first book about Chinese customs and history that I've read. I'm not sure what I could compare it to.... perhaps Memoirs of a Geisha, although it's a different country and belief system.
Final Thoughts This was a very tough read. I started it ten days ago and read 20 pages. I tried a few times, but couldn't get into it. I forced myself to read 150 pages last night and then the remaining 100 today. It got better, but it wasn't a positive read for me; however, I recognize the beauty in the story, characters, imagery and setting. It's one of those books where I didn't like it a lot, but I know it's a good book.
I wish I had more knowledge of Chinese history and customs. Unfortunately, much of what happens in the book and how it's described went over my head. I didn't agree with how people felt or were treated. I didn't know why there was so much of a belief in ghosts with a vengeance. I couldn't get into religious and spiritual connections that were unfamiliar. And when I was getting close, I felt angry over how awfully these women were treated.
That said, I believe I would have liked this a lot more if I had a stronger background in the topics. The writing is good. The story is pretty. It's just a weak connection for me because I was unfamiliar with the core practices, history and belief systems. But for the right reader, it will probably be a good 3 to 4 rated book. For me, it was about a 2.5, and I rounded up to a 3 to be fair.
About Me For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at http://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
4 stars to M. Louisa Locke's Maids of Misfortune, the first book in the "Victorian San Francisco" mystery series and a great blend of murder mystery c4 stars to M. Louisa Locke's Maids of Misfortune, the first book in the "Victorian San Francisco" mystery series and a great blend of murder mystery charm and historical shenanigans. I found the book on Amazon as a free Kindle e-read and thought it would be something slightly different... and it was a welcome read I recommend for anyone looking for a historical cozy.
Story Annie Fuller is a 26-year-old widow, owning and operating a b&b out of her Victorian home by day, and working as Madam Sybil by night (no, not a harlot!). She's not exactly psychic, and definitely not interested in a seance or a crystal ball; she's a financial wizard who helps people make money by reading their astrology and horoscopes. As a woman in a man's world, nearly 150 years ago, she had to pretend she was just clairvoyant in order to build her client portfolio and be successful. But when her favorite customer appears to commit suicide, she's just not having it. With all the protocols of 1879 in tow, she disguises herself as a maid in her former client's house to discover which member of his family killed him for the money he had just made in the stock market. Along the way, she stumbles upon a second death and is able to convince the police that her former client's death wasn't suicide. But she's also earned a few enemies who don't believe she's a real maid. With a cast of friends and clients helping her keep up the ruse, Annie investigates using good ole' fashioned wit and gossip, given there are no computers, cars or cell phones. But she's got another problem to deal with too... her late husband, that buffoon, left her with an enormous debt and the loan shark is trying to steal her b&b out from under her in order to even the score. Who knew the 70's... the 1870's... had so much murderous fun!?!?!
Strengths 1. The plot is strong and full of red herrings. The struggle to find the killer without any modern technology or transportation provides an entirely different (and long forgotten) mode of investigation: using yours words, your eyes and your ears.
2. The Victorian setting is charming and offers a much needed change of pace for the cozy murder mystery. Readers will flock to Agatha Christie's quaint English villages, but here's a perfect setting for historical American heritage. And who doesn't love San Francisco... especially in the 1870s... Gold Rush! Publishing! Horse-drawn carriages!
Suggestions 1. The pace is a little slow. It's not at all bad or painful, but I think it could use a little extra spice. It fits with the time period, but I think with a bit of panache, the story would jump even further off the page. Cover a little more about what's happening in SF at the time. Add some history to the founding families. Relate it to a modern reader so they invest a little more for the whole series.
2. Explore more about Madam Sybil. She's great... I want to see her in action and understand how she works!
Final Thoughts There is something different here... something worth giving a chance. If you're a historical fiction fan, with a potential interest in mystery, pick it up and read it. There is a lot of description about life in the 1870s, which will appeal to traditional readers.
If you love cozies, the "small, cozy little town" isn't part of this series; however, the mindset and the relationships are absolutely one on the same: gossip is abound and people know exactly what to say. I look forward to the next book in this series....more
In the Fall of 2017, I won The Impact of a Single Event by R.L. Prendergast in a Goodreads Giveaway. I was finally able to make time to read it, and IIn the Fall of 2017, I won The Impact of a Single Event by R.L. Prendergast in a Goodreads Giveaway. I was finally able to make time to read it, and I'm so sorry I waited this long. It was superb! I initially entered the contest because it was about the passing of a journal over a 150+ year period throughout a few different connected families. Writing and genealogy, how could I not love it? At about ~280 pages, it is such an easy-to-read novel, I devoured it in about 3 hours one afternoon.
Sonia and Richard, a couple in their mid to late 30's, stop on the road to help victims of a car accident. After the ambulance arrives and carts the couple to the hospital, Sonia and Richard find the journal among the victims' belongings, then rush to the hospital to drop it all off. From there, the book alternates chapters tracing the lineage of the journal back 6 generations and discussing the impact of it on Sonia and Richard's current lives. We learn more about what's going on with Sonia and Richard in their chapters and understand what troubles they face, but we also see how the journal was used by each of the 6 people who'd previously written in it. In the final chapter, Sonia and Richard leave their own imprint when the journal finds its way back to their hands.
Much of the writing style and language in this book is absolutely enchanting. In the first 75%, I found myself turning pages without even realizing how much time had passed by. It was so engaging. When I hit the final chapter, I was less interested only because it became a bit more Eat/Pray/Love journey, which while fascinating, isn't something I can easily grasp when it's set in 1860s India. I'm just not familiar enough with the country, religions, or the history, but for the right reader, this will be, I'm certain, a phenomenal journey. That said, it was still beautiful, and if that final chapter (the longest) was more like the rest, I would have given this 5 stars. It was more a case of reader disconnect and not anything the writer had done. It was written well, just hard for me to connect when the main character of that journal entry was hiding in a jungle hoping not to be eaten by a tiger! I tend to prefer something a bit more concrete with just a dose of philosophy.
The way the journal is handed off from person to person is breathtaking. The characters are rich and vibrant. The jump from time periods is virtually effortless. And there's a great family tree graphic in the beginning to help you understand how everyone's connected, but in all honesty, it's not necessary despite how complicated the story can get. And there's a wonderful surprise at the end which I wasn't expecting.
It's a high recommendation from me if you like books to move you and take you on a journey. But you need to be comfortable with missing details, getting in your head, and taking a leap of faith in philosophy. Kudos to the author for one of the most seamlessly written books of this nature I've read before....more
After reading a few Kate Morton novels last year, I found myself enamored with her storytelling and character creation abilities. I added all of her bAfter reading a few Kate Morton novels last year, I found myself enamored with her storytelling and character creation abilities. I added all of her books to my TBR and included The Lake House on my monthly Book Bucket List on my blog, where followers vote to select one read per month for me -- this won as my June novel and I finished it over 6 days last week. With a new puppy in the house, reading and book reviewing time is not as easy as usual but I'm determined to meet my June TBR goals. While I absolutely adored this book, there were a few times I felt disconnected and disappointed, or that the coincidences were a little too much, but not for too long or in any way to truly bother me.
The story focuses on several characters in England mostly during the 1910s to the 1930s, and then current time which is set in the 2000s. In the 1920s, the Edevane family is recuperating from World War 1 where while no one died, the savagery of war has had its toll on relationships. Alice is the focus, the middle sister who never quite fit in the family and became a mystery writer. When her younger brother disappears, and her two other sisters begin to act oddly, something seems off. Throw in a battleaxe for a grandmother, a fun but peculiar uncle-type, and some very attentive or non-attentive nannies, there's got to be something bad that happened to the little boy... but was he kidnapped, killed, or is someone making things up about his childhood? When Alice's book covers some of those true-life situations, people wonder what happened years ago... in modern times, Sadie has been put on leave after she made a mistake during an investigation, so the cop visits her grandfather and gets caught up in the old Edevane case while taking some rest. This is a story about missing children, lost children, and kidnapped children... there are a few cases going on, but they are not connected in any way other than as situations to help readers reflect on the character's emotions and lives.
What I love about Morton's writing is the imagery and depth you see, hear, and experience. Everything feels like it's unfolding right before your eyes on a stage. Among the always present gardens, large estates, dysfunctional families, and interconnected historic and modern times, you're carried away into a dreamlike state where you can happily immerse yourself in beauty and lyrical action. Morton also excels at weaving together multiple stories that have both small and large connections you begin to assemble along the path. At times, it's a bit too connected or coincidental, but truthfully, isn't that part of why we read books? We want to experience something new and different, a shock or a twist... if it was all simple and straightforward, there wouldn't be a lot of drama to dig into. So while it can be a bit overdone or over-the-top (even in my own writing, I would agree it happens), it also is what truly makes the book spectacular in other ways. It's a story with a start and a finish, so it's going to have very specific reasons for things happening. In this one, it all felt natural as it could have happened just pushed together too closely in a few occasions.
I also struggled a bit in the early pages as there were a few too many characters to keep track of, and with so many women across 4 generations, it was often a confusing in the beginning of a chapter to know which one we were talking about. It was done purposefully to add intrigue and suspense, which I understand, but sometimes it was a little too much. Other than those concerns, I was very happy with the story. It isn't my favorite Morton, but I find myself still thinking about it days later... Morton captures the young heroine trying to solve the past like no other author I know. She can also brilliantly build the amazing balance in an octogenarian who is torn, but also a bit of a curmudgeon about the past. You feel the indeterminable strength in the woman who can't let go but is desperate for a closure that seems destined to cause more pain.
I am thrilled with this book, especially with the last 25% and how it all came together. Stunning poetry at times. I can't wait to read her latest book, The Clockmaker's Daughter, which I just got approved for on NetGalley....more
Kate Morton came into my life just under 3 years ago. I don't remember how, but I picked up one of her books and absolutely fell in love with her writKate Morton came into my life just under 3 years ago. I don't remember how, but I picked up one of her books and absolutely fell in love with her writing style, characters, and multi-dimensional storytelling abilities. After almost 3 years, I've finished reading all 6 of her books; it's a tad amusing that the last one I read is actually the first book she wrote -- The House at Riverton, or The Shifting Fog, as it was previously known. For me, she's the queen of historical fiction when the focus is on 'ordinary' families in a world from ~ a century ago. The House at Riverton is no exception, and while not my favorite of her tomes, is quite a splendid novel very reminiscent of Downtown Abbey.
In this book, Grace is ~100 years old and dying very soon. She has a story and a secret about the past to tell her wayward grandson who's gone missing after his wife died of an aneurysm. Through flashbacks and other POVs, we learn about Grace's time as a maid and ladies maid in the Hartford family household. We witness conversations in the current period between Grace and Ursula, a film director telling the story of what happened when a family friend and renowned poet committed suicide in the 1920s at the Hartford estate. We find out who actually loved whom, and which family members shouldn't have been trusted. All set against the gorgeous backdrop of the English countryside, it's a powerful and emotional tale about fighting your desires and knowing when it's time to give in.
One of the things that made this book so appealing is how similar it was to Downton Abbey. There's a family torn apart by war. Girls cannot inherit their father's estate. Love between classes is forbidden. Estates cost too much. A daughter must marry into a wealthy family to survive. But then it goes off on its own path with a murder, an affair, and a past indiscretion connecting two people who never knew until it was too late. Morton can weave the most elaborate stories to warm the heart. I feel such passion and connection with her words and imagery. I can think of no other author who evokes such lyrical enthusiasm and despair in a scene on multiple levels that overwhelm you and excite you at the same time.
While a majority of this book is amazing, there were a few areas that I struggled with... hence 4 stars. The beginning is a bit too slow; it takes time to develop characters, but Morton uses a few different techniques to foreshadow what's to come in the future almost crossing that invisible line with audience. For example, there's a paragraph ending a chapter that actually speaks to readers saying, "You think she should have done this, but no, instead, she does this... and this is why what happens to her later was so painful." I paraphrased to not give away any spoilers, but you get the basics. Another concern I had was how certain storylines were left too open-ended for my taste. We know two characters re-connect 40 years later, but how / why. We know there was a blood relationship between two characters, but was it ever acknowledged? We know one character leaves a letter to another, but what happened with the gift she also left behind? Who was Lady Clementine and how did she fit into this family?
Some of those were loosely explained, but with a powerhouse like Morton, I expect everything to be properly tied together. I'm okay with vague, but there needs to be some clarity on what the 'options' are as opposed to just making a statement and never exploring the follow-thru aspects. That said, this doesn't happen in her later books, so I think these were debut author style changes... and definitely ones I'm glad she eventually made. All said, it's a must read. The book is slower than others, with less of a major climax, but fully immersive and extravagant in other ways. I am sad that it'll be at least another year before her next one......more