Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Dressmaker's Dowry by Meredith Jaeger

Historical Fiction

Sarah Havensworth is blessed to have a husband that has allowed her to stop work and focus on her novel, but Sarah is having problems finding inspiration. Coming from a journalism background, Sarah finally finds a spark when she reads about two dressmakers that went missing in late 1800 San Francisco. Sarah re-focuses what she's working on. Someone finds out and starts sending her threatening emails. Determined to write this story, Sarah continues on and the story of the two dressmakers come to life.

In 1876, there are two immigrant dressmakers that want more for themselves and their families. When a handsome young man comes in to get some clothing tailored and treats the two girls well, they swoon. This man ends up being a Havensworth, from Sarah's husband's family. When one of the dressmakers goes missing, the other enlists Havensworth's help to try and find her.

Sarah and one of the dressmakers, Hannelore, have a lot in common. They come from less privileged lives and fall for men much better off than them.

This book is a very easy read. It's easy to connect to the characters, though they were a bit over-dramatic, and pull for them. The two stories flow very well with each other.

Both 1870s San Francisco and present day San Fran were portrayed very well and made you feel like you were in the city then and now. I've only been to San Francisco once but could remember pieces of it and tried to paint over what I remembered with the 1870s description from Jaeger.

Overall, an incredibly strong debut from Jaeger. I'm looking forward to more from her.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour. If you want to purchase the book, you can do so here.

First Line: "A doorman ushered me toward the historic garden court inside the Palace Hotel, the sequins on my gold shift dress catching the light."

Rating:
(4/5)
About the Author
Meredith Jaeger was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of a Swiss father and an American mother. While working for a San Francisco start-up, Meredith fulfilled her dream of writing a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker,s Dowry. Meredith lives in Alameda with her husband, their infant daughter, and their bulldog.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Hole by Guy Burt

Thriller

A group of students (college or high school? It's never quite clear) decide to pull a prank and rather than go out on a trip with the school, go to a never used part of the school that has a few rooms inaccessible by anything other than a ladder. The group plans on staying for three days before a friend will let them out.

The premise of this book makes no sense. How is it a "practical joke" that instead of going on a trip, you're spending it in a hole? It made no sense to me what they wanted to accomplish by this experiment.

Then there was the narrative. It switched between the kids in the hole and one of them outside of the hole, after they made it out. But when you first start reading it, there's no indication that this is the case and you're left wondering what the heck is going on.

This book isn't all bad though. The twist at the end is quite good. Unfortunately at that point I didn't care because everything else about the book was so awful. I don't recommend this one at all.

First Line: "In the last Easter term, before the Hole, life was bright and good at Our Glorious School."

Rating:
(2.5/5)

Friday, February 03, 2017

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Fiction

Vivian is an Irish immigrant who settles in New York city in the early 1900s with her mom, dad, and family. Tragedy befalls the family and Vivian is left an orphan. As such, her journey begins on the orphan train, where all orphans are packed on a train together and basically paraded through different cities in the USA until someone agrees to take them in. Vivian befriends a baby and a boy on the train and hopes to be able to find them again, but they are taken by families quickly. Vivian's heart begins to fall, wondering if no one wants her.

Instead, Vivian ends up in Minnesota, taken by a couple that owns a female dress making shop. They only want Vivian for free labour, so she learns to sew. As the great depression happens, her circumstances in the "family" change and they no longer want her. Vivian gets passed on and passed on, struggling to survive and not feeling like she's wanted anywhere.

In present day Maine, Molly is also in foster care. She doesn't get along with her family and when she steals a book from the library, that's pretty much the last straw. Molly ends up doing community service for Vivian and learning all about her past. The two become unlikely friends.

I'm sure we've all read stories about horrible foster families in the past. And this book certainly has an element of that, but it's much more about overcoming these challenges and how it shapes you as a person. Yes, both Vivian and Molly don't have ideal pasts, but really, how many of us do? They triumph over these.

I really enjoyed Vivian's story. I had never known anything about orphan trains. I feel like there's a good non-fiction novel that could be made about these people's stories. This book read incredibly easy because the character were so engaging.

What a great way to start 2017 reading! You can purchase this book at Harper Collins' site.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour.

First Line: "I believe in ghosts."

Rating:
(4.5/5)
About the Author
Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels. She lives out-side of New York City and on the coast of Maine.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

Fiction

A group of six start a Jane Austen book club. They don't all know each other at first but eventually become friends through Miss Austen's words. There are five women and one man. One mother/daughter. Those that have been married, those that haven't. Everyone has a different perspective from life that they bring to their book club meetings. With each month, we learn a bit more about the host of the book club. Until we get closer to the end of the book and everything is jumbled together and not specific to the person hosting the discussion.

This book was an odd one. The first chapter I felt engaged with the story and was interested with the character being described. Then the next chapter came and I didn't care much for the character so I was bored. It would go back and forth for me. Some of the stories were interesting, some were boring and made me want to skip pages.

I couldn't keep the characters straight other than Grigg, the only man in the group. This is simply because I didn't care, since they were so boring!

I was completely disappointed with this book. I'm surprised I finished it, I probably should have given up earlier.

First Line: "Each of us has a private Austen."

Rating:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Fireman by Joe Hill

Fiction

Dragonscale is sweeping the world, burning people and leaving nothing but ash. Maine is a charred wasteland and people hunt those with dragonscale to kill them. Harper works at the local hospital to try and help those sick as much as she can but even the hospital isn't safe. When that goes up in smoke, Harper finds out she has the disease. Harper and her husband made a suicide pact when this disease first started spreading but now that Harper finds out she's pregnant, she's not so interested in killing herself. He husband, who isn't sick, still thinks she should die.

Harper escapes to a camp that hides those with Dragonscale with the help of the fireman. They have found a way to control their disease, which gives Harper hope that she'll be able to live with her baby. But with more than 100 people in this camp, there are 'Lord of the Flies'-type social problems at the camp.

I really enjoy apocalyptic stories because of the imagination that it takes to come up with what kills off most people and how people are coping with it. This is a unique disease and a unique way of dealing with it. Of course, at the core of it this book isn't about the scale. This is just the icing on the cake. But it's really nice icing.

The core of this book is Harper, her relationship with her husband and the fireman, and how these hundred folks with dragonscale create (or destroy) a community they've built up for themselves. Harper, for the most part seems pretty sensible. She's a nurse, she loves Mary Poppins, and she gets rightfully annoyed at people. Her ex-husband is a piece of work that wants to kill her and her new love interest and create birds made of fire. Then there's the community, which is full of a whole bunch of interesting characters.

While I really enjoyed this book, I won't give it a perfect review for two reasons. First, I feel like the book could have lost a hundred or two pages and not lost anything in the story. Second, because Harper and the fireman fall in love after only talking to each other or seeing each other 3 times, which is completely unrealistic.

I still recommend this one though!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour. Be sure to get your copy at Harper Collins.

First Line: "Harper Grayson had seen lots of people burn on TV, everyone had, but the first person she saw burn for real was in the playground behind the school."

Rating:
(4/5)
About the Author
Joe Hill is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Horns, Heart-Shaped Box, and NOS4A2. He is also the Eisner Award-winning writer of a six-volume comic book series, Locke & Key. He lives in New Hampshire.

Find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at his website.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Inferno by Dan Brown

Thriller

Professor Langdon wakes up in the hospital, thinking he's still in Massachusetts. He can't remember anything that's happened over the last few days and is told that a bullet grazed his head. When an Italian doctor enters his room, Landon realizes he isn't in the States, but rather in Florence. Then when that doctor is murdered before his eyes Langdon knows he must run. Another doctor also in the room, Sienna, helps him by bringing Langdon to her home and trying to figure out why he's in Florence. There's a mini projector sewn in to his coat which starts Langdon on his search for Inferno.

The two realize they are hunting a plague, hoping to find it before it's set loose on the world. Following through Dante's Inferno, they must follow clues from this important work and from other artists that have used it as inspiration to find what they are looking for.

Brown's first book with Langdon, Angels and Demons is still my favourite, but this was pretty good. Brown is a master at writing suspense and as a bonus, you learn about some art and history along the way. I don't know much about Dante's Inferno. This made me want to read it just a little bit. Though I know I'd probably never understand all the intricacies.

This isn't award winning literature but it's definitely a fun read.

First Line: "I am the Shade."

Rating:
(4/5)

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Bomber by Liza Marklund

Mystery

Stockholm is getting ready for the Olympics, when there is a bombing in one of the main stadiums, killing one person. The public wants to know if this was a targeted attack or whether it was terrorism. Annika heads up the crime desk at a local newspaper and wants to get to the bottom of who did this and why. She's a female in a male-dominated industry and feels not only the pressure of leading a team of men, but also the difficulties of balancing work and home life. However she has great instincts as a journalist and hunts down some leads before any other journalists do.

This is an interesting mystery/thriller from the journalist's perspective rather than the detective's. And it's set in Sweden, which few mystery books that I read are set in. It makes for an interesting change of pace.

I liked Annika's struggles over being a female not respected by her male peers and her work life balance. However it did get to a point where I thought the author started to overplay it and was really beating our heads with this fact. I would have appreciated it more if it was a bit more subtle.

I felt a little disappointed with the ending. It was a bit predictable and definitely over dramatic.

First Line: "The woman who was about to die stepped warily out of the doorway and quickly glanced about her."

Rating:
(3/5)