Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Chimney Sweeper's Boy by Barbara Vine


Gerald Candless, renown author, dies of a heart attack leaving behind his wife and two grown daughters. The girls, Sarah and Hope, were very close to their dad as he fostered a special relationship with them at the expense of his wife Ursula. As the family comes to term with the loss, we learn how spoiled the two girls are and how miserable Ursula was with her husband.

When Sarah is approached to write a biography of her dad, she accepts. The first thing she does is start looking in to his past only to find that there's nothing to look in to. Gerald Candless does not exist before a certain date and the Gerald Candless of the town her father claimed as his died as a child. Their father assumed this identity. Why? What was he running from?

This book was difficult to get through for two reasons. First, all the characters are either miserable people or pathetic. The girls are complete snobs and never get what's coming to them. The mom could have helped herself but did nothing. The second reason is because there's a whole bunch of unnecessary filler content. Why do we need to know about Hope and her boyfriend or Sara and her boyfriend? There is no substance there and it doesn't really drive the plot forward.

When we finally find out the reason Gerald left his original life, it's a bit of a let down. We are told throughout the book a few times that this reason is not true only to find out it is. The way it was revealed was sort of interesting, but none of the characters ever really find out which was a let down.

First Line: "Not a word to my girls, he had said on the way home from the hospital."


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas


Ruby is a rebellious teenager who runs away from home in England to visit her grandmother in Cairo. She has basically no relationship with her grandmother, but is desperate to leave and try something new. Showing up on the doorstep of her grandmother, the manservent Mamdooh is none too pleased to see her. She eventually convinces her way in and finds Iris, her grandmother, who is old, ailing, and struggling to remember her past. Ruby offers to help Iris document her history so that it is not forgotten and Iris can't pass that up.

Iris came of age in Cairo during WWII. She fell in love with a soldier and got engaged, working as a secretary to the British government. It was times of high stress but lots of partying and lots of love. People did things quickly for fear that war would wipe out everything.

As Ruby pieces together her grandmother's past, she also finds her own love story in Cairo. She starts to fall for the brother of the taxi driver that took her from the airport to Iris' house. This boy shows her around the city and she starts to love both Cairo and him.

This was a great coming of age story from two different generation's perspective. We learn about Iris' journey to adulthood during the war and we see Ruby's as she grows up in Cairo. Ruby is a believable teenager, starting off a little annoying but coming in to her own. I'm not sure I ever really understand her relationship with her mom, or her mom's relationship with Iris. They tried to flush out the latter in the book but it was a fairly short conversation near the end of the book and not really sufficient for me to understand or believe it.

The event that finally brings everyone together seemed a bit drastic but I guess typical to a coming of age fictional story. I've been having bad luck with books recently, unable to get through a few of them before giving up, so I was happy to be able to easily get through this one.

First Line: "I remember"


Monday, September 10, 2018

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

Historical Fiction

Allison Bannister has been tracking the history of Mary Seymour, daughter of Queen Katherine Parr. When she comes across a recently discovered portrait of Anne Boleyn, Allison knows better and that it's truly Mary. Allison knows this because she lived with Mary in Wolf Hall before she made the leap in time to current day. Allison was a teenager living in Wolf Hall when she fell in love with her cousin and steward of the house Edward Seymour. She ended up getting pregnant and sent away then her child was taken from her when she gave birth. She roomed with Mary and though they hated each other at first, they needed each other and grew to respect each other. Mary had special abilities to see the future so Allison looked to Mary to help her find her son Albert. Mary looks to Allison to save her from being tried as a witch.

The story is told from Allison and Mary's perspective. Allison is in current time to survive and see if she can't find her son through history. Mary is in the 1500s, after being pushed aside. Both struggle with similar problems despite the time gap and they never forget the promises they made to each other. Allison is not only searching for her son, but also her friend Mary to find out what happened to her.

Mary Seymour's story in real life is pretty mysterious, so Cornick takes what history knows and builds around that quite well. The magical/fantastical element makes this unrealistic but it's still a fun 'what if' story.

The historical fiction and character relationships were the best part of this book. Mary's story from the 1500s seemed well researched and flowed very well. The relationship between Mary and Allison, as well as any of the other characters was believable and endearing.

Where this book lacked was in the time travel element. Allison traveled forward in time by 500 years yet had no problem coping with any of the technical or cultural changes. She was driving a car (how?) and wearing modern clothes without issue. Characters had no problem believing that she was a time traveler. It was a tough pill to swallow and it nagged at me throughout the entire book.

Despite this, it's still worth picking up and reading!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour! If you're interested in purchasing the book you can do so here.