Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Published: April 9, 2019
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
The runaway bestseller Lilac Girls introduced the real-life heroine Caroline Ferriday. This sweeping new novel, set a generation earlier and also inspired by true events, features Caroline’s mother, Eliza, and follows three equally indomitable women from St. Petersburg to Paris under the shadow of World War I.
It is 1914 and the world has been on the brink of war so many times, many New Yorkers treat the subject with only passing interest. Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanov’s. The two met years ago one summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s Imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household. On the other side of the Atlantic, Eliza is doing her part to help the White Russian families find safety as they escape the revolution. But when Sofya’s letters suddenly stop coming she fears the worst for her best friend.
From the turbulent streets of St. Petersburg to the avenues of Paris and the society of fallen Russian emigre’s who live there, the lives of Eliza, Sofya, and Varinka will intersect in profound ways, taking readers on a breathtaking ride through a momentous time in history.
I do love historical fiction, especially the sweeping sagas that span characters and years. Kelly also wrote the Lilac Girls and I was so caught up in the story that I had to grab her new book when I saw it. I wasn’t disappointed. I’m also a huge fan of Imperial Russian history, specifically the end. And appropriately, today, while I write this review, it is the 101st anniversary of the deaths of the Romanovs. I liked how she included glimpses of Olga and Tatiana Romanov throughout the book. She kept with good historical accuracy, delving into the dangers of mob rule and the glitter of early 20th century New England.
My one real issue with the story was the subtle virtue signaling that kept popping up. Rich people have no right to be rich and poor people can take what they want. Thankfully, the circumstances of the story itself contradicted that attitude at almost every turn so it didn’t bother me too much. Luba was easily my favorite character of the whole book. Young, but mature, innocent but shrewd, and probably a genius! She saved pretty much everyone in the book at least once and she was barely 14. I would love to be best friends with her! Sofya showed a strength that I didn’t really expect. And Eliza was ok, not my favorite but she played her part well.
This is a great book for those who love historical fiction, especially early 20th century history. I really liked this book and would absolutely recommend it.
Author: Lisa Wingate
Published: September 1, 2015
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
Wingate’s third Carolina book follows the highly reviewed, The Prayer Box and The Story Keeper as well as related three novellas.
From modern-day Roanoke Island to the sweeping backdrop of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and Roosevelt’s WPA folklore writers, past and present intertwine to create an unexpected destiny. . .
Restaurant owner Whitney Monroe is desperate to save her business from a hostile takeover. The inheritance of a decaying Gilded Age hotel on North Carolina’s Outer Banks may provide just the ray of hope she needs. But things at The Excelsior are more complicated than they seem. Whitney’s estranged stepfather is entrenched on the third floor, and the downstairs tenants are determined to save the historic building. Searching through years of stored family heirlooms may be Whitney’s only hope of quick cash, but will the discovery of an old necklace and a depression-era love story change everything
A pattern seems to be emerging with Wingate’s works: I find them unsatisfying. It seems that when I read her books, I get really involved in the story, I like the characters, I want to find out what happens, the description draws me in, I’m fascinated . . . And then I’m left hanging. It’s not that all the questions aren’t answered, they are, they just aren’t answered satisfactorily. For example, Child is sent to an orphanage, Child disappears from orphanage, brothers and sisters of Child grow up, other lost children from the family reappear, at the end of the book, it’s implied that Child is dead, end of book. That’s it?? Cmon you gotta give me more than that!!!! And this book was exactly the same. The bones of the historical mystery come to light at the end of the book, but no details and no real resolution. End of book.
The story was really interesting and I wanted to learn as much as possible and I couldn’t wait to see what happened . . . And then nothing did. I think I may have to DNF any more of her books because I just can’t live with this emptiness inside!
Everything really was good, until the end. She captures the beauty and mystery of Appalachia, and after reading this book, I wanted to go out to Manteo to spend a weekend. I even mostly liked the characters. It was just unsatisfying.
Author: Gita Trelease
Published: February 5, 2019
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians…
When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.
But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she’s playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns…
First off, let’s all take a moment to admire this cover! It makes my skin tingle!!! Definitely in my Top 5 fave covers of the year! I predict it goes pretty far in Series two at the end of the year for our Most Gorgeous Cover competition! Unfortunately, the cover is far better than the story. It has its good elements, but overall, I wasn’t impressed with the story. I’ve said before that I like more condensed scope that feels more intimate and manageable. However, if the situation calls for it, a wider scope works and works well. This book felt like it should have been far wider in scope than it was. For Camille, it never seemed to get farther than getting money so they can survive. I get it, that’s obviously a good goal, but in the middle of the French Revolution? I expected more to happen. She talked a good game about wanting equality and down with the nobles and all that, but she never DID anything. When you look at the story as a whole, it’s literally a tiff between teen nobles . . . And that’s pretty much it.
Yes, there was magic, but you never learn anything about it. The characters, while mostly likable, felt very static. I found myself pulling for the bad guy and looking for a twist that never happened. Most of the facets of the story felt like they didn’t fit in with each other. The balloon didn’t really fit with the revolution, the magic didn’t really fit with Versailles, the villain’s motivation seemed so shallow and flat compared to the times. I’m glad I read it, and I liked hearing about the fashion and life at Versailles, but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again. I also wouldn’t really recommend it to too many people. Maybe readers with a deeper imagination than I have would like it better.