Category: Fiction

Review: Carnegie’s Maid


Carnegie’s Maid

Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for the review copy of this book! All opinions are my own!

All around me, I heard cries of reunion as my fellow passengers fell into the arms of their waiting relatives. But I walked on. No one was waiting for me.

Marie Benedict has quickly become one of my favorite authors over the last year. Which is great, but also a problem because she’s only written two books and I want more! I read her first book, The Other Einstein, in June as part of the Big Library Read. It was a fictional re-telling of Albert Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Maric, and the impact she had on his work and life. (And the credit she never received.) I loved it (You can check out my review of that book HERE.), so I was very excited when I found out her second book, Carnegie’s Maid, would be published in January. Readers, it did not disappoint. I loved it just as much as her first book, and I definitely recommend this historical fiction novel.

Clara Kelley has come to America on a ship from Ireland to make her way in the land of opportunity-her family needs money and jobs are scarce in 1860s Ireland. The boat ride over is rough-sickness, not enough food, not enough space, and many people didn’t survive the trip. When she hears someone calling her name (a very common Irish name) to get on a carriage to Pittsburg, Clara jumps at the chance. The only problem is that she isn’t the Clara Kelley the driver was waiting for-that Clara most likely never made it all the way to America. In Pittsburgh, she becomes a lady’s maid to Andrew Carnegie’s mother, a notoriously difficult woman. As she gets to know the family more, and very much fakes it until she makes it in an unknown environment, she develops a close relationship with Andrew. He teaches her about business, and she helps him with his business. The Civil War is in the background and while not a focus, it provides some interesting side stories. But when her identity is revealed, she has to make a decision whether to stay or go, and to fight for what is right for her own life.

Clara is a completely fictional character, but represents the countless number of immigrants who could have influenced the upper classes as America was still being formed. Benedict was inspired to begin research for this novel when she came across Carnegie’s letter to himself pledging to use his wealth to help less privileged citizens gain success through knowledge. She imagined why he would have written that, and Clara was born. As with Einstein, this book made me want to research the history behind it. This is a particularly interesting story because Carnegie, one of the wealthiest people in American history, came to American as a poor Scottish immigrant. He had drive, but he also had help along the way, and the dichotomy between him and Clara is extremely interesting. He recognizes that Clara is in the same position he was when he first came to American, and he wants to help her, but he also wants to be sure to maintain his status.

Clara might be a fictional character, but strong women in history are not, and there are so many stories that we will never know because of men taking the credit. Carnegie’s Maid is Benedict’s excellent attempt at giving a voice to some of those strong female influencers throughout history, especially during a time when the infrastructure of the United States was newly forming. And to be very plain, it was just a really good story that sucked me in within the first few chapters. Benedict writes fully formed, interesting characters, and I truly hope she continues writing these books and giving a voice to women in history, fictional or not.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Bucket List Book Club: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Buddy Read!


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Get ready for the first book for the Bucket List Book Club!! I chose A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because I got several responses on Instagram (@texasgirlreads) when I talked about this being on my unread shelf and wanting to make sure I read it this year for The Unread Shelf Project. (Check out my post about The Unread Shelf Project HERE!) Apparently I’m not the only person who hasn’t read it, as I previously thought, and a lot of people want to re-read it this year as well. There was enough interest that I decided to set up a giant, Instagram buddy read of it, and start the Bucket List Book Club as a way for us all to connect and discuss these types of bucket list books together.

If you want to join in on this book, we will be reading it from January 31 to March 1, with a discussion over on my Instagram account the following week. If you’ve already read it, come join us in the discussion! If you plan to read it in the future, the discussion will stay up on my Instagram page, so jump in at any time.

You can also follow the hashtag #bucketlistbookclub on Instagram to see other people’s posts as we get started.

Have you read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? I’ve had this on my shelf for at least 20 years. My childhood best friend gave it to me in high school, and has been bugging me to read it for longer than that. I’m very happy that I will finally be reading it this year!

I’ll post my review here when I’m finished, and you can also use the comments section on that post, and this one, to discuss it.

Happy reading, and may our unread piles get a little bit smaller in 2018!

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Review: One True Loves


One True Loves

I am finishing up dinner with my family and my fiancé when my husband calls.

When I discovered Taylor Jenkins Reid in June, after reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (My review of that book HERE), I knew she would be one of my favorite authors. I regretted not having read her books sooner, but was also excited because I knew there were four other books I could look forward to reading. One True Loves (apparently I’m working backwards by publication date) is very different from Evelyn Hugo, but only in subject matter. The writing, humanity, and Reid’s ability to break my heart are all there in abundance.

Emma Blair, a 20-something free spirit, marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. On their first anniversary, Jesse goes missing in a helicopter crash while on a filming job and is presumed dead. Devastated, Emma moves back home, takes over the family bookstore, and finds love in another high school friend, Sam. Now in her 30s, Emma is stable, in love again, and has put aside her previous free-spirited life. Until Jesse is found, alive, and determined to get Emma back after surviving for many years with the thought of returning to her. Emma must decide which of her true loves is the one for her, and which version of herself is the true one.

This is women’s fictions/chick lit/popular fiction/whatever you want to call it done so, so right. If you just read the back of the book, you might be under the impression that this is a light, fluffy read. It is most definitely not. Yes, it’s a love story, but it’s really about how people change over the years, and grow up . . . and sometimes apart. Reid isn’t afraid of putting her characters through the ringer, and in doing so she acknowledges how painful life can be sometimes, but also how beautiful it can become after difficult decisions.

The characters felt like real people to me, and I was nervous for them. I loved how they all actually talked to each other too. In so many books, no one tells anyone else how they’re feeling, they just think it so that only the reader knows. These characters are straightforward with each other, and there’s real emotion there because of it. It felt like watching a real life play out. Kind of like those episodes of Parenthood that were so real I was certain that I was spying on a real family.

If you enjoy women’s fiction with a lot of heart that makes you think Taylor Jenkins Reid is THE author to read. One True Loves isn’t just another love triangle story where a pretty girl has to choose between two guys who love her. This is much deeper, and addresses who we are in the past, present, and future, and how that affects the people closest to us. This book broke my heart in the best way, and I’m so glad I read it. I’m here for whatever story Reid wants to tell.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

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Review: Snow & Rose


Snow & Rose

Thank you so much to Random House Children’s Books and Allison Judd for the free copy of this book! All opinions are my own!

Snow and Rose didn’t know they were living in a fairy tale. People never do . . .

The last few years have been great for fractured fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. I am a huge fan of all of those, and actual fairy tales. Emily Winfield Martin’s Snow & Rose is a retelling of the Grimm fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red, a fairy tale I did read as a child but that most people haven’t heard of. Winfield Martin twists the old fairy tale into a wonderful new one, with beautiful illustrations to boot.

In the original tale, Snow White and Rose Red (not the Snow White of dwarf and evil queen fame) are sisters who live with their widowed mother in the woods. One winter night they find a bear at their door. They take care of it all winter, and when it disappears in the summer, the sisters run away to look for it. There is an encounter with an evil dwarf, and the bear ends up killing up. In doing so, the spell put on him is broken and he is revealed to a prince. Snow White marries the prince and Rose Red marries his brother.

This retelling is a bit different.

The sisters are still there, and they live with their mother deep in the woods, but they are not at all convinced that their father has died. When the bear they have been taking care of disappears, the two sisters go after him to try and keep the woodsman from killing him. With a healthy dose of magic, enchantment, and help from a friend, Snow White and Rose Red discover who the bear really is, and their lives are changed forever.

I loved this book, and it would make a beautiful gift for someone who loves fairy tales or magical stories. Aside from the story itself being wonderful, the book is absolutely beautiful. Winfield Martin’s illustrations are gorgeous and the cover would look amazing on any bookshelf. While this is a children’s book (probably age 9 or 10 and up), I enjoyed it very much. It’s a beautiful fairy tale to disappear into for a few hours. I love how the author re-imagined this story and made it more modern, with strength and family as a prize, not a princely husband.

Snow & Rose is a lovely, entertaining book with a strong message about family, loyalty, and what it means to never give up on someone.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Review: Mr. Dickens and His Carol


Mr. Dickens and His Carol

“Bah! Humbug!”

I have been dying to get my hands on this book for what seems like forever. It’s been much hyped in the bookstagram community, so when my library hold finally came in I rushed right over to get it. I enjoy reading holiday books, but I don’t generally go for the plucky, romantic books. (But you can bet I’ll be watching Netflix’s A Christmas Prince real soon.) Samantha Silva’s Mr. Dickens and His Carol is not that kind of book (although it is a wonderfully sweet story), and I absolutely loved it. If you’re looking for a well-told, historically-based holiday story, this is it!

. . . for the truth at the bottom of every illusion, every fiction, every lie: our own great desire to believe.

Mr. Dickens and His Carol, part fact part Silva’s imagination, begins with Charles Dickens himself in a holiday slump. He is sick of Christmas excess, sick of his family and friends always needing money from him, and sick of his publishers hounding him to write a Christmas book he doesn’t want to write. (And giving him only two weeks in which to write that book.) He isolates himself in a hotel room to write the book, for which he has little inspiration, and spends his nights taking long walks around London to try and clear his mind. On one of his walks, he meets a mysterious woman named Eleanor Lovejoy who challenges Dickens to re-think what he believes about Christmas, family, friendship, and love. Their friendship sparks a Christmas story that changes everything.

This is a feel-good story that isn’t cheesy. Dickens wants to believe in the spirit of Christmas again but is unable to because of all the pressure placed on him by everyone around him. That’s something we can all relate to on different levels. In her Author’s Note, Silva includes which parts are completely true, including the situation (A Christmas Carol was written out of financial necessity, and Dickens was under immense pressure) and some of the characters’ lines. She fills in the gaps to create a magical, sentimental story of how Dickens may have been inspired to write this story in her imagination.

This a beautiful story of love and family, of the Christmas spirit, and of a man who needed to find himself to break a serious case of writer’s block. I want to know more about Dickens and the history of A Christmas Carol now, and I’m already looking up more books about the subject! (There’s also a great twist that completely surprised me because I was so caught up in the story and how good the writing was. I didn’t see it coming at all!) Mr. Dickens and His Carol is a perfect holiday read, and I would recommend it to anyone.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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