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!


The Unread Shelf Project 2018/Bucket List Book Club


If you’re like me, or even a fraction like me, chances are you have a few unread books in your house. Maybe you have a stack on your nightstand, a stack on the floor, or several shelves dedicated to those unread books. Me? I have all three of those. I started adding up my unread books, and they top 130. I don’t really have a problem with this, because I love books, but I DO want to read them, and obviously had every intention of reading them when I bought them. Luckily, Whitney at The Unread Shelf started The Unread Shelf Project 2018 on Instagram, so that we can all endeavor to read more of our unread books in 2018.

There are no hard and fast rules. This project is what you make of it. Some people are going on complete book buying bans. (I can’t do that. Louise Penny is the reason.) Some people are planning to read a certain number of their unread books per month. My personal goal is to read 1-3 books off of my unread books shelf/shelves/stacks/piles each month, leaving room for new books and books I feel like reading.

In addition, I’m starting the Bucket List Book Club so that we can read a few of these books together! (Some of these books I’ve had on my shelf for 20 years!) You can check out our dedicated Bucket List Book Club page HERE! I will keep a comprehensive list of books, posts, and additional reading on that page.

If you want to join in, go follow @theunreadshelf on Instagram and follow her hashtag as well, #theunreadshelfproject2018.

I’ll be posting about this soon, but the first two books for the Bucket List Book Club will be:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One


Middle Grade Review: Erasable


Thank you so much to the author, Linda Yiannakis, for sending me a free copy of this book! All opinions are my own!

Then she sat down and began to make a list of everything that needed erasing from her life.

I enjoy reading middle grade books, and when the author of Erasable reached out to me about reading her book, I was more than a little intrigued by the premise. Have you ever wished you could just erase something from your life? Permanently? Spiders? Snakes? Scrunchies? What about a person? I’m certain most kids think about this daily, and anyone who’s ever felt ignored, treated unfairly, or just plain angry will love this book.

Ellie is 9-years-old, stuck in summer school, and constantly trying to avoid both the school bully and her annoying little brother. One afternoon, while escaping to the attic to get away from her brother’s noisiness, she comes across a carved chest, a mysterious notebook, and an old eraser that never seems to run out. When she discovers that anything she writes in the notebook and then erases with the special eraser disappears, for good, Ellie decides she’s going to make some permanent changes in her life. What she doesn’t know is how those changes will affect everything else around her.

I love the concept here, and I think kids will enjoy it too. Seeing Yiannakis’s version of what would happen if the things we thought we hated most disappeared for good is fun. It’s also a lesson-every time something disappears, Ellie’s life changes, but so do the lives of other people around her, and not in the best way. Be careful what you wish for takes on a whole new meaning here, and it’s a great story for seeing that play out.

While Ellie is 9 in the book, she seems older, (The story is still great for 9-year-olds, she just seems to be doing more complicated math than most third graders.) and I did wonder why the entire school was in summer school, including first graders. I believe the author wanted to play up the fact that Ellie had to take extra classes, rather than enjoy her summer, but it seemed more like the events were just taking place during the regular school year.

Erasable is a fun book that carries an important message-appreciate the people around you, even if they don’t deserve it all the time, because one day they might not be there, and it might not be at all what you expect. Despite the book needing some editing, the message in the story is wonderful, and it’s an extremely creative idea that kids will love. I’d recommend it for ages 8 or 9 and up. (And it might make a fun buddy read with your kids, as there are a lot of interesting topics to discuss in it.)


What My Kids Are Reading: January 19, 2018

Charlotte’s Web   Horrible Harry in Room 2B     A Wrinkle in Time    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

We’re finally getting back into the swing of things after a long Christmas break and a long weekend made even longer by snowy and icy weather in Texas! It’s been nice to have a real winter, but I’m ready for warmer days now.

My kids are reading some fun books this week, and at least one of them will continue on for a couple of weeks! Let me know what you’re all reading this week!

The 9-Year-Old
Charlotte’s Web

The entire third grade at my son’s school started reading Charlotte’s Web together this week. I believe the plan is to read a chapter a day at school, with kids taking turns reading out loud. I’m reading along at home as well. A kind of forced buddy read, if you will. I haven’t read this book in a long time, and I really want to be able to talk about it with my son! This is such a classic book, and while I am not a fan of the ending (Charlotte is the only spider I will ever love), it’s fun to dive back into this world of Charlotte, Wilbur, Fern, and Templeton. My son really likes it so far, but he’s seen the movie and knows what’s coming, and his sensitive soul wishes the ending was different too. This is a great book for elementary and middle grade readers, with short chapters, a few pictures, and a good mix of easy and challenging words.

The 6-Year-Old
Horrible Harry in Room 2B

I bought this book for my 6-year-old in an attempt to find a series that he both liked and could read on his own. While he absolutely loves books, stories, and being read to, he is not the voracious reader that his older brother is. Which is fine, because I love a challenge. When I saw a series about a second grade boy who creates mischief (reminds me of someone in my house . . .), I knew we had to try it. My son LOVES this book and we will be getting the next few in the series. Harry, a good, fun friend to have, causes all kinds of trouble in school and loves to be silly. This book is perfect for kids beginning chapter books and who love funny books. And if you’re looking for a series about a male character (surprisingly hard to find sometimes) for your kids, this is a great one!

What We’re Reading Together

A Wrinkle in Time
I wanted to read this to my 9-year-old (my 6-year-old half listens to it while building Legos) so that we can see the movie together in March! To be honest, I wasn’t sure if he would like it, because the book is a little . . . weird. The writing obviously isn’t contemporary, and it is solidly science fiction. But he LOVES it. Every night he asks me to read “just a little more” when it’s time to stop, and he said it reminds him a little of Harry Potter. (I think Meg Murry, the main character, reminds him of Harry, Ron, and Hermione all mashed up into one, and of course it’s quite the adventure.) I don’t remember the last time I read it, and it’s been so long that I don’t remember much of the story, so it’s really fun for me to read too. I will say that I don’t like how often the word “moron” is used, and how many times people’s looks are referenced, but it just gives us another talking point. I’m starting to do some research on the deeper meanings of A Wrinkle in Time in case there are any simple enough to talk about, so if you have any pointers please let me know!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Yes, we’ve been reading this one for awhile! We took a huge break from it over the holidays to read other things, and we’ve listened to the entire book as well. But my 6-year-old is back to wanting me read it to him every night. Which means I have read and listened to half the Harry Potter series in the past 6 months. Twice. This will be round three, and I love it!