On her way home from graduation, Bess Heath happens upon a chance encounter with Tom Cole on thThis, and other reviews can be found on Just a Lil Lost
On her way home from graduation, Bess Heath happens upon a chance encounter with Tom Cole on the trolley platform, who helps her with her luggage. Thus begins an attraction between the two that's as powerful as Niagara Falls, much to the Heath family's dismay. While they were once a high ranking family in society, with the loss of Bess' father's job at the Niagara Power Company and her mother having to sew dresses for a living, they have been reduced in societal standing. Even still, they disapprove of their daughter's infatuation with the boy. Bess is conflicted between her responsibility as a daughter to her family and her urge to follow her heart.
After reading Buchanan's new book, The Painted Girls, and absolutely adoring it I knew I had to read her first book as well. The Day the Falls Stood Still is a coming of age novel about a young woman growing up in Niagara Falls in 1915 while the war is happening overseas and the technological progress is happening at home. Bess' trials and tribulations from the fallout of her father losing his job reaches the extremes of severity. From having to adjust their lifestyle to dealing with more life altering circumstances, the Heath family is certainly put through the wringer.
While the narrative is captivating, there were times I wondered where the story was going. Buchanan does a great job of drawing the reader into Bess & Tom's lives but there were moments that I thought, "okay...and???" I did like the character development with many of the supporting cast as well. Even though Tom & Bess were at the heart of the story, I felt the other people in their lives were also well fleshed out too. Another aspect I took note of in both this book and The Painted Girls is that there was a central familial focus on the sisters & mother dynamic. Both novels explored the relationship between sisters, as well as mother & daughters going through difficulties in their lives which I found both interesting, and relatable.
At the heart of it, The Day the Falls Stood Still is a love story and a life story - about Bess, about Tom and about the Falls. It read like an ode to the region that Buchanan grew up in, and it shows with the historical detail that was worked into the book.
On a side note of a personal pet peeve, while reading The Painted Girls, there was a mention of "macaroons", which are coconut, and very different than the French "macarons" - which are almond meringue pastries. I chalked it up to it being an advanced copy and a typo since everything about that book was so meticulously well researched. However I then read the same use of "macaroons" in the published copy of The Day the Falls Stood Still and was perturbed. I don't remember the exact passage, but I'm pretty positive that it was supposedly referring to the meringue/almond delicacy rather than the coconut snack. I'm sure it's an honest oversight by the author or editor and I understand it's a small detail, and one that is very often mixed up, but because it's such a pet peeve of mine, I notice it all the more. This explains the difference but this is my favourite graphic to differentiate the two.
Marie and Antoinette van Goethem are 2 of 3 sisters who live with their recently-widowed motheThis, and other reviews can be found on Just a Lil' Lost
Marie and Antoinette van Goethem are 2 of 3 sisters who live with their recently-widowed mother in the late 1800s in Paris. Antoinette, the eldest of the sisters, works as an extra in the controversial play L'Assommoir and is adamant to not become a laundress like their absinthe-drunk mother. Marie and Charlotte both begin ballet classes at the Paris Opéra but while Charlotte has the angelic look and determination of a ballerina, it is Marie that captures the attention of many - including Edgar Degas. She begins modelling for the artist where she will then become the model for his famous statuette Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. The two elder girls soon get wrapped up in a life that seems to be spinning out of control, faced with many crossroads that test their morals and comforts.
I cannot sing enough praise about this book. It has everything that I love in it: Paris, ballet, a crime to solve and it's written by a Canadian author. The Painted Girls is told in alternating points of view, switching back and forth and watching the story unfold from the eyes of Marie and Antoinette. The reader gets a fuller picture of what is going on even if the sisters themselves don't know the whole story.
The narrative was interjected at times with newspaper articles discussing the murders that were taking place in the city, and the "analysis", as it were, of people with certain physical attributes more likely to be tied to criminal behaviour. This was a really interesting subject to broach, and eventually takes on even more relevance, as there is constant mention throughout the book of Charlotte being cute and Marie wasn't. The idea that Buchanan brings forward the correlation between how one looks, their status in society and how their future is to unfold closely linked was a thought provoking aspect to the overall book. The sisters don't want to end up like their mother but, at their lowest points, wonder if they are doomed to the same fate.
The Painted Girls is an amazingly researched coming-of-age story; full of mystery, determination, hope and drama - all set among the late 1800s Parisian ballet. C'est magnifique....more
Kitty Tylney and Catherine Howard have grown up in the houseThis, and other reviews can be found on my blog Just a Lil' Lost
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (4.5/5 stars)
Kitty Tylney and Catherine Howard have grown up in the household of the Duchess of Norfolk, surrounding themselves with games, mischief and boys. When Catherine captures the attention of King Henry VIII, their girlish dreams of going to court are realized. Among the glitz and glamour of court life, Kitty soon realizes that she may be in over her head with the secrets, scandals and lies that are around every corner. Her feelings and loyalty are conflicted, forcing Kitty to put herself before her best friend for once.
I love historical fiction, especially surrounding the reign of King Henry VIII. Perhaps it’s the familiar names and characters that are prevalent throughout these types of books, across different authors penning them. Gilt was the first YA historical fiction in this time period I had read and I absolutely loved it. It worked so well with the setting that many of us know so well from TV shows like The Tudors to movies/books like The Other Boleyn Girl.
Longshore is exceptional at painting a picture of the dark & light sides of courtly life; from the opulence to the backstabbing. And the characters – oh the characters. They were so vivid and had so much personality that it stirred up a lot of emotions within me. Catherine was so ridiculously outrageous and selfish that I often wanted to toss the book at her. How Kitty could have been friends with that girl is beyond me. And Kitty… young, impressionable Kitty with her flirtations of such bad timing with William, were just gut-wrenching to witness. Those swoon-worthy scenes also made me want to throw the book at the two of them to get their act together already and stop fooling themselves!
Overall a really enjoyable & fantastic read. I would have wanted a bit more resolution to certain storylines and perhaps that might be in the cards for future installments, although the second book in The Royal Circle series, Tarnish, will focus on Anne Boleyn instead. Highly recommend for those that love a good romance, a bit of debauchery and the court of Henry VIII....more
Katey Kontent is in her 20's, living in the 1930's of bustling New York City. SharThis, and other reviews can be found on the blog Just a Lil' Lost...
Katey Kontent is in her 20's, living in the 1930's of bustling New York City. Sharing a flat with her good friend Eve, they meet a charming ingenue named Tinker Grey at a jazz bar one evening. From the moment that this trio meet, it's a whirlwind friendship full of complicated feelings. Working in a law firm's secretarial pool, Katey has dreams to become more and her ambitions and growing network open up a world of possibilities. As she climbs the social (and career) ladder, Katey gets a taste of how things can be if you're successful, and how some things aren't always what they appear to be on the surface.
The story begins many years down the road, as Katey is wandering an art gallery and spots her old friend Tinker in one of the art pieces. Thus begins a trip down memory lane, which was quite an adventurous journey. I had heard great things about this book, and with it being set in New York City with a female main character coming up in her own light, it definitely caught my interest.
Unfortunately, it was a bit difficult for me to stay focused on. There was a lot of dialogue, and with the way conversations were formatted in the book (using dashes rather than quotation marks) I felt it a bit confusing to follow. At times, it took me a moment to realize it was still the same person that was talking, or it had switched to the narrative in the same line and actually no longer what was being said out loud. Not necessarily difficult to figure out, but it did make for a more disjointed read, not flowing as easily.
I did feel that the three main characters, plus a few of the supporting cast, to be very strongly developed. There was often times that I really did wonder why Katey would be friends with someone as seemingly aloof and flaky as Eve. Whether that was the author's choice or a statement on the personality of Katey, I'm not sure. With a myriad of characters though, I felt it a bit confusing as to who was who, since some important characters were introduced so fleetingly and some that seemed to have a significant moment with Katey are then never to be mentioned again. There was one plot point in the last quarter of the book that I thought was headed towards a "The Help" moment, and there was some promise to that but was then dropped from the story. I wish that scene had happened earlier in the book, to allow for more development on it but perhaps the vision for this book was more about the web of characters, and Katey's career was just a subplot.
Setting that aside however, I did enjoy the time and place that Rules of Civility was set in. The 1930's were a very distinctive period in time and seeing that through the eyes of a woman growing up in one of the busiest cities was quite interesting. The premise of the book is definitely what sticks with me more than the individual characters' lives....more