Flight of Dreams tackles the crash of the Hindenburg, an event that I know little about. Lawhon fictionalizes the events that lead up to the famous crFlight of Dreams tackles the crash of the Hindenburg, an event that I know little about. Lawhon fictionalizes the events that lead up to the famous crash, creating her own version of why the zeppelin exploded in New York. Considering the inescapable fate of the Hindenburg, I was not expecting to be so caught of in the suspense of Lawhon’s version of events. The Hindenburg is going to crash and some of the characters that readers meet are going to die. There is no escaping this fact. But, Lawhon gives readers such a compelling and human story about the people who were on board, and it’s the human element that captured and held my attention throughout.
Lawhon relates the events of the crash through five main characters: the Stewardess, the Journalist, the Navigator, the American, and the Cabin Boy. The days leading up the crash are all told through these character’s duties and interactions with one another. And, through these characters readers also get a sense of the tensions of the period. It’s 1937, only a few years before the outbreak of war; however, the consequences of the Great War are still looming large. In fact, the American is enraged that his brother died during the bombing at Coventry and the Hindenburg is his chance to get revenge, dooming the lives of many aboard the zeppelin.
Despite the grim subject matter, Flight of Dreams is a compelling read. I continually found myself thinking “just one more chapter” and then I would put the book down and get on with life. It never quite happened that way. The storytelling in Flight of Dreams was superb and the choice by the author to relate events through specific characters worked really well. But, what really keeps you engaged is the fact that it’s never forgotten that the Hindenburg is going to crash. Throughout the book, readers are given the countdown in days, hours, and minutes until the explosion. It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in the fate of the five characters Lawhon introduces you to. Who will survive? In tying this question to specific people, Lawhon forces the reader to really consider the implications of the crash. It’s not some dry historical event that happened long ago. In Flight of Dreams the event gains immediacy with those who are on the ship. Fans of historical fiction that tackle a true event will be engrossed with Flight of Dreams.
“Wolf winter,” she said, her voice small. “I wanted to ask about it. You know, what it is.”
He was silent for a long time. “It’s the kind of winter that will remind us we are mortal,” he said. “Mortal and alone” (p. 107).
Wolf Winter is a historical thriller set in 1717 Sweden and what a stylish read it is. Maija, her husband, and her two daughters, Frederika and Dorotea have moved to the Swedish Lapland from Finland, having traded properties with a family member. Soon after arriving, Frederika and Dorotea find a man dead near a marsh. The settlers want to believe that it was an animal attack but Maija is convinced that it was murder and sets out to prove her point, only to have the settlers tell her that there is something evil on the mountain.
Wolf Winter is a lyrical novel with a mystery at its heart. From the start, the author’s writing captures readers’ attention, immersing them into the harsh and claustrophobia winter that isolates Maija, her family, and the other settlers on the mountain. While the mystery is compelling, it is the writing that I found so engrossing with Wolf Winter. The imagery that the writer uses to describe the seasons is so wonderfully alive:
Late autumn this year had violence in her hair, angry crimson, orange, and yellow. The trees wrestled to free themselves of their cloaks, crumpled up their old leaves and threw them straight out into the strong wind rather than just let them fall to the ground. Dry leaves ran across the yard with the crackle of fire (p. 100).
Whenever the environment is described, whether it is the inevitable march of the seasons, or the coldness of a winter storm, there is such emotion imbued within the imagery. The weather in Wolf Winter became almost another person with its own anger and fear, heightening the suspense as it mirrors the sensations among the settlers. The symmetry of the weather and the emotion of the settlers was beautifully done, creating a highly atmospheric, almost otherworldly read. More of this writing, please!
In addition to the fantastic writing, the way that the mystery was related was also well done. The story is told through the eyes of Maija, her fourteen year old daughter, Frederika, and the village priest. The choice of three narrators was interesting in that it offers very different perspectives of the murder. Maija is intent on finding justice, but she wants there to be a simple, explainable resolution. Fredericka repudiates her mother’s logic because she knows that there is more at work; she sees and speaks to the dead man’s ghost. And the priest, well, he doesn’t event want to find justice, at first. These three perspectives demonstrate that there is something much more sinister and perhaps paranormal happening on the mountain. The sense that something strange is at work is palpable throughout Wolf Winter and that is very evident in Frederika’s narrative. Frederika obviously sees much of what others do not; there is a connection to the mountain that others will not understand and Maija struggles to protect her daughter from voicing her convictions. Unfortunately, in protecting her daughter Maija doesn’t protect herself and soon finds herself at the centre of suspicion with only the priest as her ally.
If you are a fan of stylish historical thrillers Wolf Winter will impress. The writing is lyrical and beautiful even as it describes the harsh realities of living in an isolated community. The suspense is heightened with the images employed by the author and readers are giving not only a satisfying mystery, but an exploration of the fears and superstitions that can drive a community to the brink. This is an author that I will be keeping my eye out for in the future....more
Calling it quits on this one. The audiobook narration was fabulous; however, since my commute has dramatically decreased, I find myself lacking the amCalling it quits on this one. The audiobook narration was fabulous; however, since my commute has dramatically decreased, I find myself lacking the ambition to finish this one in book form. ...more
Revenge and the Wild had a really awesome premise: girl tracks down the cannibals that ate her family. And,Originally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
Revenge and the Wild had a really awesome premise: girl tracks down the cannibals that ate her family. And, it’s also a Western for teens. I’ve been seeing a few Western style YA books out there recently (i.e Vengeance Road, Wake of Vultures etc.), but Revenge and the Wild is the first that I’ve read. There were elements of Revenge and the Wild that I liked, but as a whole I found that there was something lacking.
Westie is seventeen years old and as a child she lost her arm when cannibals attacked her family. Westie was the only survivor. Now as a young woman, Westie continues to search for these cannibals only to discover that they have actually come to her. Her guardian, Nigel, has invented a machine that will amplify the magic in the area, protecting the Native population that live near as well as the magical creatures that share the town with the humans. When a wealthy family comes to town to invest in Nigel’s machine, Westie recognizes them as the cannibals that killed her family. Of course, Nigel (and everyone else) is reluctant to believe that the folks with money are the bad guys, after all, they need the investment. But, Westie refuses to back down on her suspicions and when a few folks wind up dead, it goes a long way to convincing the naysayers.
Like I said, the premise is great. There was mystery and action. There was romance. Unfortunately, it didn’t come together in a way that made for a smooth read. There was a lot of stuff going on in Revenge and the Wild – too much stuff. Westie was investigating crimes, fending off the advances of a vampire, and then not fending off the advances, and also dealing with her long-standing devotion to Nigel’s other wade, Alistair. Then, there’s the whole problem with magic disappearing. There were so many plot points and I never felt that they came together in a way that fully captured my attention. For example, Westie’s love life. It was complicated. Alistair rejected her a couple of years ago and Westie could never figure out why, so now she has these confusing feelings for some hot-shot vampire in town. This whole issue was resolved way too quickly. And when Westie does settle on one of these guys, the romance just seemed so blah. There was no spark or real connection, and this was how I felt about the whole book. The elements to a story that was likely to appeal to me just didn’t have the life in it to fully capture my attention.
What I did like was the character of Westie herself. Westie has trouble with drinking, she’s not at all ladylike and isn’t afraid to let people know it. How often do you see a young woman struggling with drinking in YA? Rarely. And it was great how this issue was explored in a non-issue/preachy way. Westie was far from a perfect character. She was troubled by her family’s murders and had a hard time living up to Nigel’s expectations, and was sad and confused by Alistair’s rejection. I loved that Westie didn't pretend to be something she wasn't, yet remained vulnerable because of that very fact. The development of Westie’s character was fantastic, I only wish that the other characters in Revenge and the Wild were similarly developed.
So, my verdict for Revenge and the Wild: this one’s not for me. The romance is kind of boring and there was way too much happening in this one. I liked the Western setting and the rather crass Westie, but it didn’t quite make up for the overly busy plot....more
Sorcerer to the Crown is a charming, Regency-styled historical fantasy. Zacharias Wythe, freed slave and Sorcerer Royal, is determined to discover whySorcerer to the Crown is a charming, Regency-styled historical fantasy. Zacharias Wythe, freed slave and Sorcerer Royal, is determined to discover why the available magic in Britain is declining. Unfortunately, due his race and the mysterious circumstances of his predecessor’s demise, Zacharias has an uphill battle. Members of the respected Society of Unnatural Philosophers refuse to take Zacharias seriously. In addition, Zacharias also has to contend with paralyzing headaches, attacks from an unknown foe, and educate an unexpected student, Miss Prunella Gentleman.
Prunella was orphaned very young and taken in by the mistress of a school for gentlewitches, of which the aim is to suppress all magical inclinations in young ladies. After all, convention dictates that “Magic was too strong a force for a women’s frail bodies – too potent a brew for their weak minds – and so, especially at a time when everyone must be anxious to preserve what magical resource England still possessed, magic must be forbidden to women” (p. 57). Unfortunately, women do possess magic, and one talented young woman is about to become a thorn in the Society’s side.
After Prunella has the misfortune to embarrass the headmistress of the school where she teaches and lives, Prunella finds herself the ward of Zacharias. While Prunella has little interest in cultivating her own magic, she is in possession of several magical objects, which would grant her power in this male dominated world in which women possess very little:
A woman possessed of a key to magic, however – a woman who might at her pleasure grant or withhold men’s access to power – that was a different matter! Such a woman need never worry about poverty or obscurity. With such leverage Prunella did not doubt she would gain all she desired – position, influence, security – provided she were canny and careful (p. 78).
And Prunella is determined to be canny and careful, even avoiding telling Zacharias the truth about the powerful objects that have come into her possession. It’s only after coming to London and being forced to learn how to wield her magic that Prunella starts to consider the possibility of another path before her.
One expects Sorcerer to the Crown to be a rather light and entertaining read, and in some respects, this is the case. However, there is a lot of intelligence and introspective moments throughout Sorcerer to the Crown that makes this book something more than a fun, magical romp (although it is that as well). Considering the status of both Zacharias and Prunella as “other” because of their skin colour is it unsurprising that the author chose to explore what this means for both of them. For Zacharias, it means that the Society is continually trying to usurp him of his status as Sorcerer Royal in favour of a more “worthy” candidate, never mind that Zacharias possesses are the important qualities (i.e. magical abilities). For Prunella the fact that she is not only half-Indian, but also a woman who has a strong magical ability complicates her mission to secure her precarious future.
For me, it is how Zacharias and Prunella deal with the adversary that they encounter that I found so compelling about Sorcerer to the Crown. Both characters deal with their so-called disadvantages in very different ways. Zacharias is quiet and reserved and Prunella outspoken and controversial, and each approach yield differing results. For example, Zacharias’ relationship with his mentor Sir Stephen is complicated by the fact that Sir Stephen bought Zacharias, separating him as a young boy from his parents. On one hand, Zacharias feels an obligation to the man that has raised him from childhood, given him a home and made it possible for him to rise to the position of Sorcerer Royal. On the other hand, this is the man that took him from his parents, so of course, there is resentment there, but is difficult for Zacharias to actually voice this or any opposition of any kind to Sir Stephen:
Affection there had always been between them, whatever their disagreements – and there had been more of these than Zacharias had permitted Sir Stephen to know. But their relationship could never have been mistaken for one of equality while Sir Stephen lived (p. 120).
In addition to the cultural study, Sorcerer to the Crown has a lot of great humour with Prunella’s sense of fun and outspokenness as well as a lovely charm with its magical atmosphere. Magic is not always frightful or powerful, it’s also delightful as can been seen when Prunella is instructed in cloud riding:
“Now, Miss Gentleman, if you will submit to being helped onto my old cloud – a steady, good-tempered mount, who will show you the way of it – you are quite balanced? You must think yourself into equilibrium. Cloud-riding is an act of disciplined imagination. Splendid! Away we go!” (p. 276).
An act of “disciplined imagination” – a turn of phrase I find completely charming and lovely and basically sums up why Sorcerer to the Crown is such a wonderful read. After all, isn't reading itself an act of "disciplined imagination"?
If you're a fan of traditional Regency, comedy and magic, Sorcerer to the Crown is a book that combines all three to perfection.
A Study in Death is the fourth installment in Huber's Lady Darby historical mystery series and just so happens to be one of my most anticipated readsA Study in Death is the fourth installment in Huber's Lady Darby historical mystery series and just so happens to be one of my most anticipated reads of the summer. I've really enjoyed the series to date and was ready to dive into this one and while I certainly enjoyed this one, I have to admit to being a tiny bit disappointed.
Having read the previous three books I was well aware of Kiera's progress from insular artist to a confident investigator and I really appreciated the character growth that was conveyed in the previous three novels. Unfortunately for me, A Study in Death seemed a tad repetitive, covering much of the internal conflict that Kiera experienced in the previous book. Don't get me wrong, I still really like the character of Kiera, but I don't think there was much change in her in this book and I think that could have been better compensated by a stronger mystery.
In A Study in Death Lady Darby is investigating the probable murder of Lady Drummond, who's portrait Kiera was commissioned to paint. Naturally, Kiera enlists the help of her new fiance and seasoned investigator, Sebastian Gage. Kiera is quick to turn her attention to Lady Drummond's husband, who is by all accounts a brute, forcing Kiera to revisit her own past and her relationship with her own abusive late husband. No one is convinced that Lady Drummond was murdered, but Kiera is relentless and refuses to back down even when she is forced to consider a less obvious suspect for the murder.
In addition to murder, Kiera is also dealing with her sister Alana's complicated and dangerous pregnancy as well as signs of stress in Alana's solid marriage. Then there's Kiera's introduction to her future father-in-law, who is less than pleased with his son's engagement and has no problem sharing that fact with Kiera. And on top of that, Gage still has not told Kiera the events that scarred him in Greece, something that Kiera was insistent on knowing in the previous book.
So while the mystery was certainly central to A Study in Death, there was a lot of other stuff going on as well. I, of course, enjoyed the character-focused plot that has been so central to this series, but as I mentioned, I did feel that it was repetitive in this book. In the previous book, Kiera struggled with her feelings for Gage. She wasn't sure she could trust him and she was deeply affected by her relationship with her late husband. While I didn't anticipate that Kiera would (or should) be unaffected by her past relationship, I was disappointed that she continued to bring up the same issues. Kiera continued to leery of marriage in general and took it out on Gage most of the time, all the while demanding he tell her the secrets of his "past". For me, this repetitiveness makes me see A Study in Death as more of a "filler" book in the series and I feel that the pace will pick up once readers are treated to Kiera and Gage's married life and seeing how these two interact with each other on a daily basis.
Overall, A Study in Death was a good read, but I didn't think it was the best in the series. The unique Lady Darby continues to impress and I will be back for the next book, I can only hope that Kiera and Gage's marriage will bring a much-needed change in pace and tone to the series.
I’ve been a long-time fan of Simone St. James and I longingly await each new book. I will admit that I stru Originally reviewed at The Book Adventures.
I’ve been a long-time fan of Simone St. James and I longingly await each new book. I will admit that I struggled a bit with the first half of the book, but there is a turning point in Lost Among the Living and when I reached that there was no way I was putting the book down. If you read it, you will no exactly which event I am referring to.
Jo Manders is a young widow still mourning the loss of her husband, Alex, three years after his disappearance during the war. Due to the fact that Alex’s body was never recovered, Jo has been living in a state of limbo and strained finances, as she cannot receive her widow’s portion without petitioning the court. Instead of pursuing the legal channels, Jo accepts Alex’s aunt’s offer to become her companion. After traveling on the continent with Dottie it’s time to return home. Dottie’s son is returning from his stay at a hospital and Dottie wants to be home to greet him; Jo must also go as she has no other place to call home.
After arriving at the family seat, Jo starts to see and feel things that are not of this world. Ghostly apparitions, objects moved, fallen leaves in her bedroom are just some of the inexplicable events Jo encounters. Soon after seeing the ghost of a young girl, Jo discovers that Dottie’s daughter committed suicide at the house years earlier. Despite or perhaps because of the tensions in the house, Jo decides to investigate what led to Dottie’s daughter’s apparent suicide. Jo discovers that Dottie may not have killed herself, and on the day of her death, Alex was present at the house on leave. This begs the question of what exactly Jo's husband was doing on leave that caused him not to inform his wife.
For those familiar with Simone St. James, you will immediately recognize the author’s Gothic tone as well as the continued theme of life after the First World War. Time and again, St. James’ style impresses me and sets the stage for an atmospheric and entrancing read; Lost Among the Living is no exception. With the presence of a large family manor, the Gothic overtones of Lost Among the Living are heightened, suggesting a traditional haunting. Of course, there is much more at work than a ghostly apparition and to say more would spoil the meat of the story.
Lost Among the Living also continues on with the author’s exploration of life after the war. In the case of this novel, it is one woman’s very personal loss from the war – that of her husband. Jo feels deeply the loss of her husband. They were not married long, and her loss is compounded by the fact that legally, Alex is not officially dead. Since becoming a companion to Dottie, Jo has been going through the motions; she is quite literally lost among the living. The ambiguity of Jo’s position as a widow or not forces Jo to exist in a kind of limbo that she struggles with. With Jo, St. James successfully explores the price and frustration of those who remained at the home front during the war:
Someone should write a poem, I thought, about the women. Not just about the men marching bravely to war and dying, but about their wives, their girls, their mothers and sisters and daughters, sitting in silence and screaming into the darkness. Unable to fight, unable to stop it, unable to tell the war to fuck itself. We fought our war, too, it seemed to me, and if it was a war of a different kind, the pain of it was no more bearable. Someone should write a poem about the women.
But I already knew that no one ever would (p. 167).
In Jo, readers are shown the absolute powerlessness of the women who lost during the war. There is no acknowledgement to these women other than the token respect of a connection to one who has lost their life or limb in serving their country. The exploration of the role of women during the war is not overt in Lost Among the Living, but when it does make its appearance, it is a powerful force.
Lost Among the Living demonstrates the author’s familiarity with the post-war era, which is effortlessly combined with a thrilling and haunting mystery. Lost Among the Living is highly recommended for both historical fiction and mystery fans....more
“There’s been a robbery.” “What’s been stolen?” I asked. “My family,” she answered me (p. 6).
Seven for a Secret is the second in Faye’s Timothy WildeM“There’s been a robbery.” “What’s been stolen?” I asked. “My family,” she answered me (p. 6).
Seven for a Secret is the second in Faye’s Timothy WildeMysteries trilogy. In Gods of Gotham Tim Wilde reluctantly took up the profession of copper star for the newly formed police force of New York. Flush with the success of events from the first book, young Tim is admittedly confident about his skills as a copper when Seven for a Secret begins. Six months have passed since the previous book, and Tim has settled into his job and has experienced success after success for his particular talent of solving crimes after they’ve happened. However, when a young black woman, Lucy Adams, burst into his office reporting that her family has been stolen, Tim’s convictions of what’s right will be sorely tested.
Seven for a Secret, like it’s predecessor, doesn’t shy away from the gritty and harsh realities of those who were looked down upon in 1846. In fact, Faye’s novels seem to embrace the inequalities that were rampant at this time in history, providing excerpts of historical documents at the beginning of each chapter. Unlike The Gods of Gotham, this novel focuses on the state of slavery in the U.S. rather than the influx of Irish immigrants on the shore of New York. While Tim isn’t unaware of the reality of the free black men in his city, Tim’s investigation into the kidnapping of Lucy Adams’ family brings a much deeper realization of far reaching implications, both political and personal, of the slave trade and it's abolitionist counterpart.
The mystery element and the historical details in Seven for a Secret are no less heartbreaking than those that were revealed in The Gods of Gotham. The fact that Faye peppers her narration with excerpts from historical documents lends credence to reality in her fictional tale. The blatant disregard for specific human beings isn’t new information, but Faye’s tale puts the historical realities in context. While Faye’s character’s are all well drawn, the historical detail is no less interesting than the characters that are living through it. I really enjoy historical mysteries, and Faye’s Seven for a Secret puts an emphasis on the “history” part of the genre, making this a compelling and less obviously formulaic mystery.
What I also continue to enjoy about the series is Tim’s interactions with his complicated brother, Val. Valentine Wilde is a contrast to Tim in every way: he’s addicted to morphine, he’s more than happy to sleep around, and he’s no stranger to the back room dealings within the political sphere. However, the bond that these two brothers share is unique and endearing. One moment Val’s acting the hero and the next he’s saying something so completely offensive, but he always comes through when he’s brother is in need. I like the contrast between Val and Tim; it helps to balance out the, at times, idealistic and naïve attitudes that Tim holds.
Like The Gods of Gotham, I also listened to Seven for a Secret on audiobook. Once again the narration by Steven Boyer was exceptional. The accents and change in tone for various characters was spot on. Boyer does an exceptional job of conveying the atmosphere that Faye has so painstakingly evoked and I think the narration will appeal to the discerning audiobook listener.
Seven for a Secret is a fabulous addition to the trilogy and it’s a trilogy that I’d recommend to those who like their mysteries crafted intricately and questioning the notion of justice. I think this one will also appeal to those who are interested in atmospheric and detailed historical fiction. The characters and the landscape that they inhabit are complicated and fraught with harsh inequalities; it’s brutal but compelling reading.
Becoming a policeman of the Sixth Ward of the city of New York was an unwelcome surprise to me.
It's not the work I imagined myself doing at twenty-seBecoming a policeman of the Sixth Ward of the city of New York was an unwelcome surprise to me.
It's not the work I imagined myself doing at twenty-seven, but then again I'd bet all the other police would tell it the same, since three months ago this job didn't exist (p. 7).
The Gods of Gotham was a fantastic, gritty and engrossing read. Not only are readers introduced to complicated and compelling characters, but also the immersed in the historical period of 1845 New York, and it’s not pretty.
Timothy Wilde tends bar, makes a good living, and is on the verge of making his intentions know to his beloved, Mercy Underhill. When a fire rips through his workplace and home, leaving him scarred, Tim finds himself without a living and his savings gone. Tim’s older brother Valentine, a politically connected man, secures Tim a new vocation, one that he claims Tim will take to “like a bird to air”. Timothy Wilde reluctantly finds himself one of the first copper stars of the newly formed police force of New York.
Tim’s not too keen on his new job. He’s not politically minded like his brother, but having no other choice at the moment, Tim takes to his beat. Coming home one night, he’s accosted by a young girl coated in blood. Rather than take her back to the station or to one of the charity houses, Tim brings her home to his landlady. Through Bird, Tim learns that someone has been murdering the kinchin at the bawdy house where Bird resides. Determined to find out who’s responsible Tim sets out to investigate, only to find himself going against a strong Democrat ally, Silkie Marsh, Madame of the house where Bird came from.
The Gods of Gotham is an extraordinary historical mystery. First and foremost, the setting of 1845 New York comes alive. Faye spends a lot of time setting the stage for her mystery and the characters that inhabit it. Readers are made aware of the political situation and the tense atmosphere that divided the natives of New York and the increasing Irish immigrant population. The history isn’t pretty and it’s not sugarcoated here, but serves to explain the motivations of many of the characters central to the mystery.
The novel also focuses on the harsh reality for those living in poverty, which is primarily the Irish and black Americans in this book. Again the author does not sugarcoat this. The young girl that is central to the mystery, Bird Daly, is a child prostitute who started working when she was eight years old. The reality of Bird’s life is heartbreaking, as it is for many of the other kinchin that Wilde encounters in his investigation. There’s a lot of horrible stuff going on in New York, and it seems that there’s very little being done about it. The creation of the copper stars seems more like putting a Band-Aid on a fatal wound. When so many people don't care about the Irish or the other poor in general, why should they care about crimes being committed against them? It seems an impossible task set before the new police force.
With the copper stars and the character’s whose job it is to uphold the law, Faye really shows her strength as a mystery writer. The villains and the heroes and everyone else that is introduced are no caricatures, but complicated characters that you can both sympathize with and revile. For me, it was the complexity of character that was the strongest and most compelling part of The Gods of Gotham. Watching as Tim navigated these murky waters was what was so engrossing about this book. So many of the characters were morally ambiguous, including the so-called “good” ones. Even Tim was not wholly “good” and I think that’s an excellent characteristic since I think it could have been all too easy for Tim to become to do-gooder crusader. Tim’s clearly a decent person but even he is not able to bring complete justice to those that deserve it. Tim is bound by the conventions of his time, which means justice only goes so far.
Lastly, I have to remark on the audiobook version of The Gods of Gotham. The narration by Steven Boyer was unexpected, but it fit the character of Tim so well. Since the novel is narrated in first person by Tim, the narration of the audio version is important and I think this was cast perfectly with Boyer. Boyer gives Tim a youthful quality that serves to convey Tim's naivety. While Tim has certainly experienced the harsh realities of poverty following the deaths of his parents, there's still an idealism in Tim that comes across in the narration. Tim's quite willing to set some people on a pedestal (i.e. Mercy) and disregard the good qualities of others (i.e. his brother Val). If you’re an audiobook fan at all, The Gods of Gotham is an excellent choice for those that like good narration, a compelling character, and a historically gritty atmosphere. I'm ready for book two!
The Gilded Hour is latest (and launch of a new series) by historical fiction writer Sara Donati. Having loved her Wilderness series, I jumped at the cThe Gilded Hour is latest (and launch of a new series) by historical fiction writer Sara Donati. Having loved her Wilderness series, I jumped at the chance to read her latest that features the ancestors of the fictional Bonner family introduced in Donati’s Wilderness. It is one of my most anticipated reads of the fall. Here, the setting in 1883 New York and focuses on two cousins, Drs. Anna Savard and Sophie Savard. Both these young doctors face trials, both personally and professionally, and through them readers are taken on a tour of historic New York. And, it’s one of those books that you finish and can’t quite let go – which makes writing a coherent review that praises the awesomeness that is this book quite difficult!
At 752 pages The Gilded Hour is a behemoth. With this somewhat daunting length you would expect or assume that this due to be a tedious read. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Gilded Hour was a book that I flew through and thought about when I wasn't reading it. The subject matter and the characters that are introduced create a compelling and emotionally engaging read. It's a story that I wanted to talk about, and talk about it I did. I'm fairly certain co-workers are sick of hearing me rave about the book, but if it gets them to read the book, well, mission accomplished.
What I really like about Donati’s writing in general and in The Gilded Hour in particular is her ability to elicit an emotional reaction to historical details. Rather than giving readers the facts and figures, readers get a sense of the people who lived during the period the book is set in. There were many instances in The Gilded Hour where I could feel myself getting so angry because of the behaviour of people our heroines encountered. The opposition that Anna and Sophie face as women doctors is infuriating as well as the comments and disrespect that they receive from their male colleagues. Birth control, abortion and women’s rights are all themes that are explored extensively throughout the book. And being a woman, I, you know, care about these things. What I didn’t expect was the anger I felt on these characters’ behalf. Anna and Sophie are treated as second-class citizen in several notable occasions and their professions also open the doors to the patients they administer. The information that Donati delivers with this peak into history wasn’t new, but I think it’s something that shouldn’t be forgotten. The fact that I was emotional invested in the book, and sharing it with every reader I know, is a testament to the strength of the storytelling in The Gilded Hour.
While themes of women’s rights, immigration, and race were are an integral part of The Gilded Hour what makes this book something extra special is the characters that are introduced. Both Anna and Sophie are strong woman, but strong in different ways. Anna is more clinical and practical and Sophie the more compassionate and emotional. Unlike many women their age, both are unconventional in that they have both pursued a career in medicine. While both characters were interesting and complex, I think readers get to “know” Anna much better than Sophie. Arguably, The Gilded Hour is Anna’s book.
Anna Savard grew up cared for but also impacted by the fact she was orphaned as a child. By circumstances Anna encounters a family of four young, recently orphaned Italian children, and she becomes embroiled in keeping these children together because of the parallels she sees to her own childhood. These children also bring Anna into contact with Italian police sergeant Jack Mezzanotte, who assists her when two of the four orphaned children go missing. Jack is all too happy to help since he’s been captivated by the practical Dr. Savard since laying eyes on her. The romance between Anna and Jack is a significant aspect of the story and it was absolutely lovely and it provided a means for Anna’s character to explore other facets to her personality. Anna was more than a doctor and this romance helped to show that. Seriously, it was swoon worthy. It helps that Jack is really quite cool with having a working wife and respects her opinion and knowledge, even seeking her help when he and his partner investigate what appear to be the work of a serial killer.
Finishing The Gilded Hour there is not the sense that the story is completed. There is so much left at loose ends. Jack and Anna are still trying to track down the doctor that is butchering woman that attempt to have abortions. Sophie’s narrative seemed to have dropped off when she left the country for Europe. And new characters are introduced like former nun turned aspiring doctor, Elise. There is so much fodder for future books I’m left astounded that this book was only 700+ pages – it needs to be more! Anyone familiar with Donati’s writing will love this newest book, and it sparks my own desire to go back and revisit the Wilderness series. Romance and a rich historical setting were combined so effortlessly in The Gilded Hour I can’t recommend it enough for historical and romance readers alike.
It's hard to put into words what makes The Gilded Hour such a wonderful read. It's smart and thought provoking, and I can say is that you should read it. Right now.
“Follow my lead, Miss Rook,” Jackaby said, rapping on the ornately trimmed door to 1206 Campbell Street. Were my employer a standard private investiga“Follow my lead, Miss Rook,” Jackaby said, rapping on the ornately trimmed door to 1206 Campbell Street. Were my employer a standard private investigator, those might have been simple instructions, but in the time I’ve been his assistant, I’ve found very little about Jackaby to be standard. Following his lead tends to call for a somewhat flexible relationship with reality. (p. 10)
After successfully solving the case in the previous book, Jackaby and Miss Rook are called upon to investigate the theft of a dinosaur head at a nearby dig in Gad’s Valley. Abigail, who once dreamed of being a paleontologist, is thrilled to be near an exciting new discovery. However, it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary dinosaur. Something supernatural is disturbing the site and once again Jackaby and Abigail are on the case, aided by shape shifting police officer, Charlie Barker.
What I like about this series is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously; at least when it comes to the paranormal stuff. Shape shifting fish just are. As are dragons and Charles Darwin’s “real” discoveries. Throw in two great characters in Jackaby and Abigail and you have a recipe for success. Jackaby’s complete obtuseness when it comes to perceiving the thoughts/feelings of other people is funny and endearing. But what really shines in Beastly Bones is the character of Abigail Rook.
Abigail is a kind of Watson character, narrating the adventures of Jackaby such as the way that Watson records Sherlock’s adventures. In Beastly Bones she’s mostly settled into her new life as Jackaby’s assistant, and although she has had some missteps, she wants to prove herself as a valuable member of Jackaby’s team.
Interestingly, Abigail feels a bit conflicted when it comes to her budding relationship with the young police officer, Charlie. On the one hand, she has won her hard-earned independence and has no inclination to give that up. On the other hand, well, Charlie makes her heart race. Can she have both a career and romance? Considering the historical setting of Beastly Bones, the answer for Abigail would generally be thought to be “no”, and that’s the answer that Abigail herself believes. However, Abigail receives some advice from an unlikely source: Jackaby. For a character that remains somewhat aloof he certainly provides some support to Abigail when needed.
The dynamic between Jackaby and Abigail is another fantastic part of this series. Here we have a true partnership. Jackaby is the eccentric one and Abigail the grounded one. Together, they make a formidable investigative duo. It’s always nice (and refreshing) to see a duo that is not romantically motivated and that is the case here with Abigail and Jackaby. Let's keep this up!
The snappy dialogue and outlandish plot make Beastly Bones an absolute pleasure to read. By the end readers are left wanting more and the premise for Jackaby and Abigail’s next adventure is set. I, for one cannot wait to read more, especially now that Abigail has come into her own as a real investigator.
Some girls work in shops or sell flowers. Some girls find husbands and play house. I assist a mad detective in investigating unexplained phenomena – like fish that ought to be cats but seem to have forgotten how. My name is Abigail Rook, and this is what I do. (p. 17)
Curtsies & Conspiracies is Carriger's second book in her YA Finishing School series. Sophronia, our intrepid spy-in-training, has settled into lifCurtsies & Conspiracies is Carriger's second book in her YA Finishing School series. Sophronia, our intrepid spy-in-training, has settled into life at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality; however, that's not to say that school life has become routine. In fact, Sophronia's closest friend, Dimity, faces kidnapping and it seems that the teachers are all bent on some sort of conspiracy. Never a dull day at Mademoiselle Geraldine's.
Like the first book, Etiquette & Espionage, I also listened to this one on audiobook. Once again, I have to say that the narration was inspired. Moria Quirk really brings life to her narration immersing the listener right into Carriger's paranormal world. Quirk's narration just makes this a really fun read. The madcap nature of Curtsies & Conspiracies is what works to this series's advantage. The premise of a finishing school training it's young ladies to become spies/assassins is absolutely outrageous as are the techniques that the ladies are instructed upon. This deliberate foray into the absurd is what I like most about the series. It's quirky and fun and pure escapism.
Like the first book in the series, I didn't really find that there was that much depth to the characters. Sophronia continues to be the best girl in the school, although I think there are hints of her character maturing. I like the fact that Sophronia is starting to question the implications of her future as a spy and who exactly will be buying her services. I'd be interested in exploring this more fully throughout the series as I suspect being a spy will not be as fun as Sophronia thinks it will be.
What has also changed in book two is the hint of romance. Sophronia is torn between two young men, one suitable, and one most definitely not. This love triangle doesn't play a huge role in the novel, rather is Sophronia's adventures in discovering what's really motivating the school's excursion to London. But it is very clear that Sophronia is aware of her charms and not always above using them to her advantage.
I don't think the Finishing School series is for everyone; I think it's too tongue-in-cheek for some readers. But if you like the madcap, this remains a fun read. For myself, I find that I need a bit of a break from the series, so I wont be moving on to the third book just yet.
The Univited is a ghost story set in Illonis in 1918, in the midst of the First World War as well as the Spanish“I admit, I had seen a ghost or two.”
The Univited is a ghost story set in Illonis in 1918, in the midst of the First World War as well as the Spanish Flu epidemic. Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan wakes up one night to learn that her father and younger brother have killed a man. With the war raging, anti-German sentiments are high, and reeling from the loss of Ivy’s other brother, her family seeks retribution. For Ivy it’s the last straw; she leaves home. Seeking to assuage the guilt she feels for what her father and brother have done, Ivy goes to pay her respects to Daniel, the brother of the man killed. This initial meeting unravels as expected, which is to say, not well. However, that does not stop Ivy from returning or from Daniel and Ivy forming an attachment to one another.
There’s no question that The Uninvited is a beautifully written and highly atmospheric read. There’s a dreamlike quality to the writing that fits very well with the themes of death and guilt that are apparent throughout the novel. What I most appreciated is the exploration of the anti-German sentiments. Despite Ivy’s guilt and her need to reach out to Daniel, she still experiences some fear when dealing with Daniel. Like others in her small town, she has been learning of the war second-hand and there is a group that wants to force anyone with a German background or German sympathies out of town. Seeing what this generated fear does to people isn’t unsurprising, but it is devastating.
Ivy's tense relationship with Daniel is not the only moment when Ivy shows her ignorance. Ivy also finds herself an unexpected ambulance driver helping those affected by influenza. Like in her relationship with Daniel, Ivy doesn’t always come across as sympathetic to those that are suffering. But, the author does a fantastic job capturing Ivy’s transformation from a naïve, sheltered young woman, to one that has a much better understanding of the wider world.
Despite the strong writing and characterizations, there was something that fell flat for me in The Uninvited. From the beginning something seemed a tad off. And having finished the book, I know that there’s a reason for that feeling that something was not quite right. Despite knowing why some things just didn't seem right, I spent most of the book feeling quite distanced from what was happening. I wanted there to be more of an emotional impact here and I felt tricked and unsatisfied by the ending.
The era is what caught my attention with The Uninvited, and it was one of my most anticipated reads of the summer. I was thinking this would be something similar to Simone St. James or Jennifer Robson, and while there are certainly parallels, I didn’t find this one as satisfying. The Uninvited is an atmospheric and haunting read that explores a facet of what life was like for those on the home front during the First World War. If you enjoy your history with a side of romance, The Uninvited will provide you with interesting historical details and a seemingly impossible romance.
I really liked the idea behind The Eterna Files. Secret government organization in Victorian England? Yes, please! Unfortunately, this one missed theI really liked the idea behind The Eterna Files. Secret government organization in Victorian England? Yes, please! Unfortunately, this one missed the mark for me. Some of the characters were interesting, but I never felt that I spent enough time with them to truly get invested in their stories.
Harold Spire has been appointed by Queen Victoria to Special Branch Division Omega, and he’s not happy about it. Spire had been in the midst of a very difficult case and he doesn’t want to let it go unsolved to lead a secret branch of the government that’s bent on investigation the extraordinary. He does not believe in that sort of thing. Spire's first order of business is to investigate the supposed discovery of the Eterna Compound. Apparently it grants immortality, and if the Americans have it, the British definitely want to get their hands on it.
Assisting Spire is the highly capable Rose Everhart, who, like Spire, has a tragic past motivating her actions as a government employee.
Rounding out these perspectives is American, Clara Templeton, the person responsible for the Eterna Compound, or at least putting the idea into the head of the grieving Mrs. Abraham Lincoln after the assassination of her husband. After the deaths of the scientists who were working on the Eterna Compound, Clara is determined to find out what happened and keep the compound from the wrong hands.
The premise for The Eterna Files sounds really good, but what didn’t capture my attention was the narrative style. First off, the characters came across as rather bland. Tidbits of information about each character would be dropped but never fully explored. Second, I found the change in perspective of characters (and locales) to be rather distracting. When things were finally getting good, the novel would move to America or England. What’s more is that the American and English narratives didn’t come together by the end of the novel and I kind of assumed that they would. I can only presume that the author is setting this up to become a series.
I really wanted The Eterna Files to be amazing, but I really had a hard time getting through this one. I think it’s one of those books that’s going to appeal to readers who are more interested in details than characters or plot, and I am, quite simply, not one of those readers.
My latest foray into nonfiction is Charlotte Gray’s fantastic Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, and the Trial that Shocked a Country. On the surface,My latest foray into nonfiction is Charlotte Gray’s fantastic Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, and the Trial that Shocked a Country. On the surface, Gray takes a look at a trial, but this book is much more. It’s a snapshot of Toronto during a time of change and turmoil. Women were fighting to be recognized as something more than wives and mothers, and Canadians were shipping off to Europe to fight on the front lines. The trial and the war do not initially make much sense being juxtaposed against one another, but the strength of Gray’s writing is in her ability to combine a seemingly unrelated trial to the larger scope of events that occupied the minds of an entire country.
In February 1915, eighteen year old, Carrie Davies shot and killed her employer, Charles “Bert” Massey. This act captured the attention of the masses for a short time in February, and showcases the divided attitudes and social codes of a city in flux.
Immediately following the shooting, Carrie was arrested and brought to trial, much quicker than would have been expected. The Massey family attempted to quiet the scandal, but the newspapers and one intrepid lawyer would not let this story die. Not because Carrie was innocent, there’s no way of truly knowing this, but because of the prestige this case offered. The newspapers sold stories and took very biased approaches to the Carries innocence of lack thereof. The lawyer wanted the notoriety that he could receive from both defending Carrie and getting ahead of a very powerful Toronto family.
What immediately struck me in The Massey Murder is the fact that Carrie, the apparent “heroine” of this narrative, played such a passive role. Every single person around her used her and her situation for some advantage. Carrie’s lawyer didn’t really even spend much time with Carrie and he spun a convincing tale that put Carrie into a positive light for the jury. Carrie Davies caused the event that sparked much debate, but she wasn’t really involved in any deciding factors of her fate. This struck me as unbearably sad, and really speaks to the status of women at this time. Yes, women were fighting for rights, but the way Carrie was manipulated throughout her trial demonstrates how far these women had to go. It also says much about the justice system of the time (and perhaps today’s, as well). I also think that the manipulation of Carrie also speaks to the manipulation of both the masses and the men who were convinced to go to war for "duty" and "honour". For me, the theme of manipulation is what brought the seemingly divergent threads together.
It was fascinating how Gray combined one contained event (the murder and trial) and threaded within a much larger narrative: the war. I was surprised about the amount of time the author spent detailing the war, but I do think it worked here. The scandalous murder helped Torontonians focus on something other than the war effort, and I think it explained much of the attitude that the general public had towards Carrie and the entire trial. Without the war narrative, I think it would be difficult to truly understand the attitude of the people of the city and subsequently, those involved in the trial.
The newspaper element was also interesting to me, especially the notion of newspaper wars. Gray expertly demonstrates how blatantly the popular newspapers of the day spun the murder of Bert Massey to suit their needs. One, The Evening Telegram, was on the side of Carrie; they played to their readership and garnered their sympathies by emphasizing Carrie's Britishness and innocence. The Toronto Daily Star, on the other hand, went in opposite direction, putting forth Carrie as the villain in this piece. Neither was concerned with the truth of the events, but were motivated by less admirable goals. These newspapers and the people that ran them, had prejudices and supported certain factions and families in the city, and supporting them came paramount to the truth of events.
Ultimately, The Massey Murder was a great read. I loved Gray’s writing style and I think it will appeal to fiction readers who are not in love with nonfiction. I also think the showcasing of historic Toronto will appeal to fans of the popular TV show, Murdoch Mysteries, I know it came immediately to mind as soon as I started reading this one. A highly recommended read!
Night of a Thousand Stars is a historical fiction adventure, and unfortunately for me, I was a reluctant adventurer. While there were some elements thNight of a Thousand Stars is a historical fiction adventure, and unfortunately for me, I was a reluctant adventurer. While there were some elements that really worked for me, I had a really hard time finishing this book as it simply didn’t capture my attention.
Poppy Hammond is on the brink of marriage to a wealthy aristocratic; a comfortable life awaits her. But, Poppy wants more; she doesn’t feel like marriage is the right decision and she wants an adventure. So with the help of an unusually accommodating curate, Poppy jilts her groom. Determined to thank her rescuer, Sebastian Cantrip, Poppy heads off to London, only to discover that Sebastian has disappeared, and is really known as Sebastian Fox. What could have happened? After a little bit of digging, Poppy discovers that Sebastian traveled to Damascus. Convinced that Sebastian must be in trouble Poppy follows, finally embarking on the adventure that she always wanted.
Despite the fact that I’m not normally a fan of this author’s style, I wanted to read this one because the premise sounded amazing. I loved the idea of adventure in a foreign land, and after reading other reviews and quotes of the book, I was intrigued. And while I loved the descriptive setting and the humour, I personally, just didn’t enjoy reading about the main character, Poppy.
Poppy is impetuous and comes across as rather immature in her desire for an adventure. On the one hand, the reasoning behind Poppy’s flight from the altar is solid. She explains to Sebastian that she would be stifled as a future Viscount’s wife:
“I realised with Gerald, my life would always take second place. I would be his wife, and eventually Viscountess Madderley, and then I would die. In the meantime I would open fetes and have his children and perhaps hold a memorable dinner party or two, but what else? Nothing. I would have walked into that church today as Penelope Hammond and walked out as the Honourable Mrs. Gerald Madderley, and no one would have remembered me except as a footnote in the chronicles of the Madderley family.” (p. 13)
I think Poppy’s lack of individuality and need for recognition speak to the concerns of women of the time, as well as today, for that matter. I expected this need for action to manifest in a way that demonstrated that Poppy controlled her own destiny, instead she seemed to blunder into an adventure that I don’t feel actually changed her character. Further, Poppy continued to be identified as someone extraordinary by those around her, and while in some cases this was a subterfuge, this extraordinary quality was never really effectively conveyed. Why is Poppy so spectacular? It is because she’s pretty, intuitive? Beyond that I never really got much of a sense of what really made her so worthy of the attention that she received throughout the book. And because of this weak exploration, Poppy’s adventure never fully captured my attention.
What was really well developed in Night of a Thousand Stars was the luscious sense of place and the great humour.
I loved the exotic setting of Night of a Thousand Stars; this is a great example of armchair travel in fiction. Poppy’s experiences traveling and the way that this was described is stunning and evocative. Take Poppy’s first sighting of Damascus as an example:
Long rays of sunshine slanted over the city, gilding the stone and causing it to shimmer on the flat plain. Mount Hermon, newly carpeted in soft green on its lower flanks, rose to snowy heights in the distance, and I could smell the mingled scents of freshly turned earth and fruit blossoms and smoke on the air. (p. 101)
Whenever the setting is discussed, the author excels at presenting a sensual picture of the place rather than a visual simulation. This style of description brought a strong sense of place to the novel, and I feel that it is the strongest element to the novel and it is because of this that I would recommend it to fans of exotic locales; it is these readers that will appreciate this level of detail.
Second to the setting, I also liked the humour in the Night of a Thousand Stars. While I found the first third of the book to be hard to get into, when Poppy once again meets up with Sebastian I found that the humour really stood out. The one-liners between these two put a smile on my face:
We’d been riding for hours, and although I would have died rather than admit it to Sebastian, I was thoroughly exhausted. I gave a sigh of impatience and dropped my head to his back. He jerked, nearly throwing himself off the horse. His sudden lurch irritated her and she tossed her head, crossing her feet sideways.
“For God’s sake,” I muttered irritably, “What’s the matter with you? Anyone would think you were the Gothic heroine.” (p. 234)
Poppy is quite willing to dish it out to Sebastian and I found this interactions highly amusing. But, since there is a strong romantic current in the novel between Poppy and Sebastian, I was surprised that the witty banter didn’t move forward into something a little more reliant on character development. My impression of Poppy and Sebastian’s relationship is that they had the romantic tension, but not the depth of emotion that you expect in the romance genre. I realize that Night of a Thousand Stars is not a book that would be found in the romance section of the library, but since it does feature in the book, I feel that it could have been further developed.
My verdict on Night of a Thousand Stars? Fans of Deanna Raybourn will like this new book; it has her signature wit and quirky characters, and those will continue to appeal to her fans. While there were certain elements that I didn't care for as a reader, I maintain that this is a book that will go over with many audiences.
In Inconvenient Indian King takes an immensely complicated topic and distills it into something that's accessible, and not only that, he also makes itIn Inconvenient Indian King takes an immensely complicated topic and distills it into something that's accessible, and not only that, he also makes it engaging and lively. The issue of Native-White relations is not something that you'd generally perceive as something that's lively. Heart wrenching, controversial, yes, but lively not so much. But King is one of a hell of a writer. He continually acknowledges the tough stuff but always demonstrates this with wit and the occasional sarcastic comment, which drives home the difficulties in the many contradictory interactions between White people and Natives, and it's easy to guess just who's behaving in a contradictory manner.
While I loved King's engaging and dynamic style of writing, the concepts that he brought up where also vastly interesting and have really opened my eyes to a history and political issue that I knew next to nothing about. Now, I remember those Canadian history classes from elementary school to university and they always cover the "contact" period between the Natives and the European settlers. That said, I don't recall my history classes ever truly examining the severe ramifications of these two cultures meeting. King does this in a way that's meaningful.
What I also liked was how King forces readers to consider how history is crafted in chapter one. I've thought a lot about how the media manipulates information, but this served as a reminder that someone is writing history as well.
Most of us think that history is the past. It's not. History is the stories we tell about the past. That's all it is. Stories. Such a definition might make the enterprise of history seem neutral. Benign.
Which, of course, it isn't.
History may well be a series of stories we tell about the past, but the stories are not just any stories. They're not chosen by chance. By and large, the stories are about famous men and celebrated events. We throw in a couple of exceptional women every now and then, not out of any need to recognize female eminence, but out of embarrassment.
And we're not easily embarrassed.
When we imagine history, we imagine a grand structure, a national chronicle, a closely organized and guarded record of agreed-upon events and interpretations, a bundle of "authenticities" and "truths" welded into a flexible, yet conservative narrative that explains how we got from there to here. It is a relationship we have with ourselves, a love affair we celebrate with flags and anthems, festivals and guns (p. 2-3).
Reading this had me hooked. The fact that history is constructed for consumption is not a new idea for me, but King puts it here so succinctly that I think everyone should read this book. While King focuses on Natives in North America, you can apply his statement about history so much further and it's that concept that I find so interesting. King succeeds in framing Native history in a way that brings a new understanding of the conventional lessons that are taught in the history classroom. Whether it's media or a textbook, the consumer should always think critically about the content that they are engaging with. Someone has packaged it and with it, they have included their own biases and prejudices. With The Inconvenient Indian it is all too clear who has suffered from continued constructed history that has shaped beliefs and encourage behaviour among others. Folks, history isn't a boring and lifeless thing, it always impacts the present for better or worse.
King speaks further on the importance of history when he considers the argument that the past is the past, why can't Native people move on? This notion of forgetting the past in favour of moving forward is an important one since I think it's one that's all too easy to get caught up in. We live in a society where the focus is on the present more so than on the past or even on the future (to an extent). With an issue like Native-White relations how can the past be brushed under the rug? Where is the context for present day arguments? This is an important question to think about considering King's focus, but it also has broad application for a whole host of other problems or global issues. Another reason that I think everyone should read the book.
Additionally, I also appreciated the fact that King's scope encompasses Native-White relations in both Canada and the United States. I think this is partly due to the author's own experiences, but also due to the fact that the border is a separate construct for Natives and created with little (more likely, none) regard for the Native peoples that straddled this line. It conveyed the huge diversity that exists among Native peoples and opened my eyes to this issue outside of a Canadian lens.
Ultimately, I think The Inconvenient Indian is an important book. The issues that King explores are timely and thought-provoking. This needs to be on people's radar. What's more is that King writes in such a way that this book will actually be read by more than academics; it's accessible, it's not a textbook. Everyone should read this book - so get thee to a library!
With The Lure of the Moonflower, Willig’s Pink Carnation series comes to a close, and what a satisfactory ending it was.
Jane Wooliston is the Pink CarWith The Lure of the Moonflower, Willig’s Pink Carnation series comes to a close, and what a satisfactory ending it was.
Jane Wooliston is the Pink Carnation. The spy the spears dread in the French forces. On her latest mission Jane finds herself in Portugal tracking down the mad Queen Maria before the French can use her to their adventure. Aiding Jane is the Moonflower, Jack Reid, a spy of dubious loyalty. But, since Jane doesn’t speak Portuguese and Jack happens to be the estranged son of a family friend, Jane grudgingly accepts that she has to work with Jack and has no expectation that she’s going to like it. Of course, when the mission proves to be none too simple these two are forced to work together and are pleasantly surprised by the results. The Pink Carnation series has been a great favourite of mine since picking up the first book and as much as I’m sad to see the series end, I love that the series ends on such a high note. For the most part, Jane has been elusive throughout the series. Readers have been aware of her, but she’s never really played a large role. In Moonflower readers get to know the great spy and they learn that she is human: lonely and vulnerable just like anyone else.
Jane has been in the spy game for a long time. She’s been the one in charge, the one making the tough decisions; however, her leadership has left her feeling adrift and alone:
But that meant taking charge. It meant making decisions based on the totality of the circumstances, difficult decisions, unpopular decisions. It meant keeping her own counsel, even at times when she longed to our out all her doubts and worries. In order to maintain her authority, she needed to cloak herself in a mantle of omniscience.
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, the poet said. He might have substituted “lonely” (p. 86).
The burden of command has been a difficult one for Jane, and it’s only when she starts working with Jack that she finds someone that she just might be able to share the burden with.
Jack has been, to all appearances, self-serving in his espionage career, changing his allegiance based on financial rewards.
The Moonflower had gone by many names in his twenty-seven years.
Jaisal, his mother had called him, when she had called him anything at all. The French had called him Moonflower, just one of their many flower-named spies, a web of agents stretching from Madras to Calcutta, from London to Lyons. He’d counted himself lucky; he might as easily have been the Hydrangea. Moonflower, at least, had a certain ring to it. In Lisbon he was Alarico, a wastrel who tossed dice by the waterfront; in the Portuguese provinces he went by Rodrigo – Rodrigo the seller of baubles and trader of horses.
His father’s people knew him as Jack. Jack Reid, black sheep, turncoat, and renegade (p. 18-19). Like Jane, Jack is also more complicated than appearances have led others to believe. Both Jane and Jack struggle with their identity, but Jack in particular has difficulty with it because he is half-Indian and has found not a home with either his mother’s people or his father’s.
Jane and Jack both help the other come to terms with their lost identity; supporting the other when they can, giving them a piece of their mind when it’s needed. This kind of character development was unexpected in this generally light series, and I really loved that Moonflower really ended the series on such a strong point. Moonflower was well-written, retained it’s lightheartedness, while still managing to give readers strong, fleshed out characters and a fast-paced adventure.
Lastly, I have to remark on the romance. As readers of the series know, each installment features a romance and while Jane and Jack were great as individuals, their romance was equally compelling. What was refreshing in Moonflower was the acknowledgement that Jane and Jack had previous relationships. So often in the romance genre, the hero and heroine’s past relationships are not acknowledged or rendered meaningless – this was not the case here. Jane had a liaison with an enemy spy, the Gardner, and it did mean something to her at the time, but it also allows her to recognize how and why her relationship with Jack is so different. Jane struggles with her past relationship, and while Jack is certainly jealous about the Gardner (especially when he arrives on the scene), he’s able to realize that judging her for it would make him a hypocrite:
Jack bit his tongue. Hard. It wasn’t fair for him to condemn her liaison with the Gardner, any more than it would have been fair for him to pretend that there had been no one before her, or that none of them had mattered in their way at their time. They were neither of them youths just out of the schoolroom (p. 344).
The Lure of the Moonflower was a much more mature romance than many of the others in the series, and I loved it for it’s surprising depth.
Fans of Willig’s Pink Carnation series will not be disappointed by this satisfying conclusion to the series. Not only does the Carnation herself get a happily-ever-after, the contemporary story line featuring Eloise is also concluded. I can only hope that there’s lots more to come from Willig, especially if it contains the humour, adventure and romance that has been the Pink Carnation series.