history · Reading · Reviews

Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid

I couldn’t pass up a book that takes place in 1860’s industrial Pittsburgh, let alone one about Carnegie. You might recognize the author Marie Benedict from her last book, The Other Einstein. I give Carnegie’s Maid 3.5 stars. While I enjoyed the idea of the story, the world-building and character development fell too flat for me. The climax was also underwhelming. One thing this book did get right is detailing the struggle of Irish immigrants in America. That aspect was the most believable for me in this historical.

As the title suggests, Carnegie’s Maid follows the story of Clara Kelly, an Irish immigrant who heads to America to find employment. When a girl with the same name as her dies on the boat, Clara assumes the other girl’s identity to take her job in Pittsburgh as a lady’s maid. Clara uses her salary to help her struggling family in Ireland. However, her new position becomes tricky when a blossoming romance begins between Clara and Andrew Carnegie. Due to their difference in status, a successful marriage between them is unlikely. When Carnegie’s mother gets wind of Clara’s fake identity, she threatens to tell Andrew. Knowing a happy future together is futile, Clara leaves to pursue a life elsewhere, using her salary to pay for her family’s tickets to America. The story is a great peek into the rise of the Carnegie steel empire, how Carnegie’s success affected poor immigrants, and his sudden rise as a philanthropist. Continue reading “Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid”

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Reading

The Never-Ending Reading List

I feel like this is something every reader experiences at some point. You get busy with life and other hobbies and before you know it your planned reading list is growing out of control and books are piling up. The best thing about switching to ebooks was that it made it easier to contain all those piles. I read a lot, but I still experience an uncontrollable reading list way too often because I’m addicted to looking for new books. I finally had to stop and realize I will probably always feel behind on my reading no matter how many books I get through I always feel hopelessly behind. I’m working on enjoying the journey and not rushing to the finish line. Continue reading “The Never-Ending Reading List”

history · Reading · Reviews

Book Review: On A Cold Dark Sea

On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell is about three women who were aboard the Titanic. No Jack and Rose here, so no need to debate if they could have both fit on their makeshift raft, but there is still a touch of tragic romance. I give this Titanic tale four stars. While there are romantic elements to it, the story focuses more on the human element and how the tragedy impacted the lives of survivors and not the excitement of the sinking.

This book is about three women from varying backgrounds and social standings: Charlotte, Esme, and Anna. The book switches between perspectives effortlessly. Charlotte winds up on the Titanic with a man she loves but can’t marry. Esme is struck in a loveless marriage while she falls for a man named Charlie who sweeps her off her feet. Anna is leaving behind her home of Sweden to make a new life in America while her best friend prepares to marry the love of Anna’s life. Each woman survives the sinking, but they don’t escape unscathed. They all lose someone close to them and in the aftermath struggle to come to terms with their lives post-tragedy. None of them can fully escape the past while Anna prepares for a marriage of her own, Esme fights to hold onto her new love, and Charlotte mourns what could have been. This book explores what it means to be a Titanic survivor.

The book shows us snippets of their lives before boarding the Titanic, their time aboard, and how they fared after surviving including coming to terms with those they lost in the sinking. This makes it easy to see the big picture and the impact the tragedy had on their lives and in some cases, how it changed the course of their lives. The actual sinking of the ship itself gets little screen time, which is unfortunate for those of us interested in it, but it also keeps the sinking from taking up too much of the book.

Continue reading “Book Review: On A Cold Dark Sea”

Reading · Reviews

Book Review: The Last Namsara

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli was a book that originally wasn’t high on my reading list, but I ran into it at the library and picked it up and I’m so glad I did. I give this book 5 stars. The little stories included in it were beautiful and I was hooked for the whole ride. As an editor I see a lot of authors struggle with world building, but this book is a great of example of how to do world building gradually without overwhelming readers. The world building was fantastic and one of my favorite aspects of this book.

32667458In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. Continue reading “Book Review: The Last Namsara”

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Bad Parents in Fiction

A trend I’ve noticed a lot recently is bad or abusive guardians in young adult fantasy. I’d say out of the last five YA fantasy books I read, three of them included abusive guardians. I find it curious, but I admit it’s something I’m growing tired of.  This is a topic I’ve been wanting to get off my chest and explore. I’d like to believe there are heroes who have happy families but still choose to go on the adventure. Admittedly I had a rough childhood at times myself, which is why I like to see portrayals of happy families to know that well you know, they actually exist.

Off the top of my head I can think of quite a few examples of YA fantasies that include abusive or awful parents/guardians. The list includes Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Glitter by Aprilynne Pike, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, and Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. All but one of those books (Caraval) I’ve read this year. I’ve noticed this concept is often used to do one of two things: be a motivator for the main character to go on their journey, or to motivate a character to succeed by making their parent proud while on that journey because then they will finally get the love they’ve been searching for from their parent. And other times the parents are bad parents in that they are just so uninvolved that the main character can do anything without the parents noticing. I know it can be so hard in YA to let characters act on their own without being parented, but sometimes the oblivious parent role is just too obvious. Continue reading “Bad Parents in Fiction”

history · Reading · Reviews

Book Review: The Traitor’s Wife

I recently read The Traitors’ Wife by Allison Pataki. I mentioned this book in my previous post about observers in historical fiction, but I’m going to cover the overall story in deeper detail. I give this book a 3.5, mostly due to the issue mentioned in my previous post, which I’ll explore again. This is a read intended for those interested in the American Revolution and the women involved. We often hear of men like George Washington and Benedict Arnold, but less often we hear about their wives, the women who helped support their causes. The Traitor’s Wife follows the story of Peggy, Benedict Arnold’s wife.

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Peggy is not a character you want to root for, quite the opposite. But that works well in this story since otherwise the ending would be tragic instead of satisfying. It’s not often I see a main character who I dislike but want to keep reading about. Peggy is a fascinating woman as is her sly plotting. This book gave me a whole new perspective on her, albeit a negative one. The book also gave some insight into Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War as it changed between British and American hands. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers about Peggy, but she was if anything a stubborn woman set on getting her way, making for a great villain. Continue reading “Book Review: The Traitor’s Wife”