THE DOLL FACTORY by ELIZABETH MACNEAL

The Doll Factory

A beautifully written historical fiction novel. The authors’ descriptive style was so well done I could almost smell the stench of London in 1850. It was not an idealized version of the time nor the place. It was real and raw and sometimes hard to read, and I appreciated that. Life was hard. Things weren’t fair or pretty for the majority of the population.

This is the year of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. Artists are all vying for their works to be accepted. And it is at this site that two people meet. For one, Iris, it isn’t memorable at all. But for Silas, in his severely messed up head, he has met his soulmate.

Iris and her twin sister Rose are apprenticed to a doll maker, who is also an addict. Iris hates it. She wants to paint. She wants more. And through chance, she is asked to model for an artist. Not only will she have her own bedsit, but she will also be learning to paint.

Down the street, Silas has thought of nothing but Iris. In his sick mind, she loves him as well. Now he is obsessed and is following her waiting for her to come to him and declare her love. When she rebuffs him, things get ugly.

An exceptionally well-written tale!

 

NetGalley/ August 13th, 2019 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

 

WE ARE ALL GOOD PEOPLE HERE by SUSAN REBECCA WHITE

We Are All Good People Here

From the days of JFK to the early days of Clinton, this story of two young women growing up and becoming adults during a tumultuous time in our history.

Coming from totally different backgrounds, Eve and Daniella, meet at school and are soon finding a sense of belonging while also having their eyes opened to the harshness and unfairness of life in the South and beyond. Racism is an ugly thing. And sometimes the more you try and help, the worse things become.

From school to their own children, they take very different approaches to life, with Eve making some choices that may come back to haunt them all.

Great read. A hard read. Will we ever be able to see beyond color and class?

I’m not sure but I’m glad I read this.

Well Done!

NetGalley/ August 6th, 2019 by Atria Books

ONCE UPON A RIVER BY DIANE SETTERFIELD

Once Upon a River

From the author of The Thirteenth Tale comes this offering from Setterfield.

In a small village on the Thames folks gather at the local pub to tell stories. And what storytellers they are. As they are warming themselves and having a drink or two the doors burst open and a monstrous looking fellow with a drowned child in his arms falls into the room.

The little girl is obviously dead. The poor man has had some type of accident leaving his face banged up and his eyes swollen. As nurse Rita tends to his wounds and leaves him to rest she checks on the child.

After hours, the little girl is obviously dead. No pulse. No breath. Until suddenly she breathes. And is alive. Or is she?

There is so much wonderful folklore and storytelling going on in this tale!

Storytelling is a gift. And this was a really good one. Part fable, part fantasy and pure enjoyment from beginning to end!

Netgalley/ December 4th 2018 by Atria/Simon and Schuster

THE CLOCKMAKER’S DAUGHTER by KATE MORTON

The Clockmaker's Daughter

My real name, no one remembers.
The truth about that summer, no one else knows.
The summer of 1862, Edward Radcliffe convinces a rather bohemian group of artists to spend a month at the secluded Birchwood Manor. Supposedly they will be spending the time focusing on just their art. Being inspired, finding their muse.
But things don’t go well and by the end there is nothing but murder, theft, and ruined lives.
Fast forward to 150 years later and young Elodie Winslow, an archivist in London finds an old leather satchel containing a picture of a woman and a sketch of a house on the river. 

It feels familiar to her but she isn’t sure why. So we follow the story. Many characters and many voices but Birdie’s voice carried me through this mystery. Those first two sentences hooked me and I had to find out why she couldn’t leave the house. 
There is something so fluid and easy about Morton’s writing. The way her words evoke such feeling and emotion. This is the third book I’ve read of hers and for me her style is a perfect fit for me.
I hope you enjoy it as well.
Netgalley/October 09, 2018 by Atria Books

Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir by Jake Shears

Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir

In the bestselling tradition of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, Patti Smith’s Just Kids, and Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, the lead singer of the multiplatinum-selling band Scissor Sisters explores his evolution as a young artist: coming of age in the Pacific Northwest and Arizona, his entry into New York City’s electrifying, ever-changing music scene, and the Scissor Sisters’ rise as they reached international fame in the early 2000s.

Before hitting the stage as the lead singer of the iconic glam rock band Scissor Sisters, Jake Shears was Jason Sellards, a teenage boy in Arizona living a double life and unable to hide it any longer, resulting in a confusing and confining time in high school as his classmates bullied him and teachers showed little sympathy.

It wasn’t until years later, during a trip to visit a childhood friend in New York City, that Jake met a talented musician nicknamed Babydaddy—the stage name of Scott Hoffman. Jake had found a kindred spirit, someone thirsting for stardom and freedom. Their instant bond led them to form Scissor Sisters. First performing in the smoky gay nightclubs of New York City, then finding massive success in the United Kingdom, Scissor Sisters would become revered by the LGBTQ community, reach platinum status, and also win multiple accolades with hits like “Take Your Mama” and “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” as well as their cult-favorite cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”

Candid and courageous, Shears’s writing sings with the same powerful, spirited presence that he brings to his live performances. Following his development from a misfit boy who grew to a dazzling rock star, this entertaining and evocative memoir will be an inspiration to anyone with determination and a dream.

In his memoir, Jake takes us from his childhood in Arizona and the Pacific Northwest, and in neither place did he fit in. He was too flamboyant, too out there, just too over the top. But he didn’t know how to be anything other than what he was. Gay, in a time and place that could get you ostracized and hurt.

The relationship with his mother was one of total acceptance. His father more stoic silence.

Trying to find his own identity and voice, he realizes he wants to sing. On stage. Be the center of attention, which he loves. When he moves to New York, his meeting with Babydaddy is pivotal and begins the formation of the band Scissor Sisters.

The beginning was pretty good. The description of the gay community as well as the Seattle music scene was very interesting. Then we got to the middle and I was really trying hard to step over the names being dropped.

I would have liked to know more about his depression and how the band wasn’t that huge in the U.S. and why.  Were there parts that were a little slow? Yes. Was the gratuitous name dropping necessary? Not that I could tell. I would read the first half again.

Netgalley/Atria  February 20, 2018

Springtime at the Cider Kitchen by Fay Keenan (Little Somersby #2)

Springtime at the Cider Kitchen (Little Somerby #2)

Caroline Hemingway can’t help but feel a little strange watching her ex sister-in-law marrying the owner of Carter’s Cider Farm, but she’s delighted Anna’s found happiness after the death of her late husband, and Caroline’s brother, James. If only Caroline could find her own love story…

Desperate to escape the rat race, Caroline decides to take the plunge and move to the idyllic village of Little Somerby, where she is given the task of opening and running a restaurant in one of the forgotten barns on the Cider Farm.

Opening and running The Cider Kitchen is no easy task, and there are many challenges on the way, but slowly Caroline feels she’s being accepted into the local community, and starts to believe she may have found her forever home. But secrets from her past seem destined to haunt her, and not even the attentions of the very dishy Jonathan Carter can distract her from all she’s left behind…

I had read the first book in the series and had high hopes for the second one.

Caroline is invited to her former sister-in-law’s wedding. Caroline has mixed feelings about it but for Anna and her niece, she comes. Having no intention of staying.

But when an opportunity to use her skills as an event planner pops up, she makes a year commitment to stay and run the new Cider Kitchen.

I found neither Caroline or Jonathan sympathetic characters. There was no romance between them and it seemed to me it was just a few rolls in the hay. And the secrets that Caroline was keeping led to her almost ending up in jail. Where she would have been if this was reality.

However, instead, Jonathan proposes. Where did that come from? And Caroline gets her crime swept under the rug and says yes.

It was very superficial.

Thank you Netgalley/Atria