Monday, February 10, 2020

Review: The Gown by Jennifer Robson

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal WeddingThe Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars rounded up

Ann and Miriam are two women, just trying to do the best they can, roommates and coworkers at famous designer Hartnell's embroidery studio in 1947. As a designer to the Queen, Princess Elizabeth and the rest of the royal family, Hartnell's designs grace the pages of magazines, newspapers, and newsreels of the time. The most famous of his designs is arguably the now Queen Elizabeth's wedding dress:

Image result for hartnell designer

Ann and Miriam's stories are woven together with Heather, Ann's granddaughter after she has passed away. When Heather finds the box with embroideries and some pictures, she sets out to learn more about her beloved grandmother in 2016. What she uncovers about her grandmother shocks her, and has her questioning whether or not she truly knew her.

I finished this book up the day of the Oscar Award show (Academy Awards) and it actually ended up being quite timely. Looking at all the beautiful dresses chosen by the celebrities, it is interesting that we acknowledge the famous designers who made the dresses, but we often times never hear about the people who actually sewed the dresses and put the finishing details such as the gems or sequins. Robson brings this situation to life as we experience what it was like to make Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress in 1947. I quite enjoyed this book and especially loved reading about the work these women mastered to create an iconic wedding dress.

The only criticism I have for this book is at times I struggled to stay invested in some of Ann's and Miriam's storylines as it felt stoic, lacking in emotions. It could be the time period, or it could be just the points in the story, but I did not feel as invested at times as much as I wanted. One content concern I feel I should also mention is with Miriam, there is discussion of the Holocaust, including some time at the concentration camp. If this is something you do not like to read, please know while it is pivotal to who Miriam is, it is not discussed in detail but a few short times. Overall, I really appreciated and enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to anyone that likes multiple point of views and multiple timelines woven together, even if you are not an anglophile.

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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Review: Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen


Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious RomanceDangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance by Jennieke Cohen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have been a longtime fan of Regency, Edwardian, and Georgian historical romances and because of this, I am always intrigued to read the latest young adult novel set during these time periods. Enter Dangerous Alliance one of the more recently published young adult book in one of these time periods. In the vein of Austen, this is a witty take on this genre, introducing us to Vicky, her sister Althea, and her neighbor Tom, among others. Vicky and Tom have been estranged since Tom was forced to leave England though Vicky never knew why. What reunites them is the attempt on Vicky's life that Tom thwarts, thus bringing the two back together.

I enjoyed the beginning and the ending, but the middle part lagged a bit as Cohen built up Tom's backstory and interweaved the mystery surrounding the attempts on Vicky's life. Despite this, it built to a solid conclusion. What I appreciated most about this book, however, is learning about the time period's philosophy on divorce, legal separation, and what it took to leave an abusive relationship. It is an unusual stance to discuss in young adult books set in this time period, introducing teen readers to way marriage and divorce was viewed during this period.

I recommend this book to those readers who enjoy time period stories with strong relatable heroines and not so perfect heroes, with a bit of mystery and romance woven together. And while there were parts that lagged for me, I do look forward to reading more books by this author in the future as this was a solid debut.

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Review: One of Us is Next by Karen McManus

One of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying, #2)One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The follow up to One of Us is Lying, this mystery has some familiar characters that we were introduced in McManus' first book: the original four (Nate, Bronwyn, Addie, and Cooper) and of course additional characters. We get a peak into the original four lives' but they are secondary to the action of this follow up. Nothing has changed at the high school: gossip is still the currency that keeps the your school social status high. When the latest reiteration of the gossip mill turns deadly, it is up to the Maeve, Knox, and Phoebe to figure out what is happening before it is too late.

The story in this book unfolds at a steady enough pace to keep even the more reluctant readers engaged and those who have not had a chance or accidentally pick this one up first, will not be lost. There are snippets at times when the author fills in missing pieces from the first book, and you will be spoiled to the twist in that book if you read this one first. Overall, fans of McManus will like this third book and second in the series, though those obsessed with the first book's characters, may be disappointed this one does not focus on them. However, I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a quick young adult mystery that features elements of a game or how social media can affect teens' lives.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Review: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women, #1)Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set during Victorian England, Bringing Down the Duke is the story of Annabella as she enters Oxford College as one of the first women accepted. The catch, she has to accept an internship with a women's suffrage group in order for her tuition to be paid. Through this, she must approach men who have influence over their peers to support the women's suffrage movement. Enter Sebastian, the Duke of Montgomery. Sebastian has been bringing back his family from near ruin since his father's death and he is the epitome of a scandal free peer (if one turns a blind eye to his divorce). While the two of them do battle over the right to vote, they are also confronted with the attraction they feel for each other. Annabelle won't fall for another handsome aristocrat and Sebastian cannot give up his reputation by causing another scandal.

A fan of historical romances, this had me smiling and chuckling a good number of times. I appreciated Annabelle's frankiness and her determination to do better with her life. I liked Sebastian though I am not sure if I quite believe he was ready for the big grand gesture. Overall, the pacing was a bit off towards the end, but I enjoyed this debut novel nonetheless. I look forward to continuing with the second in this series.

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