Monday, 30 June 2014

Blood Always Tells

Author: Hilary Davidson
Genre: Suspense
Type: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Publisher:  Forge Books
First Published: April 2014
First Line: "It didn't take Dominique Monaghan long to realize that she wasn't cut out for the life of a criminal."

Book Description from GoodReadsDominique Monaghan just wanted to get even with her two-timing, married boyfriend, a washed-up boxer stuck in a toxic marriage to a dangerously spoiled socialite. However, an elaborate blackmail scheme soon lands her in the middle of an unexpected kidnapping... and attempted murder. But who is actually out to kill whom?

Desmond Edgars, Dominique’s big brother, has looked out for his wayward sister ever since their mother was convicted of murdering many years ago, so when he receives a frantic phone call from Dominique in the middle of the night, he drops everything to rush to the rescue. But to find out what has really happened to his sister, the stoic ex-military man must navigate a tangled web of murder and deception, involving a family fortune, a couple of shifty lawyers, and a missing child, while wrestling with his own bloody secrets...

My Review:  I wasn't sure what to expect from Hilary Davidson because I hadn't heard about her before and had only picked up this book based on my long-time friend (and fellow Library Assistant) Beth's insistence that it was a good suspenseful read.  Honestly, a 'word of mouth' read is one of my favourite ways to find a new author and Beth knows me and my 'book likes' so very well.

Blood Always Tells starts off strong because Davidson doesn't waste any time getting into the storyline and suspense.  It's intriguing, creepy and I wanted to know what was really going on.  The story is laid out for the reader and then the twists begin to come and oh boy is there a big twist towards the beginning!  I won't give anything away but when I read the twist I honestly muttered 'No! You've got to be kidding me!' when it happened.  I totally didn't see that coming and I loved it!

The story is told from three points of view -- Dominique, her brother Desmond and then a fairly tertiary character.  Each of these characters were interesting in their own right but my favourite main character had to be Desmond Edgars.  I think a big part of this had to do with Desmond kind of resembling in physical description and personality (at least to me) to Harlan Coben's character, Myron Bolitar.  Yup, I really liked him.  He was the big brother swooping in to save the day.  He was a strong, smart and believable main character and I would love to see more of him.

You can tell that the author has some experience with writing mysteries (she has written three books in her Lily Moore series which I'm eager to pick up now).  Her pace, character development and complexity of the mystery were all well done.  There are multiple layers going on within the story and even though there are quite a few characters thrown into the storyline I never felt confused about who was who.

Finding this book and author was a wonderful surprise for me.  It's a story of family and how they influence who we become (good or bad), revenge, murder and deceit.  With interesting characters and some great twists this is a great contender for a sittin' and relaxin' summer read.


My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author: Jamie Ford
Genre: Historical Fiction (WWII)
Type: Trade Paperback
Source: Public Library
Pages: 290
Publisher: Ballantyne Books Trade Paperbacks
First Published: October 2009
First Line: "Old Henry Lee stood transfixed by all the commotion at the Panama Hotel."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn the opening pages of Jamie Ford's stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.

This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry's world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While "scholarshipping" at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship - and innocent love - that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.

Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel's dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice - words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.

Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.

My Review:  After reading, reviewing and really enjoying Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield a year and a half ago I was eager to read more about the experiences of Japanese Americans during WWII as they were 'evacuated' to internment camps based solely on their race by their own government. 

Based on the title and content of the book I think that the author was going for a touching, overly sentimental read but unfortunately I didn't think he quite got there.  There was an obvious Romeo and Juliet theme to the storyline but the emotion that you'd expect to be attached to the characters' experiences was lacking and I never felt a deep emotional attachment to Henry, Keiko or their families.  Honestly, Keiko's family seemed overly positive for the turmoil their family had to deal with on a daily basis and their reactions just didn't ring true for me.

While I applaud the author for making people of this generation aware of the atrocities, racial discrimination and social injustices that Seattle's Japanese Americans had to endure,  I do wish (and expected) the book to deal more with what life was like in the internment camps.  I was hoping for a lot more information regarding Keiko's family's experiences and felt like the author missed an opportunity by not incorporating their viewpoints.

The characters, specifically Keiko and especially Henry seemed very one-dimensional and the emotional elements were thin and overly simplistic.  It had more of a middle school feel to it if I'm being honest.  I also think that more time could have also been used to incorporate some of the secondary characters into the storyline more.  Mrs Beatty and Sheldon were the most intriguing and believable characters in the book but sorely underused. 

If you haven't guessed yet, this was just an okay read for me. I was hoping for something a lot more substantial and emotional but unfortunately there were too many situations that happened far too easily for Henry throughout the book and the anachronisms -- online support groups in 1986? -- didn't win it any points with me either.  Educating people about the blatant racial discrimination of American citizens during that time is the best aspect of this book for this reader.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Author: Alan Bradley
Genre: Mystery, Canadian
Type: Paperback
Pages: 385
Source: Used bookstore
Series: #1 in the Flavia de Luce mystery series (6 books in series currently)
Publisher: Anchor Canada
First Published: 2009
First Line: "It was as black in the closet as old blood."

Book Description from GoodReads Flavia de Luce 11 is an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. In the summer of 1950, inexplicable events strike Buckshaw, her decaying mansion home. A dead bird is on the doorstep, a postage stamp on its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man dying in the cucumber patch. His last words must save her father imprisoned for his murder.

My Review:  I went into this book, the beginning of a series, with pretty much no information on it.  I only knew that it was Canadian and I recognized the cover because the series is popular in the library where I work.  What I came away with was a solid debut with a very unique main character.

Flavia is in a category all her own.  She has quite an engaging voice and humour which was, honestly, my favourite part of the book.  Now, I know that some readers have taken exception to eleven year old Flavia's voice because she does give off a 'too old and wise for her years' feeling.  Sure she's refreshing, precocious and tenacious but you will need to suspend your belief that there was such a brilliant, well-spoken eleven year old with science expertise out there in the 1950's.  That said, her banter with her older sisters was what made the book for me and I really enjoyed her.

The book is set in a small town England in the 1950's which I found interesting and refreshing.  Unfortunately I found the mystery to be just okay.  It wasn't very complicated or, truth be told, overly riveting for me.  A few times I was a step ahead of Flavia's deductions but it was Flavia and her unique wit that kept me captivated.

Note: For those readers who are not fans of blatant violence and/or swearing then this may be a book for you as both were minimal throughout the book.

I think this would be a good, cozy read and I will most likely be picking up the next book in this six book series.  

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Canadian Butter Tarts

Being Canadian is something that I'm very proud of.  We're not only a humourous bunch who love our hockey but we are humble to a fault, apologize for everything and have the unconscious need to add an 'eh' at the end of sentences.  Basically, we're really good peeps.

While we're a quietly proud country you have to know that food, specifically uniquely Canadian fare, is pretty important here in the Great White North.  We take our unique taste palate very seriously.  You don't mess with a perfect poutine, an impeccably made Nanaimo Bar or a Canadian's morning 'double-double' at the local Timmy's.  You just don't.

Butter tarts are a Canadian treasure.  They are truly delicious and will therefore be inhaled by a group of Canucks in no time flat.  For those of you who have not had the joy of biting into one of these tarts, think of it as a caramel (potentially gooey) tart that can have raisins, pecans or even chocolate chips hidden inside. 

Please be aware that there are two very distinct camps when it comes to the perfect consistency of a butter tart -- gooey or firm.  You must choose a side and defend it with all your might.  Personally, I prefer something in the middle.  A little gooey but no so much as to drip out of the tart.  I'm a complicated person, what can I say. 

I received this recipe last weekend from my youngest sister so I could make it for Brad and my Dad for Father's Day and they went over really well.  So well that I only got one!  My family does so love a good butter tart ... or 24. 

I have to come clean and admit to saving time and sanity by using store-bought frozen tart shells.  If you have the time, homemade tart shells would make this recipe even better.  I made half with mini chocolate chips (to appease the raisin hating children among us) and the other half with raisins.  The verdict?  My family loves 'em.  Whether with raisins, nuts or chocolate chips the butter tart is so versatile it will win anyone over.  They are truly delish, eh?

Yield: 24 tarts

2 cups dark brown sugar
2/3 cups butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp coffee creamer (half and half)
2 tsp vanilla
24 frozen tart shells (or make your own from scratch)
1/2 cup raisins (and/or mini chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except tart shells, raisins and chocolate chips.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan place raisins and approximately 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil for a few minutes.  Drain raisins and set aside to cool.  I always do this step when adding raisins to baked goods because it plumps them up and brings them back to life.  You can skip this step if you want.

Place tart shells onto a cookie sheet.  Distribute raisins (and/or mini chocolate chips) into the frozen tart shells. 

Pour or spoon brown sugar mixture over the raisins/chocolate chips.  It will be quite thick.

Bake for 16-20 minutes.  Mixture will be bubbling.  Cool on wire racks.  Store in an air tight container.

Monday, 16 June 2014

That Night

Author: Chevy Stevens
Genre: Suspense, Canadian author
Type: e-book ARC
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: June 17, 2014
First Line: "Rockland Penitentiary, Vancouver April 2012 -- I followed the escorting officer over to Admissions and Discharge, carrying my belongings in a cardboard box - a couple of pairs of jeans, some worn-out T-shirts, the few things I'd gathered over the years, some treasured books, my CD player."

Book Description from GoodReadsAs a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn't relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren't easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni's innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni's life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to St Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  Don't you just love it when you find a book that utterly captivates you?  To the extent that you sneak off to find little snippets of time to read 'just a few more pages'?  That Night was that kind of book for me.  And then some.

I've read all of Chevy Steven's previous books, Still Missing and Always Watching and Never Knowing.  Still Missing has always been my favourite of hers with her second and third books not fairing as favourably with me.  But I had faith that she'd bring back her signature suspenseful writing and I'm glad I stuck with her because That Night is her best book to date.  Hands down.  It's been awhile since I've read a book that kept me so riveted, that had me so immersed in the lives of the characters and still kept me guessing.  I loved every minute of it.

I will not ruin any of the plot or suspense for those of you who haven't read this book.  But I will say that Ms Stevens expertly jumps from the past to present and helps the reader understand where Toni is coming from and why she does what she does.  I really felt connected to Toni throughout the book and felt that Steven's helped me get an insider's look into what it's like for a bullied, misunderstood teen as well as well as what it was like for Toni to go back to her small town as a parolee of such a personal and infamous crime. 

The pages of this book flipped (ok, Kindle clicked) effortlessly as I had to find out who killed Toni's sister.  I was a little surprised at how quickly I believed Toni's story and how easily got behind her because typically I'm a hard sell when it comes to getting behind a main character.  I will admit that there was a lot of stuff thrown at Toni during her life but it never felt overdone to me and even though I didn't agree with all of her actions they came off as believable.

Even the secondary characters were well fleshed out and, for the most part, authentic.  I will admit that some of the 'Mean Girls' were a bit clichéd but on the other hand we've all (sadly) known girls like that too.  The emotional consequences of the murder are also clearly shown in Toni as well as her poor parents who struggle to make sense of what has happened to their daughters.

This was definitely a page turner for me.  I found to be compelling, interesting yet disturbing with edge of your seat action -- which pretty much deems it a great summer read.

Highly recommended.

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Girl You Left Behind

Author: Jojo Moyes
Genre: Historical Fiction (WWI)
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 384
Source: Public Library
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
First Published: September 27, 2012
First Line: "October 1916 - I was dreaming of food."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn 1916, French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything - her family, reputation and life - in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie's portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting's dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened...

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most - whatever the cost.

My Review:  I read Moyes huge hit Me Before You back in January 2013 and I absolutely loved it.  I actually gave it one of my rare 5/5 stars for the emotional rollercoaster that it put me on.  So I went into this book very eager to read another book by this author and I will admit that the story surrounding art stolen by the Germans in WWI was the other reason that I had to pick up this book.   

This book is told using two different points of view in two different eras.  Sophie tells her story of living in her small French town during WWI and Liv's modern-day story is set in London with a piece of art connecting the two. I loved learning more about occupied France in WWI.  Seeing the day-to-day life of these small town French people and how they had to live alongside the Germans was very poignant.  It was an interesting era and there were a couple of dynamic characters, namely Sophie.  

Unfortunately I cannot say that Liv's modern-day part of the story affected me in the same way as Sophie's.  The only character I truly connected with in Liv's storyline was her quirky friend, Mo who was the only character who felt honest and believable.  Everyone else seemed flat - especially Liv who came off as too self absorbed.  I guess I just didn't 'get' Liz.  Her character was one-dimensional and I couldn't whole-heartedly get behind her determination to keep the painting at all costs.  The romance aspect was also a little too convenient to be believable.

I was very torn about this book and had, perhaps, overly high expectations after loving "Me Before You" so much.  While the writing is good, the characters and storyline (specifically the modern-day London storyline) just didn't grab me.  I found the ending too predictable with all of the loose ends tied up too neatly.

While this book may not be my favourite I would still classify it as a good escapist read.  But if you want to see Moyes at her finest please read her 'Me Before You' which was truly stellar.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Right Thing

Author: Amy Connor
Genre: Modern Fiction
Type: Kindle e-book ARC
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Kensington Books
First Published: May 27, 2014
First Line: "Jackson, Mississippi, 1990 -- I am thirty-five years old and running out of time."

Book Description from GoodReads: On a scorching August day in 1963, seven-year-old Annie Banks meets the girl who will become her best friend. Skinny, outspoken Starr Dukes and her wandering preacher father may not be accepted by polite society in Jackson, Mississippi, but Annie and Starr are too busy sharing secrets and playing elaborate games of Queen for a Day to care. Then, as suddenly as she appeared in Annie's life, Starr disappears.

Annie grows up to follow the path ordained for pretty, well-to-do Jackson women--marrying an ambitious lawyer, filling her days with shopping and charity work. She barely recognizes Starr when they meet twenty-seven years after that first fateful summer, but the bond formed so long ago quickly re-emerges. Starr, pregnant by a powerful married man who wants her to get out of town, has nowhere to turn. And Annie, determined not to fail her friend this time, agrees to drive Starr to New Orleans to get money she's owed.

During the eventful road trip that follows, Annie will confront the gap between friendship and responsibility between her safe, ordered existence and the dreams she's grown accustomed to denying.

Moving, witty, and beautifully told, The Right Thing is a story of love and courage, the powerful impact of friendship, and the small acts that can anchor a life--or, with a little luck, steer it in the right direction at last.

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Kengsington Books for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My ReviewThe Right Thing is, in essence, a coming of age story for two unlikely friends, Annie and Starr.  It's a story about friendship, learning to love yourself and that all of our choices have consequences. 

We see Annie struggle between doing the 'right thing' and doing the right thing for her own happiness.  Starr, on the other hand, came off a little to clichéd for my tastes and didn't have nearly the character development that we saw in Annie.   She was refreshing, to say the least, but I would have loved to have gotten her side of things as the story weaves back and forth from the present day to the girls' childhood in the 1960's.

Normally I'm not an overly emotional reader so I was pleasantly surprised at how well The Right Thing pulled emotional feelings out of me.  From laughing at the Queen for a Day incident, to seeing a glimpse into Starr's family life, to feeling Annie's devastating loss the author was able to get me to feel for what the characters were going through.

I suppose the one thing that would have upped my rating is if their 'eventful road trip' was a bit more exciting.  I was expecting the road trip to be more of a Thelma and Louise-type trip but in the end it was just OK and a lot briefer than I was expecting.  With the predictable ending that packaged things up a little too nicely, I just couldn't give this book higher marks.

I will say that the writing in this debut novel was solid, the character development was fair and the premise was promising.  This was a very easy, laid back read and people with connections to the South will especially love the southern touches.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Friday, 6 June 2014

In The Mirror

Author: Kaira Rouda
Genre: Modern Fiction
Type: e-book ARC
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Real You Publishing Group
First Published: May 1, 2014
First Line: "Rolling over to get out of bed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and cringed."

Book Description from GoodReadsIf you knew you may die soon, what choices would you make?
Jennifer Benson has it all: a successful career, a perfect husband, two kids and abundant friendships. The only problem is she may be dying. IN THE MIRROR is the realistic love story about a woman facing a deadly illness, and her loves past and present. It's a story that unfolds with a delightful blend of humor and poignancy, ringing true in the heart of anyone who has ignored a warning of her own.

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to the Real You Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: In The Mirror is an honest look into the life of someone with cancer.  How this disease not only ravages a person's body, but their sense of self and impacts the lives of those they love.  As a mother and wife it tugged at my heart strings to see how Jennifer struggled to continue to be a part of her family even though she was living away from her husband and young children. The toll of the cancer on Jennifer was more than the expected exhaustion and pain.  We see her struggle to maintain some semblance of her former self.  But we also see how people's perception of her, people she knew well and loved, changed as her health deteriorated and they started to view her by her disease, not as the person they love. That aspect of the book, as well as her friendship with her fellow cancer patient Ralph, and her struggles within her marriage felt authentic. 

When a person from her past enters her life and treats her like her old, healthy, attractive self it's no wonder that Jennifer jumps at the chance to be treated normally.  But some of Jennifer's choices had me feeling a little skeptical.  She seemed overly naïve for such a smart woman.

This was an emotional read but it also had me on the edge of my seat as one of Jennifer's choices comes back to bite her.  One scene in particular was unexpected and I really liked having the tables turn on me. 

Overall, this was a good, quiet read that looks into relationships of people dealing with cancer.  How these people are treated by those that love them, how isolated they feel but also the inner fight they to conquer the disease that has taken so much from them already.  It also brings to light the stress, fear and emotional baggage of the family members of cancer patients.

In The Mirror shows the strain that a terminal illness takes on a marriage and family.  It also shows how people with serious illnesses want to be seen for who they are, not their illness.  They want to be treated normally, feel valuable, attractive and above all important in the lives of their loved ones.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Spicy Rotisserie Chicken Rub

This past weekend we spent it either relaxing on the patio, nibbling on some good eats or getting down and dirty ... in the garden.  We planted a beautiful birch tree on our front lawn and spent hours laying new mulch in all our gardens.  Sounds like work but it was a glorious weekend!

We invited my mother-in-law over for a BBQ meal.  She lives in a condo so she doesn't get to enjoy a good BBQ'd meal often.  We decided a rotisserie chicken was on the menu.  I have a great recipe on the blog called the Rotisserie Chicken {on the Q} and it is truly delicious.  This is similar but the rub has a lot more kick and you can make it as spicy as you want.  Here in our house we went fairly mild with the cayenne (and may go a little spicier next time) so if you have a stomach of steel you may want to make it spicier.

I ended up only using half of this spice mixture on the two 4lb chickens that we BBQ'd.  There's a reason we had 8lbs of bird for 3 adults and 3 kids.  Leftovers!!!  I've already used some of the extra spice mixture and leftover chicken in a pasta dish last night (um, can I just say it was super delish!?).  I also plan to try it on pork tenderloin and may even sprinkle some over buttered popcorn.  So many uses! 

Here's hoping that you all have many opportunities to use this rub whilst sitting on your own patios and decks this summer.  Enjoy!

Yield: approx. 1 cup of mixture

1/4 cup sea salt
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp. + 1 tsp brown sugar, packed
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
2tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I'd probably go up to 1 tsp next time)
2 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients.  Keep in an air-tight container until ready to use.

Preparing a chicken for the rotisserie:
Rinse the chicken, inside and out, with cold water.  Pat dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle rub mixture all over the chicken until coated.

Put chicken on the rotisserie skewer, ensuring that you truss it up good and tight (with kitchen twine) so the legs and wings are snug to the body.  Secure on each end with rotisserie rods. 

Place chicken on the BBQ and cook for 10 minutes on high using the rotisserie burner on your BBQ.  Reduce heat to medium until the internal temperature reaches 165F in the breast.  Try not to peek too much because you'll let out the heat you've created in the 'Q!

Our two birds took about 60-90 minutes to fully cook but Brad (my resident BBQ guru) says the most important thing is to follow the internal temperature of the bird, not necessarily the time.

Tent chicken under foil for 10 minutes (this is important!  Don't skip it!) and then carve.  Save some leftovers for pasta, chicken sandwiches, quesadillas ....  The options are endless!

Inspired by

Monday, 2 June 2014

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

Author: Helen Rappaport
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Kindle e-book ARC
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: June 3, 2014
First Line: "The day they sent the Romanovs away the Alexander Palace became a forlorn and forgotten place - a palace of ghosts."

Book Description from GoodReadsThey were the Princess Dianas of their day—perhaps the most photographed and talked about young royals of the early twentieth century. The four captivating Russian Grand Duchesses—Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia Romanov—were much admired for their happy dispositions, their looks, the clothes they wore and their privileged lifestyle.

Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it.

The Romanov Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, World War I and the Russian Revolution. Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries and archival sources, as well as private collections. It is a book that will surprise people, even aficionados

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to St Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

My Review:  Ever since reading The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello in late 2012 I've found myself intrigued about the Romanov family. I knew very little about the Russian royals until that point but the mystery surrounding their deaths was quite captivating.

So I went into this book eager to learn more about this mysterious family. I wanted to gain insight into the four daughters who were famous beyond belief and into an era that I knew little about.  Unfortunately I left this book feeling that I hadn't really learned more about the girls. 

From the title I was assuming that the book would focus on the four sisters.  But instead it seemed that a lot of time was focused on Alexandra, the girls' mother.  I realize that some history about Alexandra was needed (and quite interesting actually) but when the book is titled The Romanov Sisters I was assuming the bulk of the book would be about Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.

If I'm being honest, this book came off very dry for me because I went into this book hoping to get a deeper, personal look into the very secluded lives of the four Romanov sisters.  Unfortunately the book felt like more of a textbook with little to no emotional development of the characters.  It's this disconnection with the characters that ultimately hurt my enjoyment of the book.

The use of diary entries and personal letters added some authenticity to the story.  You can tell that Ms Rappaport is very knowledgeable and passionate about the Romanovs. I appreciate the amount of research that went into this book and I wanted to love this book but ultimately I really struggled to get through it. 

People who are more knowledgeable about the Romanovs may enjoy this book more but for a Romanov novice like myself I needed more connection to the characters to keep me invested in the story.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars 

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