First line: There are two versions of the events of 1887. One is very well known, but the other is not.
Everyone has heard the story of Jack the Ripper. He haunted the streets
of Whitechapel preying on women. His victims known as the canonical
five are Polly, Annie, Elisabeth, Catherine and Mary Jane. His story has
been researched and turned over hundreds of times but very little is
actually known about the women whose lives he took. Here are their
My Thoughts: I have recommended this book to
anyone and everyone! I was completely engrossed in it. It is thoroughly
researched and well written. It reads like fiction and is easy to get
caught up in these women’s lives. I found myself hoping for better
outcomes as I read even though I knew how each of their stories was a
going to end.
Rubenhold brings these women and the times that
they lived to the forefront. Everyone thinks that they know the victims.
They were prostitutes right? Wrong. Some were but not all five. Each
has a story to tell. I could not believe the detail put into their
narratives. Using housing records, census, interviews and newspaper
reports we get fuller picture of their lives.
romanticize the Victorian time period but it was anything but ideal.
People were barely able to care for their families. Housing was not
always safe or healthy. Disease, alcoholism and poverty were prevalent.
How people survived is astounding.
If you love history, true
crime or biographies than this is perfect for you. It is full of
information that will keep you reading until the very end.
FYI: There is very little mentioned about Jack the Ripper. This book focuses on the women only and the time that they lived.
First line: It is hot and airless on the 7.42 from Greenwich to Cannon Street.
Mudlarker Lara Maiklem spends hours walking miles along the riverbank
of the Thames in London. In her wanderings she finds little trinkets
that give us a look into the English past. She has found items ranging
from the Romans to modern day trash.
My Thoughts: I absolutely devoured this book. I first heard about it on a podcast, Talking Tudors, hosted by Natalie Grueninger. In one of her recent releases she talked with Lara about her upcoming book and the Tudor related finds she has discovered in the mud of the river. Immediately after listening to it I had to find a copy to read. Thank goodness Netgalley had it available.
I really enjoyed how the author laid
out the book. She started at one end of the Thames and worked her way
to the sea. As she described her finds she also delved into her past,
experiences on the foreshore and other mudlarks and their finds. I loved
learning about the items she found. I was constantly on the internet
looking for pictures of these items and reading more history behind
them. I am really jealous of the items she has in her curio cabinet. I
am seriously thinking about getting a day pass to mudlark the next time I
am in London. Or can I mudlark in Kansas?
FYI: Lara Maiklem is on Facebook and Instagram. If you want to see her finds and hear more about mudlarking then check them out.
Blanche Auzello, the wife of the Ritz hotel director, is living a
beautiful life in Paris until June 1940 when the Nazis invade. They take
over the grand hotel and life changes drastically. Life under the
occupation becomes strained especially for Blanche who is hiding a
secret that could potentially harm her and those she loves. However, she
and her husband are determined to do what they can for France and the
staff of the Ritz, even if it means their lives are forfeit.
I am a big fan of Melanie Benjamin. Her novels are always very
interesting and filled with fascinating women. I had never heard of
Blanche or her husband before picking up this novel. It sounds like life
in Paris was very tense during the occupation but not nearly as bad as I
imagined it would be. It seems as if people continued to live life as
normal as possible during those years.
One of the issues I had
with the story was that it seemed to almost center on her husband,
Claude, rather than her. He references her often and thinks about her
during his chapters but he almost takes over the narrative. And
strangely I enjoyed his storyline more than hers. He could be a jerk but
his story was more interesting except for when Blanche was with her
FYI: Perfect for fans of Kate Quinn’s book, The Alice Network.
Summary: As the Revolution is coming to a close Alexander Hamilton and his new bride, Eliza Schuyler, are learning that being married is not always easy. Alex is setting up his law offices and Eliza is establishing their home. The long hours at the office defending Loyalist clients puts a strain on the young couple. Will they be able to continue their love story or will it crumble?
Highlights: I enjoyed the story of their early marriage. De la Cruz does a good job of portraying how hard it would be to try to find a balance in this new country. I particularly liked the struggle of a young patriot having to defend the wife of a Loyalist. He must have faced lots of ridicule from other members of his party.
Lowlights: This is young adult and it feels like it. The love and feelings are very immature. However, it does as good job of bringing the history to a young audience.
First line: There was an angry bellow from inside the woodcutter’s hovel; the woman, struggling up from the stream with a heavy bucket of icy water in each hand, raised her head and shouted back.
Summary: In the fourth installment of Philippa Gregory’s young adult series we follow Luca, Isolde and their companions on their journey. As they stumble into a small village, they find the townspeople besieged by a troupe of dancers. However, these are no ordinary dancers. These dancers seem to be possessed. What is causing this dance sickness and how can it be cured? These are just a few of the questions Luca wants to find out. But when Isolde is taken by the dancing fever the need to find a cure becomes even more important.
Highlights: I have really enjoyed Gregory’s young adult novels. She is my favorite author. Her historical fiction is amazing. She does a great job of describing the time. This is a great way to get younger readers interested in the past. Even as an adult, I learn new bits of information with each story. I also really like the covers. But if you have read my other reviews you know how much I love a good cover!
Lowlights: These are definitely for young adult. They are not as in-depth and detailed but still gets the story told in a fun and interesting way.
First line: I often think of what Hendrich said to me, over a century ago, in his New York apartment.
Summary: Tom Hazard may look like an ordinary man but he is anything but. He is several hundred years old. He has seen the world change from Elizabethan England to the modern era. Sounds like a dream right? Maybe so but it can be lonely. When a group called the Albatross Society discovers him, he learns that there are many more people like him. Their main rule is to never fall in love. It complicates things. Tom has led many different lives but now he takes on a role that could jeopardize his existence, a history teacher. When he intrigues a fellow teacher, he has to decide if it is worth it to break from the rules of society or start over again.
“I sometimes want to stop time. I sometimes want, in a happy moment, for a church bell never to ring again. I want not to ever have to go to the market again. I want for the starlings to stop flying in the sky…But we are all at the mercy of time.”
Such a great story! I love the thought that someone can live forever and see so many things. I would love to be able to see the world of Shakespeare and the Roaring Twenties. These are iconic times in history. Being a history major, this book was right up my alley.
“It’s not that long ago, not really. History is right here, Anton. It’s breathing down our necks.”
I like that Tom does age. He is not immortal. He just ages slower than the average person does. He has demons. He wants to know what and who he is. He feels guilt. He knows love. He is a flawed character instead of the perfect ones in many stories of immortals. He has made mistakes and learned from them. He has not collected tons of wealth and profited off his condition. He has lived. He has searched for years for someone and never given up.
Lowlights: I listened to part of this on audiobook. The reader was good but when there are many changes from time and location it makes that story harder to follow. Tom often looks back at his past in order to help explain his present. However, while reading it flowed much easier.
FYI: It is already optioned to be a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch!
First line: Cemeteries are usually viewed with reservation.
Summary: Filled with helpful tips on how to plan, research and preserve information that can be found at cemeteries. This book describes different symbols, types and information about gravestones and their meanings. It also walks the reader through websites and online tools that can help a novice or experienced genealogist on their journey of discovering their family history.
Highlights: I loved seeing the different types of stones and the symbols with their meanings. I never considered that the type could tell you about the finances or social status of my ancestor. All the hints and tips about ways to search for information were helpful. As I was reading, I would open a browser and try them out on my tree. I have a few illusive ancestors and I tried using the tips to discover more about them. I still have not found their death dates but I have learned other little tidbits about their lives. I hope to continue to find more with time.
Lowlights: There was a lot of information that I was familiar with so it was a little slow going through that but at no fault of the author. I like that they walk the reader through the process of signing up and searching.
First line: It was a large canvas, big enough that it had taken two men to carry it into Il Magnifico’s chambers.
Summary: Simonetta, a new bride to Marco Vespucci, is considered the most beautiful woman in Florence. When she meets the rising star, Sandro Botticelli at the home of Lorenzo de Medici, she becomes the muse for the artist. He uses her as the model for one of his most famous works, The Birth of Venus.
Highlights: I really enjoyed the story. I love the time and the history of the Medici family. They were leaders of the Republic of Florence as well as supporters of the Renaissance in Italy. I had never heard of Simonetta Vespucci before reading this but since I have Googled her to see the paintings done by Botticelli. The writing was well done and flowed nicely. This is a good example of historical fiction. It has just enough history to learn from but is not filled with facts. I plan to read the author’s debut novel soon.
Lowlights: I got tired of the repetition of her being the most beautiful woman and being used to having people stare at her. It is the title of the book. It was too much. I did not need to be reminded.
FYI: Check out the artwork of Botticelli. It is amazing!
The first few weeks of school are out of the way, the mornings are a little cooler, and we can always find more excuses reasons to read, right? There are some books that look like they will be great reading as fall makes its way to Kansas. So take a look at a few books we think are worth noticing as the pumpkins start to ripen.
Click on the title to go to the library catalog where you can see if the book is available and put it on hold. Grab your favorite hot drink, find a comfy chair and sit and read for a while!
Sept. 19: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
Jane was raised by her Aunt Magnolia, a deep sea photographer and adjunct professor. But now Jane is a year out of high school and Aunt Magnolia got lost during an expedition to Antarctica a few months ago. Jane is now obsessed with the umbrellas that reflect her dreams. When she is invited to a gala at the island mansion Magnolia told her to absolutely go to if she ever got the chance, Jane goes. What Jane doesn’t know yet is that every choice made in the mansion comes with a reward, or a price.
Sept. 19: The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille
Daniel “Mac” MacCormick is a decorated U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan during his 5-year stint as an infantry officer. Now he owns a 42-foot charter fishing boat and is sitting in a bar waiting to hear why he should take a $2,000,000 fare to Cuba. After hearing Sara’s story of the $60,000,000 her grandfather hid during the revolution, he knows that he’ll either come away from this job rich, or he won’t come back at all.
This father-and-son collaboration explores the question of what might happen if the women of the world disappeared. From Goodreads: “In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing.”
Sept. 26: The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan (non-fiction)
If you have been to Asheville, North Carolina, and visited the Biltmore Estate, or if you’ve never been to North Carolina and only seen pictures of the Biltmore Estate, this book tells the magnificent story of how the country’s grandest residence was built. However, the book is more than just the story of how a 175,000-square-foot home was built. You’ll also learn the story of George Vanderbilt and Edith Stuyvessant Dresser.
Sept. 26: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (for young readers)
From Goodreads: “Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood ‘wishtree’—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this ‘wishtree’ watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever. “
First Line: Like a latter-day Greek temple, the Schuyler family mansion sat atop a softly rounded hill outside Albany.
Summary: Eliza Schuyler is the daughter of a wealthy general. Alexander Hamilton is the right hand man of General George Washington. When the two meet at Eliza’s home, the first encounter is not the one of fairy tales. However, when they meet up again several months later their friendship grows and a romance for the ages is born in the midst of the American Revolution.
Highlights: This is a very quick read and great for a first book about Alexander Hamilton. With the popularity of the musical, Hamilton, this book is appearing at just the right time. I know very little about the man who had a key role in the establishment of our country. I am a huge fan of Melissa de la Cruz. I think she does a good job of bringing this story to readers in a YA version.
Lowlights: The book is almost more juvenile than YA usually are. I expected a little more surrounding the war. I do plan to read the next one as well.
FYI: Perfect introduction into the story of Alexander Hamilton.