Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Carnegie's Maid

Title: Carnegie's Maid
Author: Marie Benedict
Published: January 16th 2018 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: eBook, Hardcover, 288 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.

History will never know what caused industrialist Andrew Carnegie to change direction and reinvent himself, yet Marie Benedict gives her own fictionalized account regarding an otherwise invisible member of the household staff prompting a steel magnate to building a library system so that a working class man could gain knowledge that had only been made available to the wealthy.

Clara Kelley, traveling in steerage from Ireland to Philadelphia in 1863, is mistaken for another Clara that had died during the voyage. The original Clara Kelley was a trained lady’s maid and with deception and a desperate need to send money back home to her family, the stand in Clara takes on the position tending to the intimidating Margaret Carnegie.

Clara is attracted to and intrigued by eldest son Andrew and though there are sparks of the cruel man that he can be when it comes to the steel industry, she is willing to put that aside as long as she can learn from him. She can never forget her position, or her secret, without risking her family back in Ireland, yet Andrew gives her a brief glimpse of what can be hers if only she will allow herself. All that comes crashing down when Margaret Carnegie discovers Clara’s truth and she is forced to flee into the night without a final word to Andrew.

This was a strange combination for me. The author, Marie Benedict, put in backstory, yet the book came across as shallow with no true feel of the characters. There with too much repetition and filler to the point that I wondered if this would have been a better short story than a full-length novel.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Girls in the Picture

Title: The Girls in the Picture
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Published: January 16th 2018 by Delacorte Press
Format: eBook, Hardcover, 448 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
I am not sure how I feel about this book. Melanie Benjamin reanimates two fascinating characters and weaves behind the scene details that though they may be fiction, have a ring of truth that makes the reader feel as both a voyeur and an innocent bystander. A coming of age set between the ‘flickers’ and the ‘talkies’ and how the new world order would leave some behind and offer new direction to others.

As a twice-divorced woman, Francis Marion arrived in Los Angeles and became one of Hollywood’s most influential writers between the 1915 and the 1930’s. When movies were still known as flickers, Francis was the scenarist that developed a guide for directors and actors of the silent era to follow.

Mary Pickford was the ‘girl with the curls’, Americas Sweetheart that glowed on film and had throngs of adoring fans. Her admiring public did not want her to grow up. Remembering her beginnings, she felt that she owed to her fans what they wanted even if it was in conflict with the woman she was becoming. Little did she know that once her curls were gone so was her career and her husband.

When Francis and Mary met, no one could have imagined what they would, as a team, both build and destroy. Francis became Mary’s only screenwriter. Francis created Mary’s most memorable characters and as the silent era faded and the talkies took over – only one would make the successful leap.

The beginning and end of this book were mesmerizing. The middle had angered me. Two strong women became simpering fools over the men in their lives. So, I am going to skip over that and concentrate on the strength that this team shared until it became unbearable for both. Their story unfolds in alternating chapters and Pickford’s part definitely lacks in both the storytelling and atmosphere. It is obvious from the start that this is Francis’s story and though Pickford is central, she lacks the glow that her movie persona held.

By the end, Francis has to confront one serious question. Is she responsible for the wreck of the person that Mary had become? With only the two of them left to face regret and loss, they must come to terms with whom they were and who they are now. Were they truly friends or were they co-dependent? Each only taking what the other could offer. Did Francis condemn Pickford to always be a little girl on the screen due to the very first screenplay that she had written for her? Or was it Francis’s sole intention to give Mary an on screen childhood that that she was denied?

Admitting that she took artistic license, Melanie Benjamin did not write a biography, it is a fictionalized tale of two influential women that were innovators and artists in Hollywood’s Golden Age. A story that exposes the Golden Age and lays bare the inner workings both in front of and behind the screen.

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Treacherous Curse

Title: A Treacherous Curse
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Published: January 16th 2018 by Berkley
Format: eBook, Hardcover, 352 pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Veronica Speedwell #3

I love the humor in this series, how Veronica goes out of her way to embarrass Revelstoke and in no way backs down or defers to her male counterparts.

Head of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, Sir Hugo Montgomerie, has called upon Veronica and Stoker to look into the disappearance of John de Morgan. He was last seen leaving a dig in Egypt and now both he and a priceless headpiece are missing and with a supposed curse involving the Princess Ankheset’s tomb, and also the director of the expedition dead, Veronica and her devilish mind must put the pieces together without further involving Stoker’s name or an old scandal.

Turns out that Stoker has a curious tie to de Morgan and his wife, who swears that even the room that she left him in has changed, yet Stoker cannot let himself be distracted during this case. There is too much riding on his reputation and though he is many things, he is not what he was once accused of being, and he desperately needs Veronica to standby his side and help to fight for not only his name, but to find the people behind de Morgan’s disappearance.

With Veronica’s semi-legitimate ties to the British throne, she is both protected and invisible, allowing her to delve into areas that would not be available to Revelstoke alone. Combined, this duo holds each other’s secrets and pieces together a conspiracy that will both enlighten and free Stoker. Many answers are revealed in this third book of the Veronica Speedwell series and it needs to be read slowly and thoroughly to get a deeper understanding of Revelstoke Templeton-Vane and why Veronica would fighter harder for Stoker than she would ever fight for herself.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Rough Justice

Title: Rough Justice
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Published: August 26th 1997 by Harper
Format: Paperback, 460 pages
Genre: Legal Suspense
Series: Rosato and Associates #3

After delivering her closing argument, the last thing that Marta Richter wants to know is that everything her client, Elliot Steere, told her was a lie. It was not a carjacking that caused Heb Darton’s death, but a well-orchestrated murder to cover up the information that Heb had that would bring Steere and his mini empire down. With the jury out, Marta must find additional evidence of Steere’s guilt and get him back behind bars before the jury can deliver their acquittal and there is another death.

Characters are thrown around as often as the bullets are flying, but Scottoline keeps the action tight and the characters in just enough peril to keep the reader’s attention. The attorney’s from Rosato & Associates are in the mix, yet in my opinion, are not central to the book. I know that sounds odd considering that this is the third book in the series, yet, Marta, Steere, Bobby Bogosian, Steere’s girlfriend, the jurors, and the kids on the street that knew Darnton all come to mind before I even think to remember Bennie, or Mary DiNunzio or Judy Carrier.

I wish that people would stop comparing Scottoline to other attorney authors like Turow and Grisham. For me, there is no comparison. Scottoline is her own person, an author that has found the right balance between characters, the law, and most importantly -- humor.