Book Review: Historical Fiction

Book Review: Playing with Bonbon Fire by Dorothy St. James

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Why This Book 
I belong to a cozy mystery group that offers a few giveaways to read ARCS each month. I won Playing With Bonbon Fire by Dorothy St. James and picked it up in between my Agatha Christie Readathon books this week. I adore cozy mysteries, have a sweet spot for chocolate, and am growing more interested in living in the southern part of the US. Good combo, eh?
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Approach & Style 
It took me 3 hours to read a hard copy of this ~335 page novel, the second in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series. It is told in 1st person point-of-view with the perspective focused solely on the main character, Charity Penn (see more on her later). It has a typical cozy feel with easy flow from chapter to chapter, dialog, and descriptions. I usually read books in order, but this had a rush due date to deliver a review, so I couldn’t go back to the first one. I think it’s important to read this series in order, as there are details about the character in the first book that would have been helpful, but still, it was a quick and fun read.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Charity Penn, known simply as Penn because she dislikes her first name, inherited the chocolate shop from her maternal grandmother. She was abandoned my her mother at birth, delivered to her rich but seemingly difficult or abrasive father and his family. She grew up feeling alone and isolated, but is starting to develop a better relationship with her half-sister, Tina. Penn hasn’t quite adapted to cooking and running the bonbon shop, but she has support from her late grandmother’s friends and wants to make the woman proud. In this caper, Tina sends ex-boyfriend, Bixby, to help sing with his band at the town’s festival, as it will help cement Penn in a more admired role. The town hasn’t quite warmed up to her yet, and her grandmother’s other children don’t believe she’s really one of them or should have inherited the shop. All she wants is to find her mother who disappeared years ago. Bixby suddenly fights with another band at the festival over rights to a song, and then the current song owner winds up dead. Penn’s mother’s history is tied up in this mystery and it all comes to a head in a big scene at the end of the book. She now knows who her mother is!

Key Thoughts 
It’s a good example of a typical cozy mystery with a few standout moments, including the connections and mysteries surrounding Penn’s family (both her mother’s and her father’s sides), the bonds she has with a few of her late grandmother’s friends helping to transition the store, and the romances she could potentially have with some of the men in the town. I like Penn’s personality and style and she seems to have a fair balance of when to push and when to back away in terms of investigating any crimes. I like that there’s only one or two recipes so we don’t lose too much page space to non-story items. I also enjoyed the descriptions of how she works in the bakery preparing food and securing the chocolate beans from a remote South American jungle.

The mystery was medium-complex with a few red herrings and several paths to trace before landing at the true culprit. It kept me guessing most of the way through and even had me traveling down a wrong path. One of the issues I had was not knowing a few people’s ages, so I could never be sure if they were a candidate to be Penn’s mother and/or date someone else. Of course people can date someone a generation older or younger, but it’s not that common in a cozy mystery so I was trying to line it all up. That said, when the details came out, it was believable, but a tad rushed. We stumble upon the criminal and learn some secrets, yet we don’t quite get all the details surrounding the why/how from ~35 years ago when a song was created… but it mostly all fits together. I think it just needed a bit more detail and explanation, but that could be coming in the next book in the series. I’m open-minded!

Summary 
I’d give the book 3.5 stars and would recommend it as a solid read. I see a lot of potential in the series with the family drama and the chocolate shop, but the ending came a bit too quickly, so there is some room for growth. All in all, I’m glad I read this one and will definitely read more in the series and from this author.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

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I’ve reviewed ~575 books in the last few years and don’t often give out 5 stars. I can be a bit stingy as I want the book to just completely knock me over. Ken Follett is one of few authors who consistently impress, excite, and satisfy this thirst. The Pillars of the Earth came very close. World Without End hit the mark and is one of my top 5 all-time favorite books. In the third book in the Kingsbridge series, A Column of Fire, I am again thoroughly exhilarated and awarding 5 stars. I do think World Without End is slightly better, but this was superb on so many levels. I’m doubly blessed as I won this book through a Goodreads Giveaway and my blog followers selected it as my April 2018 Book Bucket List read. It was also a buddy read with a wonderful friend.

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At the outset, this is a book covering the impact on several families and towns throughout Europe during the religious wars in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. From Spain to Europe, Scotland to England, and even parts of Africa and the Caribbean, this book tracks the various changing of the guard under Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, as well as other claimants to the throne, Mary of Scots and James I. Some are Catholic. Some are Protestant. Who will win? History knows, and many readers familiar with these facts know. But it doesn’t spoil the beauty of this absolutely stunning series of novels by Follett. He’s crafted an amazing set of towns, families, bonds and rivalries over a period of 60 years in this particular third novel where the tides turn every 5 to 10 years, or every 100 to 200 pages (yes, it’s nearly 1000 pages long). Your heart breaks. Your eyes bulge. People could be horrible. They could be kind. Persecution in the name of religion truly happened, and while some find this book taking advantage of history to present drama… my response is basically — Umm… yeah, it’s historical fiction and that’s the point. If you want a 100% accurate book, go read a non-fiction account.

With a tome of this length, my review could go on forever. I plan to keep it shorter than that. Ned Willard is the protagonist, and the novel follows his life from a teenager to a 70-year-old man through which time he has many lovers, wives, friends, and family. He is one of the most respectable characters I’ve ever met in a book, and while he certainly does a few things that I’d consider wrong by today’s standards, he was a visionary nearly 500 years ago. His treatment of others despite their beliefs, gender, race, or status were fantastic. He acted the act when he needed to but always to achieve a goal to ultimately help people. And he suffered… more than any man should.

If you’ve never read Follett before, you are truly missing out. If you’ve not read this 3-book series, you are missing out. It’s nearly 3,000 pages in total, but you don’t have to read all 3. You can choose just one and read them out of order. They’re set about 100 years apart, so you may miss a few details and connections, but nothing to throw you off. I’m going to be in a book daze for weeks. And maybe years since I don’t expect him to write another one in the series, but if he does, it will be at least 5 years based on the last few. This makes me sad. But I can always re-read them. And I will. They are that good. Seriously… who chooses to re-read 3000 pages again?

Huge amounts of plot and drama. Sometimes you’ll think “that’s just too much” but truly…. much of this ACTUALLY happened. It may have been different characters or a slightly different order. But people were cruel back then. They killed for no reason. Religion was a mega prompt for doing bad things. (Hey, wait, that happens today, too…). So in theory, this is such a statement about people and life and the lessons we fail to learn century after century. But for the most part, I look at this as a way to step into a different world, one that fascinates me. I forget any true facts I know about the life of these monarchs and pretend it’s all new to me. It makes me smile. I rush to the book each night to devour more pages. And I gush… because this was a buddy read with my friend Noriko in Japan. I can’t wait to catch up with her about this again!

I’ll end here not because I am out of things to say, but because I have so many more books to read. And I’d rather chat about it than extend my review. So if you’ve read it, message me. Would love to discuss Follett with ya!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

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Last year, I read another novel by Nicola Cornick and found myself eager to try The Phantom Tree when I saw it listed on NetGalley. I was awarded the book about a month ago and scheduled it for this week. If you’ve never read something from Cornick, think of it as a combination of historical fiction, fantasy, romance and mystery. All four elements are usually incorporated into her style and provide a very intense and sometimes Gothic read. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from her.

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This story takes place in two different time periods in the UK — the mid 16th century and modern times. In modern times, a ~30ish woman named Alison has re-connected with a former boyfriend who has announced a discovery that he’s found a portrait of Anne Boleyn, a rarity. Alison knows this is really a painting of Mary Seymour, the daughter of Queen Katherine Parr (Henry VIII’s last wife) and her second husband. But how does she know? And will she and Adam reunite or will the reasons they separated a decade ago still keep them apart? In the 16th century, Mary and her cousin are teenage girls dealing with the potential of forced marriages and interested lovers. One becomes pregnant. Another seems destined to be a witch. But then something odd happens, the girls are separated, and the child is lost seemingly forever. How are the stories connected? Who’s related to whom in the current day? It’s quite a fantastical story, but one I really adored.

My favorite aspects of Cornick’s novels are her writing style. Pages will describe a scene or a setting and you are immediately transported there. It’s lyrical and haunting at the same time. Occasionally it can be a lot to handle (I’m often a plot guy), but it’s breathtaking to just read a few paragraphs from time to time. You’ll know how writers live in their heads coming up with something so detailed they can’t help but want to share it with their readers.

I also really connect with the historical truths in the books. Mary Seymour was thought to have died quite young and disappeared, but some feel she actually survived. Cornick takes that notion and runs with it in this book, and while parts are fabricated, it’s woven in such an endearing way, you like the fictional components. It draws you in and gives you a fair balance of story and facts. That’s the kind of read I enjoy!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Impact of a Single Event by R. L. Prendergast

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In the Fall of 2017, I won The Impact of a Single Event by R.L. Prendergast in a Goodreads Giveaway. I was finally able to make time to read it, and I’m so sorry I waited this long. It was superb! I initially entered the contest because it was about the passing of a journal over a 150+ year period throughout a few different connected families. Writing and genealogy, how could I not love it? At about ~280 pages, it is such an easy-to-read novel, I devoured it in about 3 hours one afternoon.

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Sonia and Richard, a couple in their mid to late 30’s, stop on the road to help victims of a car accident. After the ambulance arrives and carts the couple to the hospital, Sonia and Richard find the journal among the victims’ belongings, then rush to the hospital to drop it all off. From there, the book alternates chapters tracing the lineage of the journal back 6 generations and discussing the impact of it on Sonia and Richard’s current lives. We learn more about what’s going on with Sonia and Richard in their chapters and understand what troubles they face, but we also see how the journal was used by each of the 6 people who’d previously written in it. In the final chapter, Sonia and Richard leave their own imprint when the journal finds its way back to their hands.

Much of the writing style and language in this book is absolutely enchanting. In the first 75%, I found myself turning pages without even realizing how much time had passed by. It was so engaging. When I hit the final chapter, I was less interested only because it became a bit more Eat/Pray/Love journey, which while fascinating, isn’t something I can easily grasp when it’s set in 1860s India. I’m just not familiar enough with the country, religions, or the history, but for the right reader, this will be, I’m certain, a phenomenal journey. That said, it was still beautiful, and if that final chapter (the longest) was more like the rest, I would have given this 5 stars. It was more a case of reader disconnect and not anything the writer had done. It was written well, just hard for me to connect when the main character of that journal entry was hiding in a jungle hoping not to be eaten by a tiger! I tend to prefer something a bit more concrete with just a dose of philosophy.

The way the journal is handed off from person to person is breathtaking. The characters are rich and vibrant. The jump from time periods is virtually effortless. And there’s a great family tree graphic in the beginning to help you understand how everyone’s connected, but in all honesty, it’s not necessary despite how complicated the story can get. And there’s a wonderful surprise at the end which I wasn’t expecting.

It’s a high recommendation from me if you like books to move you and take you on a journey. But you need to be comfortable with missing details, getting in your head, and taking a leap of faith in philosophy. Kudos to the author for one of the most seamlessly written books of this nature I’ve read before.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict

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Book Review: 4 out of 5 stars to Carnegie’s Maid, a historical fiction novel set to be published in January 2018 by Marie Benedict.

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Why This Book 
I saw this show up on NetGalley and wanted to read something about the Carnegie family. I’ve been on a hunt to read/learn more about all the “tycoons” of America, curious about all the connections between them. I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction, so I requested this one and was approved. I picked it up last month because of a trip to the Vanderbilt Estate, even though it’s a different family. Wanted to immerse myself in the culture before the trip.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Andrew Carnegie, a leading member of one of America’s tycoon families, has settled in Pittsburgh with his mother and brother. A woman who leaves Ireland to help earn money to send her family back home, learns that the lady’s maid hired for Mrs. Carnegie has died during the Atlantic voyage. She takes her place and becomes Clara Kelly, despite not having all the knowledge a lady’s maid should have. She learns quickly, befriends some of the other staff, even fights with a few. Over time, she convinces everyone she is a good maid, but there is much more to her than they realize; she’s got strong business acumen and become a confidante of sorts to Mrs. Carnegie’s son, Andrew. Their relationship grows and begins to cause a few folks to question what is going on in the Carnegie household. This is a story about the relationship between the Carnegie family and their staff, love between two unexpected souls and the vicious rules of society.

Approach & Style 
I read the Kindle version on my iPad over 3 days. It is about 250 pages with short chapters, told from the perspective of Mrs. Carnegie’s maid during the 1860s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, America.

Strengths 
The story is simple and complex, quite beautifully told from the maid’s perspective. Only she’s so much more than a maid, and you can hear every bit of pain and love in her voice. Benedict does a fantastic job at transporting us to the setting of the story, which makes it a strong connection. It’s a slow-build to see and feel the love, but quite believable.

I learned a bit about how Carnegie grew to fame and fortune. The book has made me curious to know how much of this story is true, hence why I am on the lookout for a biography on him and the family. A good author makes that happen… thanks, Ms. Benedict!

We only see a glimpse (less than ten years) of the life between these characters, then it jumps to when they are much older. I loved seeing a future glance rather than everything that happened over the years after Andrew and Clara met. Usually I don’t like missing details, but in this story, it worked quite well.

Concerns 
The writing is a little clunky at times; sometimes it’s as it should be, given the story takes place 150 years ago. But on a few occasions, I thought simpler phrases or imagery would have helped with the complexity in the differences between the time period and today.

Author & Other Similar Books 
This is the author’s second book, as she has a debut titled ‘The Other Einstein.’ I don’t know a lot about it, but I am curious to check out the description to see if it’s something I’d want to read.

I read a bunch of historical fiction and have encountered books like this before; however, seeing it about a famous American family, and learning of a potential ‘hidden’ relationship, was different and exciting.

Final Thoughts 
Good read. Quick. Informative. I liked the style. Characters well-drawn. Matches the style of the time period. Overall, better than average.

About Me 
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon @ http://mybook.to/WGS. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Book Review: If the Creek Don’t Rise by Leah Weiss

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3 out of 5 stars to If The Creek Don’t Rise, an historical fiction novel set to be published in August 2017, written by Leah Weiss. I enjoyed reading the book, selecting 3 stars because it had several strong parts but also some concerns that I’ll share later. Overall, I’m glad I read it.

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Why This Book 
I read the description of this book via NetGalley, where I search for all my ARCs, and thought it would be a great read prior to my upcoming trip to North Carolina, where I may be stopping in the same rural mountain area.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
This is an ensemble book about a cast of 10 characters in the mid 20th century who live in the rural area of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. It covers a few events that occurred to some of the townspeople in Baines Creek, providing the view points from different sides of the story. It centers around Sadie Blue, a 17-year-old girl who marries the man who has just gotten her pregnant. From there, the book covers domestic abuse, murder, religion, family, love and friendships. At its core, the novel covers the various relationships built in the town, understanding who sits back doing nothing versus who takes action when they are passionate about the outcome and protection of life.

Approach & Style 
I read the electronic version on my Kindle via an iPad over the course of five nights. The book is about 300 pages, each 20 pages long across 15 chapters. Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view, written in the first person perspective. Dialect is important given the book is recreating life during a historical time period in a very specific region where culture and society are quite different.

Strengths 
The characters are very clear and distinct. Each of the major players has a voice you will recognize and understand. Sometimes you will love them and sometimes you will hate them, but each one will leave an impression.

The setting is quite strong. You will feel transported to this rural town in the mountains. From the description, to the dialect and to the way the story unfolds, it matches what you’d expect from the constructs of this type of environment. You will feel like you are in the town.

It deals with very specific personal and family issues that will resonate will a lot of people. From a social perspective, it highlights things that happened in the past that were almost condoned or allowed to happen, due to people’s fears and lack of education or knowledge.

Concerns 
When I read the description, I thought it would be a great plot and story. But when I read the book, it was quite different. This is not a novel where a primary plot point drives the chapters. It’s a character-driven story that tells of the happenings in a small town. The plot isn’t as important as the way each of the characters interpret it. I found myself skimming pages to get to the crux of the story, but it never happened. It’s a preference style, and I think the book should be marketed differently and have an alternative description or cover summary. It would help find a different set of readers who enjoy this type of book. Had I known, I might have spent more time investing in the characters in the beginning rather than trying to piece together a plot that wasn’t going to become any more clear. That said, it’s still a well-written book and will appeal to a wide audience.

Author & Other Similar Books 
Although they are not of the same caliber, it reminded me of the book Beartown by Fredrik Backman. Both books cover highly controversial social issues within a small town, telling the story of how everyone reacts to a few critical events. Where Beartown brings a focus on plot, this book is more about how people interpret society’s values and actions.

It’s the author’s first book, but she shows a lot of promise. I would read another of her books, but I’d want to be careful to understand the plot and approach to telling the story to verify it matches with the way I like to read a book.

Final Thoughts 
In my world, a 3 is a good review. It means you had good elements and a few things I didn’t quite latch on to. If this had a little more action and some clarity around the plot and point of the book, I might have given it a 4. That said, it will definitely resonate with many readers given it has a strong pull to connect you to the characters and the setting. Hope you enjoy it.

About Me 
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Review: See What I Have Done

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See What I Have Done4 out of 5 stars to See What I Have Done, a historical fictional account of the “Lizzie Borden Axe Murders,” written by Sarah Schmidt and set to be published on August 1, 2017. Many thanks to NetGalley, Grove Atlantic Monthly Press and the author for providing me with an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) of this fantastic book.



Why This Book


I’ve become a NetGalley member and saw this in the update feeds of a few fellow Goodreads’ members. I am fascinated with historical re-telling of real-life stories and knew a little bit about the Lizzie Borden murders. I thought this would be a great way to learn more and read the debut novel of a new author. And if you’re interested in some additional facts about the whole affair, check out this site: http://www.history.com/news/9-things-….



Approach & Style


I read the electronic Kindle Reader version on my iPad over three days. The book mostly takes place over a 3-day period, covering the day before, the day of, and the day after the murders occurred. It takes place in the small Massachusetts town in the Borden home.

There are about 15 chapters with each one told from the perspective of all the main and supporting characters. You see and hear the voice of each person before or after the murders occurred, learning different facts that weren’t clear to everyone else.

I believe most of the main facts are accurate, but there is likely some embellishment in the thoughts and actions of the other characters. For example, the uncle’s motivations behind hiring a supposed accomplice are not fully explored in the book but were more detailed in real life. As is traditional in historical fiction, there is some element of drama being added in to help support some of the known information. It felt natural to me, and nothing seemed to throw me at any point, which means the author has done a fine job at telling this story.



Plot, Characters & Setting

I’m breaking this area into two sections to set the stage of what has previously occurred and what actually happens in the book. Since this is a real-life story, I don’t think any of this counts as a spoiler, but if you want to be surprised about what’s actually covered in the book, you may want to skip this review.

Background covered thru conversations
Andrew and Sarah Borden were married and had two daughters, Emma and Alice. Alice unfortunately died in infancy from dropsy. A few years later, Lizzie was born, but Sarah never quite recovered and passed away. Andrew later married Abby, who became a stepmother to his two surviving daughters. Sarah’s brother, John Morse, would visit from time to time, checking in on his nieces in their small hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts. Though they lived in somewhat poor conditions, the Bordens were very wealthy; Andrew was just unwilling to spend any money. Abby hires a house maid, Bridget, recent Irish immigrant. At first, the ladies are friendly, but over time, Abby becomes more and more difficult, which leaves Bridget wanting to escape the family’s clutches, as she feels there is a dark cloud surrounding both the family and the home. Emma loses her chance at getting married when Lizzie orchestrates a small blackmail scheme in order to keep Emma from leaving. But Emma eventually moves away from Fall River on her own, leaving Lizzie behind. Lizzie’s mental state is somewhat questionable as a result of these actions.

Action in novel
Lizzie and her father have a peculiar relationship. They love one another, but for a nearly 30 year old woman, Lizzie certainly plays a few too many games to capture his attention. She also raises pigeons in the backyard to keep her mind occupied. Lizzie does not like her stepmother, Abby, and often treats her poorly. Lizzie also plays mind games with Bridget, the house maid. Lizzie has some great lines, and quite a number of times, I had to stop reading and think about what that loon was trying to do. She might actually scare me if I met her in person, and I don’t scare easily.

The Bordens are planning to have a small party in a few days. Abby tells Bridget what needs to be cleaned and arranged, but it is too much for one person. Bridget asks Lizzie to help with some of it, but Lizzie has a fit and tells Bridget it’s not her responsibility. Bridget is trying to escape the house and has been saving up enough money. As she’s telling the neighboring house maid, Mary, Abby overhears Bridget’s confession and steals the money, so Bridget is unable to leave. Bridget is very upset and agrees to clean up for the party but begs to leave afterwards. Abby says she’ll think about it, but truly has no intention of letting Bridget leave. Andrew is off at work when a visitor arrives. It’s his former brother-in-law, John Morse, who has stopped in to check in on his nieces.

Uncle John has a flashback to a conversation the previous day with Benjamin, a somewhat friend of his, who has been hired to “do something” to Andrew Borden, as revenge for the way he treats his daughters. John sees the pain and struggle in Emma and Lizzie, and wants to teach Andrew a lesson. Benjamin hides out in the house and the barn for several hours. Andrew arrives home and is angry to learn from Abby that John has shown up unannounced. Abby then tells him that Lizzie knew earlier in the day he would be stopping, but failed to tell anyone. As revenge on his own daughter, Andrew harms her pigeons. Lizzie is distraught over the whole situation. The next morning, an odd series of events occurs involving Abby supposedly leaving to visit a sick friend, the uncle heading in to town to meet some bankers and Andrew preparing to leave for work, too. Lizzie and Bridget are mulling about the house. Bridget hears strange noises but can’t find anyone. Soon after, Lizzie comes running to find Bridget and tells her that her father has been cut. He’s resting on the couch in another room but looks very sick. Bridget runs for the doctor. Everyone assumes Abby is out with the sick friend. But events quickly turn when the cops arrive and find Abby has also been brutally murdered with an axe, just like Andrew.

Emma is brought back to the house. Benjamin is hiding out in the barn, then meets with John. John asks him why he killed Abby too, as the plan was only to harm Andrew. Benjamin wants his money, but says he never got to hurt anyone. When he arrived, he found both had already been killed. John doesn’t understand but when the cops arrive, Benjamin escapes. No one knows he was there until years later when he surprises Lizzie and asks for his money. Emma, Bridget and Lizzie band together to help clean up the house, trying to get some rest before the bodies are moved to the mortuary. Lizzie says many odd things but no one accuses her of murder. She doesn’t seem upset that her father has died, but she is also given sedatives to keep her calm. A few days later, she’s arrested but is not found guilty. The book doesn’t cover the trial, instead it’s told in a few small sections as part of the conclusion to the book. We learn what happened to Bridget, Lizzie and Emma in the future years, as well as John and Benjamin.



Strengths


I am not certain how much knowledge the author had of all the events beyond what people may have already read about or seen on TV. Perhaps she had access to all the police reports, trial summaries and information handed down to future generations. But what she’s done with it is truly amazing. She’s brought to life this once great family and shown us the complexities of living in the 1890s beneath one’s means when there was money to do things in a better way. She’s shown the crazy and tender side of Lizzie. She’s made Andrew and Abby into very peculiar people who either were indeed crazy themselves or truly just impacted by raising someone like Lizzie. Nothing is clear cut, as the author offers up scenes and emotions, but the reader gets to choose how to interpret the action. It feels very accurate from what I know of the true story. The embellishments add drama but don’t take away from the sense of reality that occurred. The writing feels authentic to the 1890s. The descriptions clearly show what the house looked like and how the family lived. I love how the murders were handled, as they weren’t. But it was fantastic. In one scene change, we go from a few missing hours of time to suddenly Lizzie yelling her father has been cut. You might think it is awkward, but it really is integrated quite well. It’s exactly representative of the missing hours in the real story, since we don’t for certain know what happened.

For those who are a tad squeamish, there are a number of scenes describing how different people react to the dead bodies. And some of these characters have an unhealthy fascination with blood and cuts. If you can’t handle a few descriptions about how some of the characters touch the bodies and want to feel where the axe has cut open flesh and bone, you may not want to read this one. I loved it, but as much as I find this kind of detail cool… what two of the characters do is absolutely insane… are there really people like that? Oh my!



Concerns


I would have liked more background on why they thought Lizzie was guilty. No evidence is provided, but very little of the arrest and trial is included in this novel. It leaves you wanting more. I would have liked to see a fact sheet in the back, letting us know what was embellished and what was real. There is some information showing the timeline of events, but you won’t know on your own without reading other literature or websites, which makes you wonder which parts are true, e.g. the whole concept of Bridget and the stolen money or the events with the pigeons.



Questions & Final Thoughts


It’s a solid book. It deserves a 4 rating, given how well the author has told a story that actually happened but with some flair and drama to make the intricacies even more complex. It is an easy read and leaves you more curious about the events and the author’s future in writing. I will definitely pick up another book if and when she writes another one.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

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