Fiction · Historical Fiction · Sue S

The Hours Count | by Jillian Cantor

The Hours Count

The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor
(Riverhead Books, 2015, 385 pages)

I enjoyed reading The Hours Count, a historical fiction novel by Jillian Cantor, although the outcome was sad. Some books are hard to get into right away but this one held my attention from the beginning. The story kept me guessing almost to the very end. This is the second book I have read by Jillian Cantor, the first being The Lost LetterI recommend them both, especially if you enjoy historical fiction.  Below is the description from Goodreads:

On June 19, 1953, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed for conspiring to commit espionage. The day Ethel was first arrested in 1950, she left her two young sons with a neighbor, and she never came home to them again. Brilliantly melding fact and fiction, Jillian Cantor reimagines the life of that neighbor, and the life of Ethel and Julius, an ordinary-seeming Jewish couple who became the only Americans put to death for spying during the Cold War.

A few years earlier, in 1947, Millie Stein moves with her husband, Ed, and their toddler son, David, into an apartment on the eleventh floor in Knickerbocker Village on New York’s Lower East Side. Her new neighbors are the Rosenbergs. Struggling to care for David, who doesn’t speak, and isolated from other “normal” families, Millie meets Jake, a psychologist who says he can help David, and befriends Ethel, also a young mother. Millie and Ethel’s lives as friends, wives, mothers, and neighbors entwine, even as chaos begins to swirl around the Rosenbergs and the FBI closes in. Millie begins to question her own husband’s political loyalty and her marriage, and whether she can trust Jake and the deep connection they have forged as they secretly work with David. Caught between these two men, both of whom have their own agendas, and desperate to help her friends, Millie will find herself drawn into the dramatic course of history.

As Millie—trusting and naive—is thrown into a world of lies, intrigue, spies and counterspies, she realizes she must fight for what she believes, who she loves, and what is right.

3.5/5 stars

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Fiction · Historical Fiction · Julia P

The Fortunes | by Peter Ho Davies

The Fortunes

The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, 288 pages)

This book jumped up on my to-read list after I was going through potential titles for our campus book club. The Fortunes is told from the perspective of four different characters at four different points in American history. Through their eyes we see the reality of the Chinese American experience in this country. The book begins shortly after the Gold Rush when Chinese immigrants were recruited to build railroads and ends in the present-day with a couple in China in the process of adopting a child.

The Fortunes was an engrossing read that inspired me to want to learn more about the issues and people that were portrayed in the book. I definitely recommend it to those who are fans of literary fiction, historical fiction, multi-generational novels, the immigrant experience, American history… you get the picture 🙂

4/5 stars

Fiction · Heather D · Historical Fiction · Humor · Juvenile

Worst Class Trip Ever | by Dave Barry

The Worst Class Trip Ever (The Worst, #1)

Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
(Disney-Hyperion, 2015, 224 pages)

A chaotic class trip to DC starts on the plane ride there, when an 8th grader named Wyatt and his friend Matt are convinced that these two suspicious men are carrying a detonator to possibly blow up the White House. They decided to take matters into their own hands (literally) and a few fellow classmates get involved. Are they going to be able to save the day?

If you are looking for a book with a hysterical, steady-paced story that has an unexpected twist, this might just be what you are looking for. It is not realistic but it is just plain fun. A great read for juvenile comedy fans.

5/5 stars

Fiction · Historical Fiction · Jean R · Mystery

Closed Casket | by Sophie Hannah

Closed Casket (New Hercule Poirot Mysteries, #2)

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah
(William Morrow, 2016, 299 pages)

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah features Agatha Christie’s famous detective, Hercule Poirot. In this novel, Hercule Poirot along with an inspector from Scotland Yard and several other guests is invited to the Irish mansion of Lady Playford. Lady Playford has decided to change her will. At dinner, Lady Playford announces that she is leaving her entire fortune to her dying secretary rather than her two children. As you might expect, the secretary does not live to see morning. Who killed him? Poirot is on the case.

The estate of Agatha Christie authorized Sophie Hannah to use Hercule Poirot in her novel. Hannah has written one other Poirot mystery entitled The Monogram Murders. Closed Casket did hold my interest, but the mystery is not as intricately woven as a Christie novel.

3/5 stars

Fiction · Historical Fiction · Julia P · Quick Read! · Race · Romance

An Extraordinary Union | by Alyssa Cole

An Extraordinary Union (The Loyal League #1)

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
(Kensington, 2017, 263 pages)

This historical romance offered a unique twist on what we normally see. Set during the Civil War we are introduced to Elle and Malcolm as the country is first struggling to come to grips with what’s happening. Elle is a free black woman working undercover as a slave to spy for the Union. Malcolm is a white man who is also spying for the Union, though in the guise of a Confederate soldier. When the two realize they’re supposed to be working together things get complicated. They have to keep their identities secret from those around them, but at the same time there’s an attraction they’re both trying to fight… Can they accomplish the task at hand without blowing their cover or falling for each other?

I appreciated the diverse angle this romance took. It got high praise and while I wanted to like it more than I did, I can understand why it got so much attention. If you’re in the market for a unique historical romance (that’s not overly steamy) this could be just what you’re looking for.

3/5 stars

Fiction · Historical Fiction · Julia P · Name in Title · Re-telling

Mr. Rochester | by Sarah Shoemaker

Mr. Rochester

Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker
(Grand Central Publishing, 2017, 453 pages)

I will always love Jane Eyre (it’s even my default search when I have to test out the library catalog or a database 😉 ). It’s a classic that never gets old. I’ve read a number of Eyre-inspired novels that had something of a moment over the past couple years. This one takes a different approach in attempting to offer Edward Rochester’s back-story to better understand him. Shoemaker did a great job capturing the language and essence of Bronte’s world.

I was really into it at the beginning but the end of the book felt a bit rushed to me. Arguably, this was a text meant to provide Rochester’s origin story so it makes sense that most of the novel focused on his life pre-Jane. However, given the nature of this novel’s readership, it would have been nice to have a little more of the Jane/Edward relationship fleshed out. Even with that caveat, I think fans of Jane Eyre will appreciate this novel. Despite its “high” page count it was a relatively quick read.

3/5 stars