Shelf Control #228: Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Enemy Women
Author: Paulette Jiles
Published: 2002
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

For the Colleys of southeastern Missouri, the War between the States is a plague that threatens devastation, despite the family’s avowed neutrality. For eighteen-year-old Adair Colley, it is a nightmare that tears apart her family and forces her and her sisters to flee.

The treachery of a fellow traveler, however, brings about her arrest, and she is caged with the criminal and deranged in a filthy women’s prison. But young Adair finds that love can live even in a place of horror and despair. Her interrogator, a Union major, falls in love with her and vows to return for her when the fighting is over. Before he leaves for battle, he bestows upon her a precious gift: freedom.

Now an escaped “enemy woman,” Adair must make her harrowing way south buoyed by a promise…seeking a home and a family that may be nothing more than a memory. 

How and when I got it:

I picked up a copy at a library sale a few years ago.

Why I want to read it:

After reading News of the World last week and absolutely loving it, I was surprised and happy to realize that I had another book by Paulette Jiles already on my shelves! Isn’t it strange when that happens? I’d completely forgotten that I owned this one.

The writing in News of the World was so gorgeous, and it made me very interested in reading more of her work. From what I understand, there’s some cross-over between that book and Enemy Women, with a character from News of the World appearing here as well (I think).

I have my eye on at least one of Paulette Jiles’s other backlist books too, as well as her newest release (Simon the Fiddler). I love finding a new-to-me author whose writing just sings to me!

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!



__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Colors In the Titles (aka, I’ve got the Blues!)

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books with Colors In the Titles — what fun!

As I started looking at my shelves and my lists of books I’ve read, I definitely came away with a BLUE vibe… so here are ten sixteen*** books with Blue in their titles!

***Once I got started, it was hard to stop…

  1. Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren (review)
  2. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (review)
  3. Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall (review)
  4. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  5. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  6. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris
  7. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
  8. Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore
  9. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins
  10. Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman
  11. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (review)
  12. The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris (review)
  13. Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
  14. Blue Stars by Emily Gray Tedrowe (review)
  15. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
  16. Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire (review)

Did you do a color-themed TTT this week? Please share your links!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 8/3/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

This week’s theme was driving, apparently. My son has his learner’s permit, and practically begs me to take him driving every few hours. Plus, I’m tentatively looking for a new car, and actually did a (weirdly social distanced) test drive this week. No decisions yet… I’m very half-hearted about the whole idea.

What did I read during the last week?

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss: Terrific wrap-up to a clever, fun trilogy. My review is here.

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland: Fascinating, moving historical fiction. My review is here.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles: A short, beautiful audiobook. My review is here.

Pop culture & TV:

I’m halfway through the 5th season of Schitts Creek, and I love it so, so much. Congrats to the show and cast for all its well-deserved Emmy nominations.

And if you’re a fan, you must check out this amazing thread comparing Dan Levy to cake. Seriously, it’s just the best thing on the internet right now.

Puzzle of the week:

A fun one this week! Not particularly difficult, but I liked sorting through all the colors and patterns.

Fresh Catch:

Some of my book group friends competed in (and won!) a trivia contest, and the prize was copies of this book for all of us, and the organizer was kind enough to send me one! We’re going to read this as a group early in 2021, but I may need to read it on my own sooner. Sounds terrific!

And, I won a Goodreads giveaway! The book arrived this week:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Peace Talks (Dresden Files, #16) by Jim Butcher: A friend was kind enough to drop off her hardcover edition of Peace Talks for me to read (and we were able to have a lovely masked driveway visit, so that was awesome). I’m excited to read this… especially since my library hold is probably still months away from getting to me. Now, to remember what’s happened so far in the series…

Discworld!

I started my Discworld challenge on August 1st, just like I said I would. Go, me! First up is the very first book in the series, The Colour of Magic. I’ve only read the prologues so far, but hey, I’m doing it!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire: There’s a new October Daye book coming out in September, so you know what that means? It’s time to treat myself to an audio re-read of the previous book in the series! I love these books so much, and the audio versions are just so much fun to listen to.

Ongoing reads:

Outlander Book Club’s re-read of Outlander is underway. We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 8, “An Evening’s Entertainment”. Anyone who’s interested is welcome to participate, so just ask me how.

Onward with Don Quixote! I didn’t manage to read both chapters on the schedule this week, so I’d better get hopping. Don’t want to fall behind again!

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland

Title: Florence Adler Swims Forever
Author: Rachel Beanland
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: July 7, 2020
Print length: 320 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Over the course of one summer that begins with a shocking tragedy, three generations of the Adler family grapple with heartbreak, romance, and the weight of family secrets in this stunning debut novel that’s perfect for fans of Manhattan Beach and The Dollhouse.

Atlantic City, 1934. Every summer, Esther and Joseph Adler rent their house out to vacationers escaping to “America’s Playground” and move into the small apartment above their bakery. Despite the cramped quarters, this is the apartment where they raised their two daughters, Fannie and Florence, and it always feels like home.

Now Florence has returned from college, determined to spend the summer training to swim the English Channel, and Fannie, pregnant again after recently losing a baby, is on bedrest for the duration of her pregnancy. After Joseph insists they take in a mysterious young woman whom he recently helped emigrate from Nazi Germany, the apartment is bursting at the seams.

Esther only wants to keep her daughters close and safe but some matters are beyond her control: there’s Fannie’s risky pregnancy—not to mention her always-scheming husband, Isaac—and the fact that the handsome heir of a hotel notorious for its anti-Semitic policies, seems to be in love with Florence.

When tragedy strikes, Esther makes the shocking decision to hide the truth—at least until Fannie’s baby is born—and pulls the family into an elaborate web of secret-keeping and lies, bringing long-buried tensions to the surface that reveal how quickly the act of protecting those we love can turn into betrayal.

Based on a true story and told in the vein of J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints for All Occasions and Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl, Beanland’s family saga is a breathtaking portrait of just how far we will go to in order to protect our loved ones and an uplifting portrayal of how the human spirit can endure—and even thrive—after tragedy.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to divulge something that happens in the very first chapter, is it?

When I picked up Florence Adler Swims Forever, my expectation was that the main story line would focus on Florence and her training to swim the English Channel. Wouldn’t you think so, based on the title, the cover, and the synopsis? Well, if so, you’d be as misled as I was.

While the opening chapter is about a day at the beach, as told by 7-year-old Gussie, who adores her aunt Florence, by the end of the chapter, Florence has drowned. She’s pulled lifeless from the ocean where she went for just her typical long swims, and despite heroic efforts by the beach lifeguards, Florence is beyond saving.

Florence’s sister Fannie is hospitalized on bedrest with a high-risk pregnancy, and doctors warn that any stress or upset might cause Fannie to lose the baby. Their mother Esther decides on a plan: They will keep Florence’s death quiet, keep all announcements out of the papers, have a private family burial — and will not tell Fannie that her only sister has died.

Fannie and Florence had quarreled right before the books opens, and Fannie is left to believe that Florence is still angry at her, not communicating or visiting with her sister before leaving for France to start her big swim. The family brings the nurses and doctors of the maternity ward into the circle of secrecy, and by moving her to a private room and limiting her access to news of the outside world, they’re able to keep Fannie in the dark for the remaining months of her pregnancy.

Meanwhile, the Adler family must struggle through their private grief, running a successful bakery business, dealing with an untrustworthy son-in-law, and hosting Anna, a European refugee with a connection to Esther’s husband Joseph, who’s desperate to find a way to get her parents out of Germany before it’s too late.

This book has so much going for it. The Altantic City of 1934 setting is a wonder, showcasing life in that particular time and place with attention to detail and evocative descriptions. The beach environment, the ritzy hotels, the large Jewish community all feel vibrant and alive, as do the people themselves, with their relationships, their struggles for success, the aftermath of the Depression and the rising tensions about the increasingly desperate plight of the Jews in Europe.

Through small moments, such as characters discussing the price of bread or going to a restaurant for a business meetings, we get an idea of the economics of the time, as well as the chasms between haves and have-nots. We also get a good picture of Atlantic City development, and the lingering anti-Semitism that pervades even a location with such a large Jewish population.

There are also some truly eye-popping moments. For example, did you know that up through the end of the 1930s, premature babies in incubators were displayed as sideshow attractions at World’s Fairs and along the boardwalk? It’s true! I couldn’t believe it when the scene was described in this book, but yup — I had to stop and Google it, and discovered that this was how incubator technology was established before being adopted as standard medical procedure, and that thousands of premature babies were saved through these exhibits. Crazy, right? (Read more here, if interested.)

The subplot about Anna’s parents is sad and scary and eye-opening as well. We all know what happened to German Jews as Hitler rose to power, and it’s heart-breaking to get this view of the practically impossible steps that friends and relatives had to go through in order to try to secure visas for their loved ones. Without money or political connection, there was basically no chance. We really feel Anna’s anguish and frustration as she keeps attempting to rescue her parents, only to find the bar moved higher every time she approaches the stated goal.

While the Adler family’s story is compelling and I loved the historical setting, there are just a few elements that left me wanting more. There a romance that develops over the summer showcased in this story, and I just couldn’t feel it. I never truly felt the connection between the characters, so it was hard to buy into their love story and its outcome.

Likewise, we’re told that the hotel mentioned in the synopsis is well known for anti-Semitic policies, but we don’t actually see that demonstrated. The owner, who’s the father of one of the POV characters, is supposed to be nasty and ruthless, but again, I didn’t truly get that from his portrayal.

Florence Adler Swims Forever takes place over the summer months following Florence’s death. The ending left me wanting more. I’ll be vague here (no more spoilers!), but I felt pretty cheated by not getting to see a particular scene I had assumed would be included. I’d also hoped to get a definite answer about Anna’s parents and whether they’d be rescued, but because the story ends where it does, that remains an unknown.

I will say that the author’s notes at the end are illuminating, as they help to ground the events of the story, which may come across as far-fetched in places, in her own family’s history.

All in all, I found Florence Adler Swims Forever to be a compelling, absorbing read, despite feeling like I needed a little more from the characters and the story as a whole to move this into 5-star territory. Still, I definitely recommend this book, and can see it being a great book group choice as well — there’s so much to think about and discuss.

Audiobook Review: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Title: News of the World
Author: Paulette Jiles
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: March 29, 2016
Print length: 209 pages
Audio length: 6 hours, 17 minutes
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.

In News of the World, we meet the honorable Captain Kidd, a 71-year-old widower who makes a living these days traveling from town to town in Northern Texas, reading newspaper articles aloud to gathered crowds, at a dime a piece per listener. It’s a pretty good life. Captain Kidd is respected wherever he goes, and his readings, in his authoritative voice, offer his listeners a view of the wider world and a chance to escape day-to-day reality, even if only for an hour.

The Captain’s world is turned upside down when an old friend asks him to take on the task of returning a rescued child to her relatives. At age six, Johanna’s parents were murdered and she was captured by Kiowa raiders. Now ten, Johanna considers the Kiowa her family and remembers nothing of her former life — but her adopted family has sold her back to the local government agents, so she’s truly lost all sense of belonging.

Captain Kidd reluctantly agrees to the task, which involves a very long journey through potentially dangerous territories, all the while accompanied by a hostile, strange girl who absolutely does not want to cooperate. It sounds like a nightmare.

But as the miles unwind, the two reach first a mutual tolerance, then an understanding, and finally true affection. The Captain protects Johanna, placing himself at risk to stand between her and danger, and slowly, she learns to trust him.

Their journey is slow and eventful, and they face obstacles at every turn. Yet this beautiful novel never feels like it lags. It’s lovely to see the affection building between these two complex characters, and each challenge or danger presents yet another opportunity for us to learn more about who they are and what makes them tick.

The writing is just gorgeous. The descriptions of the terrain, the towns, and the people are detailed and lovely. The author truly paints with her words, and I felt like I was there along the dusty roads and by the creeks, riding along in their creaky wagon and looking for cover when there was danger ahead.

The two main characters are both complicated people with harsh pasts to remember and come to terms with. Captain Kidd is a fundamentally loving and kind man, but he’s also fiercely protective and doesn’t have time or patience for fools or wrongdoers. Johanna has a turbulent inner life that we learn about in bits and pieces, and it’s amazing to see how she finds strength to survive.

The audiobook narration is fantastic. The narrator captures the feeling of a fireside story — I felt like I was listening to an old-fashioned tale, almost like I was attending one of Captain Kidd’s readings, if only he were sharing a Western rather than reading a newspaper.

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a couple of years now, and I’m so glad to have finally read it. This was my first book by Paulette Jiles, but it won’t be my last. Highly recommended.

Excerpt: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

The Switch by Beth O’Leary
Flatiron Books
336 pages
To be published August 18, 2020

I’m delighted to be participating in the blog tour for Beth O’Leary’s upcoming new release, The Switch! I loved her debut novel, The Flatshare, and today I’m thrilled to be able to share an excerpt from her soon-to-be-released new book.

Synopsis:

A grandmother and granddaughter swap lives in this charming, romantic novel by Beth O’Leary, hailed as “the new Jojo Moyes” (Cosmopolitan UK).

Eileen Cotton’s husband of sixty years left her four months ago, and good riddance. After all these decades of sleepy village life, Eileen is ready for an adventure. She’d like a chance at real love, too – and she wonders if maybe the right man is up the road in the big city…

Eileen’s granddaughter (and namesake) Leena lives in bustling London, where she is overworked, overscheduled, and overcaffeinated. When Leena collapses and her office sends her on a mandatory vacation, she wants to escape to her grandmother’s inviting, picture-postcard little village.

So they decide to switch lives.

Eileen will take Leena’s flat, Leena’s laptop, and Leena’s glitzy twenty-something London lifestyle. She’ll learn all about dating apps and swiping right, the best coffee shops, and paper-thin apartment walls. Leena can have Eileen’s sweet cottage, her idyllic Yorkshire village, her little projects to help her neighbors, and her nice, quiet life. But neither finds that her new life is exactly what she’d imagined.

Will swapping lives help Eileen and Leena become more truly themselves, and can they find true love in the process?

Excerpt:

I do a quick half-hour of research before I start on Grandma’s dating profile. Apparently, what makes for a successful profile is honesty, specificity, humor, and (more than any of those other things I just said) a good profile picture. But as soon as it’s set up, I realize we have a problem.

There is not a single person her age registered to the site in under an hour’s drive from here. It’s not just that Grandma doesn’t know any eligible gentlemen in the area – there aren’t any. Bee bemoans the lack of good men in London, but she has no idea how lucky she is. When there are eight million people in your city, there’s going to be someone single.

I turn slowly in my chair to look at my grandmother.

When I think of Grandma, I always think of her as an absolute force of nature, bending the world to her will. I can’t imagine there’s a more youthful old lady out there. Her boundless energy has never shown any signs of running out as she enters her late seventies – she really is extraordinary for her age.

But she doesn’t look like that Grandma right now.

She’s had a truly terrible year. The death of one of her only two granddaughters, supporting my mum through losing her daughter, then Grandpa Wade walking out on her… It hits me quite suddenly that I think of my grandma as invincible, but that’s so ridiculous – nobody could go through what she’s been through unscathed. Look at her, sitting here, contemplating dating Basil the bigot. Things are not right at Clearwater Cottage.

Which I’d already have known if I’d come home once in a while.

I reach for the laptop again. Every time I remember that I can’t go to work on Monday I feel wretched, useless, afraid. I need something to do, to help, to stop me thinking about all the ways I’ve messed up.

I change the search area on the dating site, and suddenly: hello, four hundred men between the ages of seventy and eight-five, looking for love.

“I have an idea,” I tell her. “Hear me out, OK? There’s hundreds of eligible men in London.”

—-

There’s a long silence.

“This seems a bit crackers,” Grandma says eventually.

“I know. It is, a bit. But I think it’s genius too.” I grin. “I will not take no for an answer, and you know when I say that, I one hundred percent mean it.”

Grandma looks amused. “That’s true enough.” She breathes out slowly. “Gosh. Do you think I can handle London?”

“Oh, please. The question, Grandma, is whether London can handle you.”

About the author:

Beth O’Leary worked in children’s publishing before becoming a full-time author. She is also the author of The Flatshare. She can be found on Instagram @BethOLearyAuthor and Twitter @OLearyBeth.

Many thanks to Flatiron Books for including me in the blog tour and providing a review copy! I’ll be sharing my thoughts once the release date gets closer.

Doesn’t this sound terrific?

Shelf Control #227: Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Lilith’s Brood
Author: Octavia E. Butler
Published: 2000 (individual works originally published 1987 – 1989)
Length: 752 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The acclaimed trilogy that comprises Lilith’s Brood is Hugo and Nebula award-winner Octavia E. Butler at her best.

Presented for the first time in one volume with an introduction by Joan Slonczewski, Ph.D., Lilith’s Brood is a profoundly evocative, sensual — and disturbing — epic of human transformation.

Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected — by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story…

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy several years ago — don’t remember when or where.

Why I want to read it:

I consider myself an Octavia Butler fan, but I’ve actually missed out on her two acclaimed science fiction series — Xenogenesis, compiled here in Lilith’s Brood, and the Patternist series, available in a compilation called Seed to Harvest. I’ve been wanting to read this volume for years now, probably ever since reading Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, both of which blew me away.

Lilith’s Brood includes three novels: Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. Maybe I’ll start with Dawn this year, and then space out my reading of the remaining works next year.

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: A TTT Freebie — 10 classics on my TBR list

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s is a freebie week, meaning we all come up with our own TTT topics.

I thought I’d return to an oldie but goodie — classic reads that I still need to get to. My list of to-read classics changes all the time, but for right now, these are the ten classics that I’d most like to read:

  1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  2. Dracula by Bram Stoker (a re-read, but it’s been enough years that it’ll probably feel new to me)
  3. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
  4. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
  5. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  6. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells
  7. Peony by Pearl S. Buck
  8. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott (or really, anything by this author besides the Little Women trilogy, which I’ve read)
  9. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  10. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier

After putting this list together, it occurs to me that it’s weighted toward male authors, which doesn’t make me happy — so this whole topic may need further thought! Or a follow-up post, at the very least.

Have you read any of these books, and if so, which do you recommend?

What did you write about for this week’s TTT? Please share your links!

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Book Review: The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss

Title: The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #3)
Author: Theodora Goss
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication date: October 1, 2019
Print length: 448 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mary Jekyll and the Athena Club race to save Alice—and foil a plot to unseat the Queen, in the electrifying conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Nebula Award finalist and Locus Award winner The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.

Life’s always an adventure for the Athena Club…especially when one of their own has been kidnapped! After their thrilling European escapades rescuing Lucinda van Helsing, Mary Jekyll and her friends return home to discover that their friend and kitchen maid Alice has vanished— and so has their friend and employer Sherlock Holmes!

As they race to find Alice and bring her home safely, they discover that Alice and Sherlock’s kidnapping are only one small part of a plot that threatens Queen Victoria, and the very future of the British Empire. Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, Catherine, and Justine save their friends—and save the Empire? Find out in the final installment of the fantastic and memorable Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series.

Now THIS is how you end a trilogy! Author Theodora Goss delivers another rolicking escapade with the brave women of Athena Club, adding even more “monstrous” women to the mix.

For those new to these books, the main characters are all the daughters of famous men — mad scientists and members of the Alchemical Society, who used their own daughters as subjects of their dastardly experiments. Their goal? Biological transmutation. The outcome? Unusual women with strange, hidden talents and gifts, such as Beatrice Rappaccini, who thrives on rain and sunshine and gives off poison with her breath, and Catherine Moreau, transformed from a wild, free puma into a young woman with decidedly sharp teeth and claws.

This found family also includes the two daughters of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, each one representing a different facet of his personae, Justine Frankenstein, Professor Van Helsing’s daughter Lucinda, and a young housemaid named Alice who turns out to have unusual powers of mesmerism.

In this 3rd book, the woman of the Athena Club have just returned from their adventures in Vienna and Budapest (described in book 2, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman) — but there’s no time to rest! Alice and Sherlock Holmes are missing, and there seems to be a terrible plot underway involving evil mesmerists, an Egyptian mummy, and a bunch of powerful, treasonous men who want to overthrow the Queen and purify the British Empire.

Luckily, our band of heroines are on the case, and they go chasing off to Cornwall to rescue their friends, save the Queen, and defeat the bad guys once and for all! It’s all high-spirited fun, with the quips and bickering that the characters seem to love so much.

I thought this was a terrific wrap-up for the trilogy, with heightened adventures and plenty of surprises and adrenaline-rushes. There are perhaps too many characters to keep track of, as the circle of acquaintances grows and grows with each book, but it’s all good fun.

If I had to choose, I’d still say that the first book in the trilogy, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, is really and truly the best, because of the emphasis on the main characters’ origin stories and their creation of a family of their own. But that doesn’t take away from how satisfying the other two books are, or how well all three fit together to create one glorious whole.

If you enjoy sparkling, witty characters in a Victorian setting, with touches of the fantastic and supernatural, then you just must check out the Athena Club books!

The Monday Check-In ~ 7/27/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Back to the grind! It was hard to get back into the rhythm of working every day after a few days off the previous week. Since I stayed home for those days off, I’m still dying for a real getaway, someplace hot and sunny… where we can social distance and avoid contact with non-family members. I have no idea where yet, but I’m going to work on it!

What did I read during the last week?

Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald: Beautiful. My review is here.

The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris: A gorgeous selkie story. My review is here.

The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher: This was my audiobook listen for the past week — a really clever and engaging fairy tale. Definitely recommended!

Pop culture & TV:

Lots more Schitt’s Creek! I’m on season 4 now. Loving it!

Puzzle of the week:

Ah, an image of my dream location!

Fresh Catch:

I bought one Kindle book this week that my husband requested, but that’s it!

I’ll probably start this one during the coming week, once I finish my current read.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss: The 3rd and final book in the Athena Club trilogy. So much fun! I’m almost done, and will share thoughts on this book and the trilogy as a whole in the next few days.

Now playing via audiobook:

News of the World by Paulette Jiles: This has been on my to-read shelf for a few years now. I’ve only just started, but so far I’m liking this Western.

Ongoing reads:

Outlander Book Club’s re-read of Outlander is underway. We’re reading and discussing one chapter per week. This week: Chapter 7, “Davie Beaton’s Closet”. Anyone who’s interested is welcome to participate, so just ask me how.

Onward with Don Quixote! Plugging away, two chapters per week. I can’t say that I’m deeply enthralled or anything, but I’m glad to be keeping up with the group read.

So many books, so little time…

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