Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Category: Christian Fiction

She Walks in Beauty is a compelling story about a young women living in a socially-driven world. Although she loves books and dreams of going to Vasser College, her distant father, and rigorous aunt will having nothing to do with it. Clara must do as she is told. Clara’s mother passed away years ago, and now Clara is at the mercy of her aunt. She is dreading her social debut but it’s about to come a year sooner and it is mere weeks away when news that the towns wealthiest heir is to marry this year. Clare’s governess and best friend is fired when it appears that Clare is too far behind in her social education. Clare is soon tight-laced into a corset, and thrown into the social circle. When the town newspaper notices Clare, her aunt seems encouraged to push her further. Clare becomes the belle of the season, and Franklin begins to take notice. Clare is delighted but Franklin seems like a bore, his younger jocular brother on the other hand has Clare’s attention. Her best friend Lizzie has also been told that she must snag Franklin. Lizzie and Clare vow to keep their friendship intact despite the scheme’s of their family.
Siri Mitchell exposes the upper-class society that was consumed with wealth and status. Happiness and love were never to take precedence. I really enjoyed this book, I didn’t want to put it down and was intrigued from the very beginning. Although, it sounds like an unchallenging read it was truly fascinating to read about the social hierarchies of the 1890s. Clare’s aunt seems despicable to being with, but as the novel progresses she voices her reasons. I really began to understand where she was coming from. Clare’s father on the other hand, has many indiscretions and secrets that are disclosed. Clare is an endearing heroine, one that you will immediately want to protect. Readers can sense her fear, confusion and shock when she is able to rise to the occasion. She has the weight of the world on her shoulders, and an aunt and father who have high expectations. While Clare is consumed with the social world, her mind is still reeling about the impoverish people and injustices she’s read about. While many deem the book preposterous, Clara can’t help but wonder if it’s true. Clara matures from a young girl who questions nothing to a strong woman who questions everything. The christian element is very light, and not preachy. While this book is categorized as Christian it is much more historical. A great read!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Review: A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware

Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 544
Source: Publisher
Category: Historical Fiction

Amelia Bradshaw has been living abroad completing her architectural studies at the prestigious school “L’Ecole des Beaux Arts.” Her time to return home has finally come. Unfortunately, the home she left, is no longer the same home. Much has changed. Her grandfather has passed away, leaving the grand hotel to Amelia. However, as she returns, Amelia’s father has just lost a winner-takes-all hand of poker, and J D Thayer claims the hotel is now his. Her father inebriated, apologizes. Amelia enlightens the men that her grandfather’s will stipulates that she is the sole owner, and not her father. J D Thayer is shocked but claims that as an unmarried woman, she is still under the control of her father, therefore the bet still stands. Amelia is infuriated and threatens to take J D to court. Unfortunately, a 1906 San Francisco judge agrees with J D Thayer. The hotel is gone, her mother has filed for divorce and fled to Paris, her father is nowhere to be found and Amelia has lost everything. In an attempt to start over Amelia meets with Julia, her mentor and seeks employment. While Julia is not able to offer Amelia a full-time day position, she offers her a trial night-time position. Amelia accepts, aware that she will be working alone and on her first night on the job, a huge earthquake hits San Francisco devastating the city. What wasn’t demolished by the earthquake, burned in the subsequent fires. Amelia’s beautiful, beloved Bay View hotel was among the many buildings that burned to the ground. Once everything has settled, architects were in high demand. The female architects that were once shunned, are now in high demand. Julia accepts two major offers, restoring the beautiful Bay View Hotel and the Fairmont Hotel. While both owners want to open before the other, Julia and Amelia must work together on the both projects. Amelia is told to focus on the Bay View while Julia concentrates on the Fairmont. In her heart, Amelia believes that she is the rightful owner but now she must work for J D Thayer...

I really enjoyed “A Race to Splendor.” Ciji Ware is an incredible writer, and her research is flawless. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will enjoy this one. The story starts off with a “bang.” An earthquake hits, and everything is in ruins, homeless people everywhere. When the rebuilding begins, many greedy hands decide this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the needs of others. Amelia is a strong female character, and her determination is astounding. When Amelia and J D Thayer begin working together there is an obvious attraction, and Amelia must decide what that holds. I honestly had an issue with the relationship, after everything J D caused, how was there an attraction? Amelia is quite the feminist and she is not an easily swayed person. I thought the corruption, and social issues was immensely interesting. My one issue was the relationship.

I’ve read a few Ciji Ware books, and her characters tend to be strong, determined women. Women who are not afraid to break the mold. My favorite Ciji Ware book is “A Cottage by the Sea” and I highly recommend that one.

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