Kate Matthews has lived in Brixton, London, for a year and knows no one. She’s a writer for the local paper, and she loves interviewing people, but she’s yet to be assigned anything she can sink her teeth into. Rosemary Peterson has lived in Brixton all her life. She’s seen the neighborhood change as wars, love, and businesses came and went, and every day she swims at the lido (an outdoor pool), where some of her dearest memories were made. Kate and Rosemary’s worlds collide the day it is announced that the lido will close. Kate has been assigned to write about the closure and it’s effect on the town, and she starts her story by interviewing Rosemary. A single meeting changes both of their lives, and the two women come to realize they will do everything within their power to keep the lido from closing.
I picked up this book by accident. My friend Hannah and I went to the movie theater to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and they were handing them out for free at the ticket counter. Why, I may never know. Hannah and I went home and devoured the book. It was heartfelt, deep, and shockingly real. Rosemary deals with the loss of her husband, and Kate deals with crippling anxiety. They both find their focus and community by swimming at the lido, and it’s threatened closure sets their lives in downward spirals. The two women find meaning in their mutual friendship and build new lives in a town they thought was falling apart around them. I still can’t believe Page is a debut author. Her writing speaks of years of experience, and the way she gets into characters’s heads is enchanting. I had trouble putting this book down and nearly started it over again when I finished, it was that good. I for one can’t wait to see what Page writes next. Stay tuned for a live video discussion between Hannah, myself, and our friend Hallee once she finishes reading it. We’ll talk plot, writing style, and marketing strategies.
Lucy and Oliver Tinker live with their father at his clock repair shop, scraping by selling antiques ever since their mother passed away. When the rich Mr. Quigley walks in at closing one day and offers Mr. Tinker a fortune to fix a giant clock at his home in Rhode Island, they can’t say no. Blackford house is situated in the middle of nowhere, falling apart at the seams and without electricity. The forest around the house is barren and quiet despite it being the height of summer, but Lucy is determined to make Blackford house home. Then the wooden animal statues she finds around the house start talking, and Oliver meets a mysterious boy who lives in the dark woods. Before long the Tinkers are drawn into a centuries old war between light and dark, and the fate of Blackford house hangs in the balance.
I received an ARC of Watch Hollow from the author in exchange for an honest review, but this is something I would have eventually picked up anyway. The characters are lovable and yet complex for a middle-grade book, and I love how the world itself is alive. The plot moved well and I was quickly swept up in the Tinker’s adventures. Funaro plans a sequel, making this a duology, and The Maze of Shadows is sure to be just as good when it comes out next year.
My favorite part of this book was definitely the clock animals. The whole idea of light and dark being incarnate in them, balancing the powers and powering the clock and providing electricity for the house, not to mention the naming conventions – Torsten Six, Fennish Seven, Tempest Crow – Everything about them is just fantastic. My second favorite part was obviously the shadowood vs. sunstone debate, and the ash-acorns. At ~250 pages, this book was the perfect length to get wrapped up in. I would have loved to read this as a child, and it’s still great as an adult! I will definitely be picking up the sequel next year.
Available from January 12th wherever books are sold!
HHC Rating: 5 Stars.
Other reviews in this series: The Maze of Shadows(Available 2020)
Welcome to part four of my Star Trek watch through! It’s been quite a while since I posted one of these, but I found myself with some down time over the holidays and was able to get back to watching it. This post will cover The Original Series, Episodes #6 and #7, “Mudd’s Women” and “What Little Girls are Made of.” Other posts in this series can be found linked at the bottom, and the watch order can be found on the first post, here.
Episode #6 – “Mudd’s Women”
This episode was a strange one. It starts with The Enterprise in pursuit of an unidentified Class-J Cargo vessel… Which turns out to be carrying just three women and a man named Mudd. The Enterprise blows most of its circuits chasing Mudd’s ship and must head to Rigel 12, a nearby lithium crystal mining planet before its life support systems fail. The longer the women are aboard the ship, the more strangely the male crewmembers act. Spock, obviously, is not affected. McCoy makes a comment that one of the women made his medical equipment beep as she walked past it, saying that any alien who could make itself so beautiful would be smart enough not to have that effect on the equipment. He wonders aloud to Kirk if they are actually just acting beautiful and if that is what makes them beautiful. Near the arrival at Rigel 12, Mudd is shown tearing apart his quarters to locate a drug for the women, and after giving it to them, using a stolen communicator to contact Rigel 12 and beg for them to negotiate his release in exchange for the women.
Once on Rigel 12, the miners want nothing to do with Kirk or the USS Enterprise and instead focus on the women. Running low on power, Kirk reluctantly agrees to give the women to the miners. One of the would-be-brides, Evie, runs off into a sandstorm and by the time the miner rescues her the drugs that Mudd gave her have worn off. Kirk and Mudd arrive to retrieve the power supply crystals and Evie looks as though she has aged 10 years. She claims that the so-called Venus drugs are what have been making her beautiful, and takes some when Mudd offers them to her. Kirk points out that it wasn’t the drugs which made her beautiful. She insists that they are, but Mudd admits that she just ate colored jello, not the Venus drug. Evie decides to stay with the miner and Kirk and Mudd return to The Enterprise.
I think it worth noting that only two women aside from Mudd’s three women appear in this episode. One unidentified crew member and Uhura, who is notably wearing the yellow uniform of a commanding officer rather than the red of a communications, engineering, or security officer.
Was the point of this episode that women are only beautiful when they believe they are? I expected them to out Evie as an alien who can change her appearance at will. The concept that her appearance could change (from no-makeup to makeup much less) by just deciding she wanted to be beautiful is a little silly. In real life, confidence does play a part in beauty, but not anywhere close to that drastic of one.
Episode #7 – “What Little Girls are Made of”
Finally, the return of Majel Barrett! I loved her as Number One in the original pilot, “The Cage”, that was scrapped. She returns in this episode as Nurse Christine Chapel, who signed up to work on the USS Enterprise in order to find her fiance, Dr. Roger Korby.
The crew of the Enterprise arrives at Exo-III, where Dr. Korby was last stationed, and Captain Kirk and Nurse Chapel beam down to the cave he has supposedly been living in, where they spend hours wandering the abandoned tunnels before locating Korby and meeting a few of his friends – Dr. Brown, whom Nurse Chapel is acquainted with, and Ruk and Andrea. When Chapel questions the fact that Dr. Korby and Andrea seem close, and that Dr. Brown does not remember her, Dr. Korby reveals that Dr. Brown is also an android, created by transferring Dr. Brown’s personality to the robotic body just before the doctor died. Ruk and Andrea are also androids.
Dr. Korby shows Kirk and Chapel how an ancient machine left behind by a race known as “the old ones” makes androids, using Kirk as an example. While Korby shows Chapel around his home, Kirk returns to the Enterprise to check in. During her discussion with her fiance, Nurse Chapel finds out that he, too, is an android, built by the actual Dr. Korby as he was freezing to death. Korby-droid, who has up until now insisted that the androids cannot feel emotions such as love or anger, proclaims his love for Chapel is everlasting, and that he is exactly who he has always been, just immortal. Chapel spurns his advances as Captain Kirk arrives, revealing that the Kirk aboard the Enterprise was actually the android version of him. Kirk-droid has been killed and so has the male android, Ruk. Dr. Korby is forced to confront his fears when Andrea, the female android, proclaims her love for him and kisses him. Dr. Korby cannot stand his own creation and fires her phaser, destroying them both.
With all of the androids destroyed and no one left on the planet, the crew returns to the ship, where Nurse Chapel decides to stay on for the remainder of the mission now that she has no ties elsewhere.
Both of these episodes put women in competition with one another and in a spotlight where they could only interact with other characters romantically. In that way, they were both mildly disturbing. I enjoyed Majel Barrett’s return, as I enjoy her acting and can’t wait to see where she goes from here, but overall I was underwhelmed by both of these episodes.
Daphne wants nothing more than to marry and raise a family. As the fourth child in the Bridgerton clan of eight and the first girl, she knows a lot about men – from her three older brothers. Unfortunately, this knowledge makes her a pal to the men who would court her, and she has been hunting a husband for two years now without success, much to the chagrin of her mother, the widowed Lady Bridgerton.
Simon, Duke of Hastings, has returned to England after the recent death of his father, whom he despised above all else. After six years on the continent, he is ready to get back to visiting his friends and his clubs. The problem, of course, is that at the age of 28 many of his friends have married and now possess young wives who scheme to introduce the new duke to potential future duchesses.
After a significant encounter, Simon and Daphne hatch a plan. They will pretend to form an attachment. The women will stop hounding Simon, and the men will jealously pursue Daphne, finally viewing her as a potential bride instead of a best friend who happens to be a woman. The biggest problem, of course, is Daphne’s family. Her eldest brother, Anthony, is Simon’s best friend, and her remaining six siblings – as well as her mother – take an immediate shine to the idea of having Simon as a permanent fixture in their lives. Simon’s reasons for fleeing to the continent in the first place will pose a challenge as well, as his past haunts his every decision.
Julia Quinn is one of my all-time favorite writers. The Bridgeton clan, as well as Lady Whistledown and her gossip paper, are some of my favorite characters ever written, and their emotions are palpable as you read their stories. Every character is richly developed, with complicated, deep relationships between every sibling and acquaintance. Daphne and Simon’s story is one that dragged me whole-heartedly into the realm of Regency Romance and has enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined.
I first discovered this series in high school or college when I swiped it from my mother, who had, in turn, swiped it from my grandmother, and I am overjoyed to be coming back to them now. Their depth and breadth of emotion and action are just what I needed to kickstart me out of my reading slump.
HHC Rating: 5 Stars.
Other Reviews in this series:
Book 2 – The Viscount Who Loved Me (review available on Jan. 22nd)
Book 3 – An Offer From A Gentleman (review available on Feb. 12th)
Book 4 – Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (review available on Mar. 5th)
Book 5 – To Sir Phillip, With Love (review available on Mar. 26th)
Book 6 – When He Was Wicked (review available on Apr. 16th)
Book 7 – It’s In His Kiss (review available on May 7th)
Book 8 – On The Way To The Wedding (review available on May 28th)
Viola Kingsley has suffered a lot in the three years since the death of the man she thought was her husband. True, there has been much happiness as well; she has gained friends, a son-in-law, grandchildren, and found real love from a family she wishes she could claim as her own. But she still feels isolated in her misery, unable to process and move past the horrific events that she has been forced to live through. So she runs. She meant to go straight home and hide out alone for a month or so, but fate had other plans.
Marcel Lamarr is a haunted man. After the death of his young wife, he took up a life of frivolity and womanizing, unable to look after his two young children for more than a few days at a time. Over the past seventeen years, he has hidden from his obligations in every way he knows how. Until he runs into Viola, the woman who spurned his love fourteen years earlier. He tries to leave her in peace but instead finds himself running away with her, fleeing their lives entirely. As Marcel and Viola find their true selves again, their lives start to creep back in, and a split moment’s decision might cost them everything they’ve ever wanted.
Mary Balogh does a wonderful job bringing Marcel and Viola to life in this fourth book of the Westcott series. Whereas I felt disconnected from everyone in the last installment, I felt the emotions acutely in this volume. Viola and Marcel’s problems run deep. This is not a simple miscommunication mix-up. They have both glimpsed happiness and had all they hold dear taken away from them in the blink of an eye. These are not wounds that can be healed through any of the common methods, and Balogh goes above and beyond to bring the characters to the roots of their problems.
I am thrilled that Viola’s book went so well, and I can’t wait to see how Elizabeth fares in the next installment, due out at the end of this month.
The Collector’s Apprentice takes readers into the whirling world of art collecting in the 1920s. Paulien Mertens is only nineteen when she meets the dashing George Everard, but when things mysteriously fall to pieces she finds herself exiled to Paris alone and nearly penniless. Drawing on her education and previous work in the art world, Paulien pieces together a new life as the assistant to Edwin Bradley, an up and coming American art collector who seeks to open a museum near Philadelphia. As she weaves her way through Parisian society, Paulien meets wonderful people like Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. When George finally turns up, things are not as they seem, and Paulien is sent into a tailspin that nearly ruins everything she has built.
Shapiro’s new work tells the story of how one girl came back from the brink stronger, smarter, and braver than ever. It is part coming-of-age, part mystery, part heist novel. Paulien and George provide intriguing lenses through which we discover the events of the story. Indeed, all of the characters’s colorful descriptions paint a picture of Europe and America in the 1920s that is lush and many-layered. The plot thickens gradually, and the shocking finish does not disappoint.
I thoroughly enjoyed this foray into the art world and adored returning to 1920’s Paris, which, if you’ve read my reviews for Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald or Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, you’ll know I have a bit of an obsession with. While it did not always grip me the way Z and The Paris Wife did, I simultaneously identified and sympathized with Shapiro’s characters, and her storytelling is top notch. The nuggets of information are there for you to guess the ending, though I must confess that I did not, which a refreshing turn of events! I would recommend The Collector’s Apprentice to anyone who enjoys a good historical coming-of-age story or enjoys con artists as main characters.
HHC Rating: 4.75 Stars
The Collector’s Apprentice hits shelves today, and Shapiro will be on tour through December promoting it. You can find the local stops on her tour schedule below, and find the book on Goodreads as well. A huge thanks to Brittani at Algonquin books for thinking of me when it came time for reviews and provided me with an e-ARC to read in exchange for my honest opinions. I loved it! But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some of the advanced praises for The Collector’s Apprentice:
“Shapiro delivers a clever and complex tale of art fraud, theft, scandal, murder, and revenge. [Her] portrayal of the 1920s art scene in Paris and Philadelphia is vibrant, and is populated by figures like Alice B. Toklas and Thornton Wilder; readers will be swept away by this thoroughly rewarding novel.”
“Dazzling and seductive, The Collector’s Apprentice is a tour de force—an exhilarating tale of shifting identities, desire, and intrigue set between 1920s Paris and Philadelphia. Shapiro is a master at melding historical and fictional characters to bring the past alive on the page, and in The Collector’s Apprentice she has forged an exquisite, multilayered story that maps the cogent and singular fire of a young woman’s ambition and the risks she will take for the sake of art.”
—Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Georgia
“I was engrossed in every twist and turn in this compulsively captivating page-turner, all the way until its astonishing denouement. Shapiro has done it again!”
—Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us
B. A. Shapiro is the New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger, which won the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Boston Authors Society Award for Fiction, among other honors. Her books have been selected as Community Reads in numerous cities and have been translated into over ten languages. Shapiro has taught sociology at Tufts University and creative writing at Northeastern University. She divides her time between Boston and Florida along with her husband, Dan, and their dog, Sagan. Her website is www.bashapirobooks.com.
The Collector’s Apprentice Press Tour
Stops in New England
Tuesday, October 16 — 7:00pm
279 Harvard St.
Brookline, MA 02446
Wednesday, October 17 — 7:00pm
9 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Thursday, October 18 — 6:00pm
4869 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255
Friday, October 19 — 7:00pm
82 Central St
Wellesley, MA 02482
Wednesday, November 7 — 7:00pm
RJ Julia Booksellers
768 Boston Post Rd
Madison, CT 06443
Thursday, November 8 — 7:00pm
273 Congress St.
Portland, ME 04101
Tuesday, November 20 — 7:00pm
Point Street Reading Series
71 Richmond St, 2nd Floor
Providence, RI 02903
Monday, November 26 — 3:00pm
432 Route 6A
East Sandwich, MA 02537
Tuesday, November 27 — 7:00pm
An Unlikely Story
111 South Street
Plainville, MA 02762
Wednesday, November 28 — 7:00pm
Savoy Bookshop & Café
10 Canal St.
Westerly, RI 02891
Thursday, November 29 — 7:00pm
79 Leonard St
Belmont, MA 02478
–Author Bio, Advanced Blurbs, and tour dates courtesy of Michael McKenzie and Brittani Hilles at Algonquin Books.
Estelle awoke to the sound of one of her neighbors clattering down the stairs. She rubbed her eyes, trying to think of a reason someone would make such a noise upon descending a perfectly normal staircase, before realizing that it must have been David and his dog, Roger. Two sets of feet, one large, the other small, could definitely have made the racket which dragged her out of her dreams. She finished ridding her eyes of sleep and pulled back the duvet.
Coffee was a wondrous thing. Some days the only thing that got her out of bed was coffee. Not today though, she thought as she sipped from a steaming mug while gazing into her closet. It was smaller than the one at her last place, but she hadn’t decided yet how to pare down her wardrobe. The mountain of laundry peaking out from the bottom of the closet pointed to there being a hefty donation to the secondhand shop in her future. She sighed, choosing to put off the decision until the weekend, and pulled out a pair of grey slacks and a forest green sweater.
Hair, check. Makeup, check. Estelle picked out a set of simple pearl earrings and spritzed on her favorite perfume before giving herself a final once-over in the hall mirror. They had hung it on the outside of the bathroom door so they would stop fighting over the actual bathroom, and the arrangement had worked out remarkably well. Estelle shuffled back into her room to grab her shoulder bag and pick out shoes. Low, chunky, everyday black heels made the outfit complete, and she smiled knowing her mother would approve of the choice. Her mother insisted that flats made her walk like a duck. The image was unattractive enough that Estelle almost always chose heels when she had the opportunity to do so. Running with Miles tomorrow would hurt when her achilles was all scrunched up from today, but occasionally a little beauty was worth a little pain. She slid her bag onto her shoulder, called goodbye to her roommates, and headed for the stairs, turning the lock behind her.
A Morning with Estelle – Short Fiction by Amanda Woods