A Change of Fortune vs First Impressions – And a Question of Plagiarism

Book Review : A Change of Fortune vs First Impressions

By Jen Turano vs Elizabeth Johns

e-book

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

A Change of Fortune

Lady Eliza Sumner is on a mission. Her fortune was the last thing she had left after losing her father, her fiancé, and her faith. Now, masquerading as Miss Eliza Sumner, governess-at-large, she’s determined to find the man who ran off with her fortune, reclaim the money, and head straight back to London.

Mr. Hamilton Beckett, much to his chagrin, is the catch of the season, and all the eyes of New York society—all the female ones, at least—are on him. He has no plans to marry again, especially since his hands are full keeping his business afloat while raising his two children alone.

Eliza’s hapless attempts to regain her fortune unexpectedly put her right in Hamilton’s path. The discovery of a common nemesis causes them to join forces and, before she knows it, Eliza has a whole retinue of people helping her. Eliza’s determination not to trust anyone weakens when everyone’s antics and bumbling efforts to assist her make her wonder if there might be more important things than her fortune and independence.

When all of Hamilton’s and Eliza’s best-laid plans fall by the wayside, it will take a riot of complications for them to realize that God just might have had a better plan in mind all along. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

First Impressions

The widower Earl of Rutherford, still in need of an heir, reluctantly sets off for London in search of a wife. He infinitely prefers the role of recluse to that of dashing beau.
The Season’s Incomparable, Helena Foster, prefers books to balls. She agrees to hide her bookish tendencies in exchange for her mother agreeing to limit her to one Season.
Their initial prejudices prevent their feeling they would suit, but an unlikely source may give them another chance… (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

The copyright for A Change of Fortune  is 2012 and First Impressions has a copyright of 2015. In this case I cannot but believe that First Impressions plagiarized Turano’s book. However, to be fair, it is such a predictable plot that they may have both been copied from yet another source.

The heroine is reluctant to marry. The hero is a widower with a child or children. His family is urging him to marry, if for no other reason than to have a mother for said child. The hero’s mother is anxious for her son to marry. Hero falls in love, somewhat against his will with plucky heroine. He makes tactical blunder by suggesting marriage as heroine would make a good mother. His suit is rejected. Another suitor makes a larger blunder. Hero and heroine are in accord again and joyfully decide to marry. Sappy ending accomplished. Yawn.

On the positive side, the characters are fun and quirky. The romance is clean. You are guaranteed a happy ending. It’s a fast, pleasant read.

I left both with two stars since they were not offensive, though I would give First Impressions even less star power if it truly is plagiarized.

2 out of 5 stars

2 star

  • the Mother

Here are some books I would recommend : Beauty and Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley, An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aidan, Sorcery & Cecelia: Or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede, Austenland by Shannon Hale, The Lady of Devices series by Shelley Adina and The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery.

I would love to hear about books that you have loved!

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How To Be A Tudor, A Dawn-To-Dusk Guide To Tudor Life

Book Review : How To Be A Tudor,
A Dawn-To-Dusk Guide To Tudor Life

By Ruth Goodman

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

On the heels of her triumphant How to Be a Victorian, Ruth Goodman travels even further back in English history to the era closest to her heart, the dramatic period from the crowning of Henry VII to the death of Elizabeth I. Drawing on her own adventures living in re-created Tudor conditions, Goodman serves as our intrepid guide to sixteenth-century living. Proceeding from daybreak to bedtime, this charming, illustrative work celebrates the ordinary lives of those who labored through the era. From sounding the “hue and cry” to alert a village to danger to malting grain for homemade ale, from the gruesome sport of bear-baiting to cuckolding and cross-dressing—the madcap habits and revealing intimacies of life in the time of Shakespeare are vividly rendered for the insatiably curious. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I love the odd little bits of trivia found in a book like How To Be A Tudor. Ruth Goodman is also passionate about her subject which makes it more fun to read. She is incredibly knowledgeable because she has spent much of her life living like a Tudor.

A couple of my favorite pieces of trivia:

The saying “sleep tight” is derived from when people in the Tudor period would tighten the ropes on their bed under their mattress to sleep more comfortably.

Women had “pin money” which was the money they would use to purchase the pins to attach different articles of clothing accessories, such as different sleeves and dress fronts.

Creating batches of yeast for baking bread was fascinating. I didn’t know yeast could be scraped off of fruit to use for baking. I didn’t even know that white film was yeast!

Shakespeare not only invented words, but phrases that we still use today. Some examples include: moonbeams, mountaineers, bedroom, lacklustre and hobnob. Phrases that were penned by Will include: as dead as a doornail, up in arms, it’s a foregone conclusion and all of a sudden. I know I have been influenced by this Tudor!

Goodman teaches us that Tudor ale is sweet and thick, but not very alcoholic compared to modern brews. Drinking ale was part of the populations daily nutrition. Many widows turned to making small breweries for an income. They only needed to have a bench outside of their house for customers and could make small batches of ale.

The book ends telling us:

“Whichever bed you had ended up in, it was finally time to go to sleep – lying on your right side was considered healthiest!” (p.289)

Even though I have enjoyed Goodman’s book it has a limited audience.

3.25-3.75 out of 5 stars

3 star

  • the Mother

If you liked this one try At Home by Bill Bryson.

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In Good Company – A Must Read If You Love The Dictionary

Book Review : In Good Company
A Class of Their Own #2

By Jen Turano

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

After growing up as an orphan, Millie Longfellow is determined to become the best nanny the East Coast has ever seen. Unfortunately, her playfulness and enthusiasm aren’t always well received and she finds herself dismissed from yet another position.

Everett Mulberry has quite unexpectedly become guardian to three children that scare off every nanny he hires. About to depart for Newport, Rhode Island, for the summer, he’s desperate for competent childcare.

At wit’s end with both Millie and Everett, the employment agency gives them one last chance–with each other. As Millie falls in love with her mischievous charges, Everett focuses on achieving the coveted societal status of the upper echelons. But as he investigates the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the children’s parents, will it take the loss of those he loves to learn whose company he truly wants for the rest of his life? (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

In Good Company is a Christian romance set in the United States in the late 1800’s and is meant to feel like a period novel. However, the language and ideas are contemporary. I highly doubt so many men would find exasperating women to be so charming. In Good Company has more praying in it than After A Fashion, and might feel more like a Christian romance because of the frequent discussions centered on the theme of God directing our lives. I feel like prayer and our interaction with deity is too simplified to seem genuine in this book. A lighthearted book doesn’t feel like the right venue to try to have a serious discussion about God.

First; the good:

-The characters were likable and fun. I don’t think I care about the actress enough to read the third book in the trio.
-The situations were comical. In Good Company also has a mystery and murder.
-I laughed out loud even more than After A Fashion, particularly as Millie misuses words from her trusty dictionary.
-Guaranteed to be a clean romance.
-Super fun read.

Second; the bad:

-The language was very contemporary.
-Trite phrases.
-A predictable plot.
-I highly dislike this style of book cover.

There are no real plot twists, but many funny situations. I enjoyed reading this as a light summer book. From a literary point of view it doesn’t have any redeeming value, but I still am giving it 3 stars because of the fun characters and Millie’s didactic, or could I mean erratic, use of her dictionary.

3 out of 5 stars
3 star

  • the Mother

If you liked this one try Sorcery and Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede and Austenland by Shannon Hale.

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“The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” -A New Take On The Witches Of Salem

Book Review : The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

By Katherine Howe

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest–to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.

Written with astonishing conviction and grace, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane travels seamlessly between the witch trials of the 1690s and a modern woman’s story of mystery, intrigue, and revelation. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I loved the premise that there could have been actual witches in the 1600’s in Salem. And even better, that the descendants of those witches may not know their own heritage.

The writing is a step above the majority of books that I’ve read this summer. Howe uses a variety of sentences. Too many books restrict themselves to choppy sentences, as though the reader cannot maintain interest in reading any thought longer than ten words. I love her descriptions!

This is a quote describing the 4th of July fireworks (and it’s only one sentence):

“The last sparkling tendrils rained down on the innermost curve of Marblehead harbor, and a few air horns blew their approval from sailboats moored on the water, their wails mingling with the echo of the explosions overhead and the collective sign of townsfolk clustered on blankets in parks and on rooftops.” (p. 171)

I enjoyed the characters. Connie, is intelligent and waivers between being conceited and insecure – and recognizes her own inconsistencies. Sam is a dichotomy; he works as a steeplejack, restoring church steeples, while disregarding his education, he is agnostic and  in a church everyday. Other than his stupid nose ring he was a delight. The sex scenes are not graphic, and it is a fairly clean book for language.

I also loved how the history and people of the Salem Witch Trials were woven into the story. Howe explains in the postscript that Deliverance Dane was a real person and survived the witch trials, though in the novel she does not live. Other women accused of witchcraft, Sarah Wildes, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Sarah Good and Elizabeth Howe were all represented accurately in their personality and the dates of their execution. The author states that Sarah Good really did threaten from the gallows that “I am no more a witch than you are wizard, and if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink.” (p. 365)

I really wanted to give this book 4 stars and just couldn’t because of a couple of problems:

1- The love interest has a nose ring. Really?!! Isn’t it fair to say that women want to fall in love, just a little with the hunky guy? His nose ring just blew it for me.

2- By the end all the pieces of the puzzle fit together too neatly. Especially in a book about witchcraft there should be a bit of mystery. This seems to be a common problem for new authors. Editors needs to step up and have authors recognize that it is a disservice to readers to have every element wrapped up in a neat little package.

3- The mystery of “who dunnit” was too obvious. I would have loved the culprit to have been her mentor, Janine. I don’t know what her motivation would be, but the groundwork was laid when Howe talked about how women will condemn one another.

I really did enjoy Howe’s debut novel and will look forward to reading more in the future.

3.75 out of 5 stars

3-half-star-hotel

  • the Mother

If you liked this one try The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and, of course, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowlings if you need a little magic.

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The Phoenix Legacy – A Science Fiction Series Worthy of Asimov

Book Review : Sword of the Lamb

The Phoenix Legacy series

By M.K. Wren

e-book

Spoiler Alert!

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(New ebook cover)

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(Book 2, Original Cover)

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(Book 3, Original Cover – which I think is more fun)

Summary

In the 33rd Century, a vast empire teeters on the brink of collapse.

At the heart of the Concord, unrest is festering. Unrecognized by the Elite, the ruling class, an undercurrent of rebellion is surging through the enslaved Bond class. It’s a threat that could bring down all of civilization, creating a third Dark Age.

Lord Alexand, first born of the House of DeKoven Woolf, stands to inherit a vast industrial empire along with a seat on the Directorate, the Concord’s ruling body. But he sees the writing on the wall and realizes that if the Bonds explode into total rebellion, there will be nothing to inherit, and the toll in human suffering will be beyond calculation. He makes a terrible choice then: He chooses to “die” and join the Society of the Phoenix, a clandestine organization whose existence is known to only a few Directorate Lords, who consider membership treason and punishable by death. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

This fantastic series has been out of print and my old books are falling apart and when I saw it available on Kindle for $9.99 I had to snap it up. When I want to read a saga, this is one of my favorites.

There are several layers to why this series works so well.

Characters (there are tons, but here are a couple of examples):

Alexand DeKoven Woolf, is the arch-type leading man. His pride is his achilles heel. He is very much a Byronic hero who could become moody and self-centered if he didn’t have key people in his life, such as Adrien and Rich. Because of his tutor, brother and parents Alex has a strong moral character. Ultimately he is a protector of others, his brother’s ideals, and humanity. Alex is the heir to the Lordship of the House of DeKoven Woolf and the hope of the secret society of the Phoenix, where he is known as Alex Ransom.

Richard Wo0lf (Richard Lamb), is the younger brother, sensitive and dying. He is a foil for Alexand and helps give him direction. Rich is in an exceptional position because he is able to extend his studies disguised as a Fesh. In doing so, he gains insight into the plight of the Bonds and the inevitable death of the Concord.

Adrien Eliseer is the intelligent, beautiful, sensitive woman who is the only one who can comprehend Alexand, and the only one who can save him. She is the strong female character typified in books written in the 80’s. She is easy to admire because of her integrity. She maintains her femininity, but remains in a supporting role to Alexand.

Badir Selasis and his son, Karlis Selasis are selfish, focused on power, wealth and position. They epitomize everything wrong in the social structure of the Concord.

Jael is from the Outside and as a member of the Phoenix can access places that are otherwise unaccessible for the secret organization. He acts as another foil to Alexand. Where Alexand is polished, Jael is rough. Jael is every bit the Lord in his world as Alexand is within the Concord. Secrets swirl around Jael.

Sociology:

Explaining the history and sociological state of the Concord could easily become cumbersome. Wren accomplishes this through recorded documents of Richard Lamb and other intellectuals of the Fesh class.

Blending a medieval society with a futuristic society has taken a lot of thought, and Wren has a full backstory to know how this world was created. I enjoy having the transparency of knowing all of her thoughts of how a society could decay into a caste system and retain technology, otherwise, it would have been too unbelievable. If these parts aren’t interesting to you they can easily be skipped.

Plot:

The Phoenix Legacy has my favorite kind of plot, it is driven by the characters rather than the events. How the characters react in each situation is completely believable because the people are consistent in their characterization.

The plot complexity is another favorite aspect. It encompasses religion, including varying sects, political machinations, family relationships, rivalries, and a love interest. The pacing is consistent, and not rushed since it is three books. (Kindle plans a reader will need over 20 hours of reading to complete the series.) It is a book that you want to dive into completely.

I can’t believe I’ve never read anything else by Wren! That is one of my new assignments.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

4 1:2 star

 

  • Michelle

If you liked this series I would recommend Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov, The Gray Wolf Throne series by Cinda Williams Chima and Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.

 

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Girl Waits With Gun – Based On True Events!

Book Review : Girl Waits With Gun
Kopp Sisters #1

By Amy Stewart

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.   (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

One of my favorite parts of Girl Waits With Gun are the actual headlines from newspaper articles in the early 1900’s. I had initially thought I was reading a purely fictional account and was ready for some outrageous events. I was only partly wrong; it’s only partly fictional. I love how courageous Constance is in the defense of her family. At times the sentence structure is choppy which is a bothersome. I felt like the novel also showed a unique time in history, and particularly how industrialists of the 1900’s took advantage of their workers.

I was shocked by a twist in the story, but can see why it was so important and integral to the entire tale. And, it was a true twist in the sister’s lives. After reading Stewart’s novel I am looking forward to reading more about the Kopp sisters and their interesting lives.

I was fascinated with the forensics and questioned if fingerprinting was part of police work in 1914. I found this reference which identifies a timeline for fingerprint use.

fingerprints

http://www.crimescene-forensics.com/History_of_Fingerprints.html

For more details about the actual Kopp sisters I went to the author’s site, http://www.amystewart.com/characters/and enjoyed seeing more about this fascinating family and other people associated with the case. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Constance Kopp

timthumb    Screen shot 2016-07-31 at 9.42.55 PM Constance and Fleurette

Constance said, “Some women prefer to stay at home and take care of the house. Let them. There are plenty who like that kind of work enough to do it. Others want something to do that will take them out among people and affairs. A woman should have the right to do any sort of work she wants to, provided she can do it.”

Fleurette Kopp

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There are several newspaper articles about Fleurette getting into car accidents as a young woman! In later years, she sewed patterns for Vogue, and worked as a private tailor, making entire wardrobes for well-to-do women.

Here are a few quotes to show the flavor of the writing:

“It made me wonder how often I, too, had let Fleurette fool me.” (p. 71)

“As a parting gift the Singer man left me his sample machine.” (p. 108)

“‘Because – ‘ I turned at last to face her. It took everything I had to look her in the eyes. ‘Because what if no one had gone looking for me?'” (p. 114)

“I squared my stance and aimed the barrel straight at that rock, squinting at the notch and the narrow half-moon at the end of the barrel that were my guides, and fired. I don’t think I hit the rock, but I managed to keep the gun level.” (p. 170-171)

“‘A girl can’t just vanish.’
‘Oh, girls can vanish,’ Norma said without looking up at us.” (p.233)

“I sighed and shook my head. ‘And I’m afraid the kidnapping threats have only gone to her head. She thinks she’s quite the desirable little prize. I don’t know what we’re going to do with her.’
‘Keep her on the farm as long as you can,’ he said.
‘I don’t know how much longer that will be. But for today-‘” (p.264)

“Lucy didn’t stop spinning and I began to wonder if she was ever going to let the boy come up for air. They formed their own planet in the middle of the room, rotating around a sun that only they could see.” (p.359)

3.5out of 5 stars

3-half-star-hotel

  • the Mother

If you liked this one try These Is My Words by Nancy Turner, The Help by Katherine Stockett and The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.

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The Winter Sea – Hope For Spring

Book Review : The Winter Sea

By Susanna Kearsley

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth—the ultimate betrayal—that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her.… (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I would have written the summary differently. I’m not so sure that the knowledge comes ‘close to destroying her’, perhaps just keeps her from a regular sleep schedule and occasional questions of her own sanity.

The Winter Sea is the first Susanna Kearsley novel I have read and I enjoyed it immensely. It appears she frequently employs a literary device of moving between the past and present with a semi-supernatural connection. In this instance, the character Carrie, who is an author, is conducting research for an historical novel centered on the Jacobians machinations to return King James to his throne. While stymied for a voice to pull the novel together, Carrie is prompted to introduce a female character – who is inspired by her own ancestress – as a method for unity and flow. Carrie believes she must be carrying an ancestral memory because of the uncanny ability to write smoothly and an inexplicable number of details she writes accurately without historical reference. Carrie’s father is also an amateur genealogist and helps dig out facts which in turn confirm Carrie’s intuitive historical finds.

Kearsley employed a teeter-totter effect in this novel. The initial scenes are heavy on Carrie and the current happenings with just a dash of Sophia and the Jacobians. Later in the novel, the majority of the writing is spent on Sophia, and Carrie and Graham have but a few cameo appearances. This was a good balance and followed my level of interest in the two story lines. At the end of the book everything is tied up in a neat package. I prefer a bit of ambiguity because real life rarely has all loose ends solved. When everything is resolved in a book it makes it predictable.

Even more than historical fiction, The Winter Sea could be classified as historical romance. The love scenes are done in a tasteful way rather than tawdry. If you’re looking for a bodice ripper, this is the wrong book. Three romances (two included love triangles) could have been overwhelming. Because the romances were in different time periods, and one romance was not on center stage, it was fun and I felt vested in all the characters. I also liked how the love triangles were handled; they were not the dramatic teen novel style of romance – thankfully. So even though I said it is more of romance Kearsley does a solid job on her research and writing of the events of the early 1700’s. I love it when a novel adheres to historical facts whenever possible. It’s rather ironic that Carrie, the character, insists on sticking with facts in her book too. Perhaps, this is a reflection of the actual author. As with any good romance, even in the winter sea there is hope of a coming spring.

A few quotes:

“Having lunch at the Kilmarnock Arms, I decided, would give me a similar chance to commune with the ghost of Bram Stoker….all the walls, except the stone one at the far end, had been papered in a softly patterned yellow that, together with the windows and the daylight, gave the place a cheerful ambiance, not dark at all. No vampires here.” (p. 50-51)

“She recalled her father saying,’Men who watch, and say but little, very often are much wiser than the men they serve.’ She had a feeling that, in this man’s case, it might be true.” (p. 137)

“‘Tis but the way of things, and when ye have grown older, lass, as I have, ye may even come to welcome it.’
‘To welcome winter?’
‘Aye.’ He had not moved, and yet she feel his voice like and embrace, an arm of comfort round her shoulders. ‘For if there was no winter, we could never hope for spring.’ His eyes were warm on hers, and wise. ‘The spring will come.’ He paused, then in that same sure tone he said, ‘And so will he.'” (p. 365)

I would recommend this book for a light summer read. It will mostly be enjoyed by adult women. I suspect many of her novels are similar in nature so I plan to only read one every once in awhile.

3.75 out of 5 stars

4 star

  • the Mother

If you liked this book try Possession by A. S. Byatt and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

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