Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dressmaker by Kate Alcott: Book Review

The Dressmaker
By Kate Alcott
I bought this copy

The Dressmaker was light reading, and I would consider a beach read. It took me a while to connect with the characters and the story.

I bought this novel, because this novel's backdrop takes place in the early 20th century, and the story after the sinking of the Titanic. You may want to google and do your own research on the sinking of the Titanic.  If you never did see the movie, Titanic with Leonardo DiCapio, I recommend it.

I wanted to read, and review one novel that show cased the Titanic on my blog. There are not many novels that I have read that takes place on the Titanic. There are a few novels out there, probably because of the anniversary of the Titanic( centennial).

The story takes place in France, in the year 1912. We meet Tess, she is working as a maid, and her mistress, she is well to do. She has a mischievous son, always causing trouble, and uncontrollable, by the help

Tess can't stand it anymore, she sneaks out when her mistress is not looking and takes her pay without her boss's consent, and leaves for England to find employment on the Titanic.

Everyone is excited about the virgin voyage of the Titanic. Everyone in England, and the United States knows about the Titanic. There is excitement in the air with the first virgin voyage.

Tess continually tries to find someone on the Titanic that needs her service for employment. Tess actually is a terrible maid, her talent as a seamstress, is impeccable. She will do anything to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
 She recognizes a famous designer Lady Lucille Duff Gordon( actual person on the Titanic). She is departing on the Titanic. She tries to coax Lady McDuff to hire her as her maid. With a lot of help from her sister, Elinor she decides to hire her as a maid. 

When she comes on board, Lady McDuff realizes she is a terrible maid. She is not very good with etiquette, and manners as a maid that is employed. On the ship, Tess meets two men very opposite of each other, a sailor, Jim and a Chicago businessman.

You see on the voyage the difference of the rich society, and the steerage. The rich with the beautiful taffeta gowns, and crystal, with plenty of diamonds, around the rich ladies necks. There is a difference of classes on the ship, between the high society, and the poor in steerage. They cannot mingle together.

 April 12, 1912. On the fourth day of the voyage, there is trouble on the Titanic. It hits a iceberg, and the ship begins to sink. There are not enough lifeboats for everyone. The steerage is not allowed to up on the upper decks even with the ship sinking. There is mayhem, and desperate people do desperate things during a disaster.

You see, back at the turn of the century, men and women were not treated as equal. Instead woman were respected and men treated women in high regard, and had manners like opening a door for a woman. The ones that were suppose to go on the lifeboats were women and children first. After then the men could get on the lifeboats if there was room.

One man, pretended to be a woman to get on one of the lifeboat. Lady McDuff's husband bought a place so they could be the only ones on the lifeboat.  Lady Lucille McDuff. Their lifeboat only had 12 people on the lifeboat. It was not filled to capacity.

 With them on the boat, a few of the sailors helped row the boat. As they were rowing the ship was sinking. Bodies were strewn everywhere frozen. They did not want to help anyone else because of fear of capsizing the lifeboat.

When they were rescued on another ship, there was talk about some of the wealthy that were on the ship. Why did they not go back to help the others? They heard the screams for help but just ignored them.

When they got to America, Tess and Lady McDuff found each other. She hired her as her seamstress. A reporter named Pinkie dug further and further in the dirt of the Titanic. She felt the McDuff's bought their way on the lifeboat. 

A U.S. Inquiry, was led by a senator and other government official to get to the bottom of what happened during the sinking of the Titanic.

There is a romantic interest between the sailor, Jim and the Chicago businessman. But, that did not do anything for the story for me. I always like the history, and the characters that lead into the story. I don't read romance, and I have not for a very long time. The novel did not pick up till the last 100 pages, that is when I was flipping the pages quickly.

I liked learning about the clothing they wore, the designing of the clothing, the materials used to make those beautiful dresses, and what goes in to making designer dresses. Learning about the other famous designers like Chanel.

Lady McDuff was the person to come up with the idea of a live manikin. Before that, I assume to make clothing they used clay manakins. Not a great way to make clothes to see how it will look on a real person.

What I did find interesting. I always knew the story about the Titanic. But, what happened afterwards. That is what grabbed me. We all know what happened during the sinking.
But, what about how it affected these people after. Did they feel sorrow? Did they think about the victims? What about the survivors? Did they have guilt?

If you are looking for a good meat and potato novel about the sinking of a cruise ship, this is a fictional account. The story is not about the Titanic, but a fictional cruise ship and the date is fictional as well.  read Lifeboat, by Charlotte Krogen. You can find my review here.
I enjoyed it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The House of Tyneford: Book Review

I enjoyed reading The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons. It was Dowton Abbey meets Upstairs Downstairs.

It took me 100 pages to get into the characters. I still enjoyed reading The House of Tyneford. I loved the characters, and the landscapes, and the description of the setting.  The novel was beautifully written. I usually don't read novel that are romantic genre, and historical taken place in Europe. This is totally out of my comfort zone.  But, I enjoyed it.

Elise Landau and her family are Jewish, and living in Vienna. The parents, Julian and Anna raise the children in a bohemian lifestyle. Julian is a writer, and is very well known for the novels he writes in Vienna. They are wealthy and are very well known in the cultural world in Vienna. They mingle with the rich and famous in Vienna.

Their youngest daughter Elise, is sent to Tyneford to be a maid in England. The rest of the family will leave for the United States.  Elise did not get her visa in time, with the rest of the family.
Instead they find a sponsor to employ her as a servant in Tyneford.

Tyneford is a manor surrounded by the ocean, isolated by everything. The lord of the house Mr. Rivers has many employed by him. He's son Kit is very mischievous. He causes many problems for Elise. But eventually they fall in love, and are engaged.

I enjoyed reading the novel. The House of Tyneford was descriptive, but not overly that it became dull. I enjoyed the characters especially reading about Kit. He was a trip.

  Elise referred  to her parents by their first name. I had a problem with this at first until I realized who was Julian and Anna. 

Poor Elise had no one at first to connect to. She was used to the high life of society. When she arrived she was expected to clean the chamber pots and all the things a maid is expected to do. She was so lonely, and could only connect with the rich family. Since she came from that kind of lifestyle.

Interesting though when she becomes engaged to Kit. Mr. Rivers wants her to be separate from everyone else. She is now engaged, she needs to behave like a high society woman.  She doesn't like this, because everyone treats her different, again in isolation from the others.  I thought that was a interesting take. This was the same thing when Lady Diana, had to stop her job as school Marm,  before she became princess. It was not proper to associate herself with the common folk.
There is a part of history at the end of the novel that is true. During the war if you were asked to give up your home for the war effort. You expected to get it back after the war. Unfortunately, in this story it did not happen. They, and the village is still desolate. Their property they never did get it back in the novel. In the back of the book Natasha Solomon writes about what happened to some villages that this happened true. The novel is based on her Great Aunt this happened to. But, unfortunately, her daughter never knew about it.

 I enjoyed reading about the house, the house to me was character. I could see the house, and the beautiful landscapes. I could visualize the ocean spray hitting the rocks below. I could smell the ocean breezes.

If you like, Dowton Abbey, and English high society, and the manors you will enjoy reading The House of Tyneford

WBN 2012

WBN is this week. I am looking forward to this. It will be like me, being Santa, only it will be in  April. Funny though, I don't celebrate Christmas.

Anyway, it is finally here.  I went to the book store that is hosting at the destination close to my house. Book Stacks, in Myrtle Beach.

 There is one other person, that is a giver. She is not a book blogger. This is disappointing. I thought it would be another book blogger. I was hoping that we could get in touch with each other, and give each other ideas, and support, and fun way to connect.  At the book destination, the book store seller, asked me how am I going to know who to give it to, or not.  That is a good question. I will just wing it. 

I was hoping that the book store would do a Meet N Greet, or something to celebrate this occasion, too bad. I thought it would be nice to meet the others, and the book store employees.

I wanted to do this, because where I work, there are many people that live behind our store. They come to buy groceries, cigarettes, etc.  It is their only store, in walking distance. Many of them are on EBT, and housing assistance, and financial help from the government.

  Children, and adults alike don't have access to a car, or any transportation. The library is not close by.   I would be able to give books to them, people that normally can't get their hands on books because the library is not close by.  How awesome is that to give books to the children and their parents alike.

I received my box of books. She asked me if I was interested in switching books,  Now, I have more of a variety of books, for men, women, and children that normally don't read.  Namesake and a few others.

I am planning on discussing this with my boss first, of course. Because I am giving this on his time while checking them out. I am sure, because this is spreading the word of literacy, it would be fine. I wish I had discussed with him a few weeks ago, and broaden my idea, with some fun activities.

If you are participating let me know what you plan to do. Are you planning on giving something with the book to celebrate with the book receiver? If you hear of something with the book drop that is awesome I would like to hear about it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ape House
by Sara Gruen
My own copy

The Ape House is the story of Isabel Duncan, a scientist at the Great Ape Lab. She meets, and is interviewed by John, a reporter. A explosion rocks and upsets the lab for the Bonobo Apes,and Isabelle.
She is severely hurt and taken to the hospital. The apes escape, and then somehow a reality TV show apprehends the apes, and telecasts them on TV.

From there, that is where I lost it. I didn't care for the characters. It seemed like the author wanted to stand on her soap box and write about her thoughts about inhuman acts in zoos, and sanctuaries.  Which is fine, because I love a story that has social commentary. But this one, I could not get into for some reason. I like a story with substance and this one did not fit the bill for me.

I must be a prude because reading about sexual acts between apes did not interest me. Reading about the antics of the apes with touching, and caressing, while their sexual organs enlarged. Just made me close the book the book, and say enough already, I really lost it.  I think she would have been able to tell the story without that in the book, would have been fine.
I would have liked the story if there was more to it. But, I just felt the story was flat. This is one book that I purchased as a hardcover. I bought this two years ago. I was hoping for a good story by the author. I was disappointed.  I loved Water for Elephants.  

We read this for our book club. I was not able to make it, because of a car accident, and trying to find a car.  I was curious to see what others thought of this book. I had spoken to one of my friends and she felt the same way. I have been reading mixed reviews on other blogs, and on Goodreads, some good some bad. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Lifeboat
By Charlotte Rogan
Courtesy of Penguin Books
and Anna Balesai

The Lifeboat takes place on the high seas in the Atlantic Ocean, in the summer of 1914. Grace Winter, and her husband Henry, a bank financier are newlyweds, is on a business trip and takes Grace along with him, on the Empress Alexandra.  All of a sudden a  mysterious explosion occurs, and the passengers are forced to either go on lifeboats or jump into the Atlantic Ocean.   

There is panic, and pandemonium. Everyone is trying to get to the Lifeboats. but unfortunately there are not enough seats on the lifeboats. Most of the lifeboats are filled to capacity. Even though the regulatory number says you can have more.  On Lifeboat 14, there are 39 passengers, but,regulator capacity says 40.

Henry, Grace's husband makes sure Grace will be the 39th passenger. It is filled to capacity. Henry will meet her later on, this is what Grace hopes and thinks. There are later implications that her husband bought her a seat on the lifeboat.  Did you ever wonder what it was like to be on a lifeboat after the sinking of the Titanic?

 Do you re-call when you saw the movie, Titanic, there was a part when the Captain told someone" the lifeboats was not enough for the capacity for the entire ship."  The question, who will survive? Do you sacrifice others to save yourself?  What would you do if you were in this situation?  This is the question of the entire novel. You think about mankind, how each of us treat each other in a panic.  

There are plenty of twists and turns and mystery. With plenty of accusations, and paranoia to sink a sinking ship already.  There is plenty of politics to go around as well. There is a sailor named, Mr. Hardee he takes the role as leader. But, some of the women on the ship have a problem with this.  This is when the story gets interesting and gripping.  After a few days the elements gets the best of everyone. The lifeboat is thought provoking and you think about human nature.
 Is this their real character, or is dehydration and starvation causing them to hallucinate, and become irrational, and down right nasty? A couple of the women are feeding in to everyone's fear, and forced to take sides. What would you do in extreme danger, and disaster?
 The novel is awesome and I can't rave enough about all the emotions I am having after reading it.  
 Wow, The Lifeboat blew me away with its narrative.  The Lifeboat is literary, but it is also filled with mystery, and suspense, and even a trial.

 This story I felt was that good. It doesn't need any further explanation.  Just a fast paced novel that you wish it would not end.  I can still feel the waves bumping into the lifeboat.  The Lifeboat is a satisfying read. A good summer read, but not while on a cruise. I give it 5 thumbs up.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Titanic-Re-Release in 3D

This month marked the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. I have been wanting to see this movie again. The cinematography, and the colors were so vibrant. To see the costumes and the characters, on the screen again. But this time it will be 3D. It will be coming out on April 3rd. If you did not see it the first time, I highly recommend it, not only for the movie but to hear Celine Dion. I still remember playing the CD over and over again. It was so worn I had to replace the first copy.

One Thousand White Women: Book Review

One Thousand White Women By Jim Fergus I have been looking forward to reading, One Thousand White Women. S...