I, Eliza Hamilton by Susan Holloway Scott

Unknown-1

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Kensington (September 26, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1496712528
ISBN-13: 978-1496712523
Price:  Amazon $11.10

Rating:  3 out of 5 Stars

By the publisher:

As the daughter of a respected general, Elizabeth Schuyler is accustomed to socializing with dignitaries and soldiers. But no visitor to her parents’ home has affected her so strongly as Alexander Hamilton, a charismatic, ambitious aide to George Washington. They marry quickly, and despite the tumult of the American Revolution, Eliza is confident in her brilliant husband and in her role as his helpmate. But it is in the aftermath of war, as Hamilton becomes one of the country’s most important figures, that she truly comes into her own.

In the new capital, Eliza becomes an adored member of society, respected for her fierce devotion to Hamilton as well as her grace. Behind closed doors, she astutely manages their expanding household, and assists her husband with his political writings. Yet some challenges are impossible to prepare for. Through public scandal, betrayal, personal heartbreak, and tragedy, she is tested again and again. In the end, it will be Eliza’s indomitable strength that makes her not only Hamilton’s most crucial ally in life, but also his most loyal advocate after his death, determined to preserve his legacy while pursuing her own extraordinary path through the nation they helped shape together.

My thoughts

coming to this novel knowing little else about Hamilton, other the duel with Burr and the fact that he started the Bank of New York, I was eager to learn about him and the woman who he chose to share his life with.

The author did a great job at setting the scene.  I enjoyed learning about the gowns, the house in which Eliza had grown up with her family and the love that surrounded the family.  The love which surrounded Eliza and her siblings was palpable and the author did a great making sure the reader understood that.  It was obvious that the book was very well researched and there were many “nuggets” that I walked away with which, had it not been for this book, I would have never found out.  Let’s just say they are not the things we learn in school.

Eliza, was a feminist in her time.  As a matter of fact, most of the women, it appeared to me, were feminists.  In their own quiet way these women influenced the outcome of many circumstance and there were many lessons to be learned from them on how to get one’s point across without being rude or obnoxious….. that fact was not wasted on this reader.

At times I was in awe of the friendship and love between Eliza and her sister but I also could not get past the fact that some of it may have been due to jealousy on Eliza’s part.  I don’t know if on purpose or not, but at times I couldn’t help but feel that Eliza regretted at times not having married a rich man.  It was obvious that their love was immense and they lived for each other.  However, at times there were flecks of jealousy in both of them.

Hamilton spent most of his time in the book going from turbulence to turbulence and trying to impress everyone while Eliza was either pregnant and using her pregnancy as a way to manipulate her husband — well at least twice.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame her but it was not what I wanted to be reading about.

The first half of the book was great.  I flew through it devouring every word the author had to say.  Towards the middle of the book I became impatient.  It felt as if the same scenes were being repeated over and over again and there were things that happened through out and characters that were introduced and nothing came of them.  There were times when I felt Hamilton was being a spoiled brat and one who could not take any criticism and would go to any length to revenge people at the expense of everyone.  It’s not as if I felt he didn’t love her…. the fact that he loved Eliza was very obvious but it was not an unconditional love.  It was a dependent type of love.  I felt as if she would have been ok without him, it felt to me as if he would be lost without her.  I also started to get annoyed at how Eliza kept putting herself down.  For the love of God woman — grow a back bone and a sense of who you are.  It’s clear to the reader that Eliza was an amazing woman in her own right but when she kept putting herself down I felt angry instead of sympathy.

I am not sorry I picked up the book.  Perhaps I expected too much from this book considering the hype about Hamilton.  I gave it a solid 3 stars and would have given it 4 had it not been for a few typos and the repetitive issues I mentioned above.  I think that if the reader is interested in women’s issues and feminism this is a good book.  It’s quiet but it gets a point across.  It’s educational in a way that it goes through all the challenges of the wars and not just the battles.  There is hunger and disease to deal with.  There is discussion of how finances are bad and how Hamilton devised a plan to repair the United States’ credit and, although all these topics are discussed it’s still an interesting read.

I was given this book for review.

The Address by Fiona Davis

IMG_0564

The Address by Fiona Davis
Published by Penguin
Date of Publication: August 1, 2017
Hardcover

Publisher’s Summary:

Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse, returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota, New York City’s most famous residence.

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility—no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda—Camden’s biological great-granddaughter—will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages—for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City—and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich—and often tragic—as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden—and the woman who killed him—on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives —and lies—of the beating hearts within.

My Review:

This my first novel by Fiona Davis and I can promise you that is will not be the last. I saw this book on the list of “read for review” books on NetGalley and I immediately requested it for review. The cover, which I hope is the one the publisher settles on, drew me in and being that in the past few months I have been fascinated with the 19th Century in New York, this was a no brained for me.

The story revolves around one of the most famous or infamous buildings in Manhattan, one where many celebrities still live, the same one where John Lennon was shot…. One that still today stands tall and is visible from Central Park (see the cover). The Dakota….. it’s 1884 and it’s about to open and Sara Smythe came all the way from England to work and live there and found herself in love with one of the architects. But it’s more than the story of a woman and a man. This is the story of one family, of love and deception, of what secrets can do to a family and of forgiveness and the need we all have to belong and sometimes no belong.

the_dakota_1890b

The author does a great job at working two stories in parallel. At the same time we are reading about the story of Sara and her architect in 1884-85 we are also being shown what is going on in future surrounding the descendants in 1984. The comparison of the Gilded Age and the age of Wall Street and material girls having fun, was not lost on me.

The twists and turns were plenty: throughout the book I felt like I knew what was going to happen at every corner and then the author would turn in a completely different direction and everything would be different. A few pages later, the same thing would happen. I would be feeling like I was totally in control of the scene and bam!!!!!! I was again slammed in a totally different direction. I was hooked. I couldn’t put the book down. As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for my day to day job I probably would have read the book in one sitting. The language is not flowery or poetic as I have often mentioned in previous reviews. It’s instead raw and honest. The type of voice that hits you right in the core and you cannot help but pay attention.

If there was one part where I felt the book was predictable, was the very end. The hero gets the heroin and all is well in the world…… I’m a bit tired of that but, I cannot think of a different way bring the story to a close so I can’t fault the author for this one either. It’s our own fault for always wanting happy endings….. Yeah, I like happy endings even if they’re predictable.

Although the story takes place during the Fall/Winter and there is mention of snow, I feel as if this is the perfect Summer read. I gave this book a 4 1/2 stars only because as I mentioned the ending was predictable. I cannot wait to read more by this author and add this book to one of my favorites of 2017. Going to recommend it to everyone I know.

I hope you enjoy this review.  Until the next one…..

XoXo

Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce

41rUco3gEjL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York
Published: November 1, 2016
ISBN-10: 0374238588
Hardcover – 272 Pages

Rating:  ***** (5)

About the Author:   (From Amazon.com) Kelly Luce is the author of the short-story collection Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, which won Foreword Reviews‘s 2013 Editor’s Choice Prize for Fiction.

A native of Illinois, she holds a degree in cognitive science from Northwestern University and an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a contributing editor for Electric Literature. She lives in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains.

Right off the bat this book pulled me in…. Nevermind under.  Actually, I feel as if I’m missing something since I don’t really understand the connection between the title and the story — if you know and figured it out, please share it with me.

Let’s talk about the cover, shall we?  Amazing cover designed by Abby Kagan.  To me it speaks of the many faces we all present.

Some people show the same face to everyone; others, lime my father, are gemstones, constantly turning to display the most advantageous façade

The book follows a woman, Rio, as she tells us the story of how she arrived in America and under what circumstances.  Her story is one of pain and feeling of not belonging.  I think most of us can relate to this feeling at one time or another in our lives.  What’s different about Rio, is how she handled herself when faced with those feelings.

We meet Rio when she was still Chizuro Akitani, a hafu (half person) while living in Japan.  The daughter of a prominent Japanese violinist and an Irish mother.  We meet Chizuro at the age of twelve when she was a student and being bullied at school.  We all know that pre-teen years and teen years are probably the most difficult.  Tomoya Yu, one of the boys at school chose Chizuro to be his “victim” and bullied her incessantly.  The bullying took the form of name calling, touching, and eventually, pranks which caused physical pain.  That last time was the straw that broke the camel’s back and when Chizuro reached a tipping point.  She stabbed Tomoya Yu with a Moritomo letter opener which she took from her beloved English teacher’s drawer.

She was incarcerated at the Kawano Juvenile Recovery Center and from the age of Twelve through the age of twenty one, she was property of the state.  Her life at Kawano felt more normal to her.  She was still a “half person” but there, the names were different and others living at Kawano had other issues they were dealing with and her being a hafu was not what made her stand out.  At Kawano, she was more like the others.  She sort of blended.

blending in is a necessity just like shelter or food.  The biggest thing wrong with me was my mixed blood

At the age of twenty one, Chizuro was able to leave Kawano and became Rio, and flees to America where she applied for and was accepted to college and lived her life as an American in Colorado.  There she met her now husband and they had one daughter and everything was going well, actually great, it seemed.  Until the time she learned of her father’s death and went back to Japan.  At her father’s funeral she connected with her old English teach, a woman from New Zealand, who was always her protector.  Her trip to Japan, after twenty years of living in America, was like a dream where she was forced to face all the demons of her childhood.

Kelly Luce’s writing puts the read in Japan, along with Rio.  I was able to feel her anxiety and was unable to stop reading at times, other times I felt compelled to put the book down and take a breath.  For chapter after chapter I felt as if I were holding my breath and waiting to turn the next corner.  Along with Rio the reader is forced to take in moments in life when we, too, must present different personas in order to survive, be accepted by others and ourselves.

The characters came to life throughout the books and, although at times I was unable to understand Rio’s thinking I felt compelled to sympathize with her.  When faced with a cross roads, she didn’t always take the “right” path but for her it was all she was able to see.

I read this book in one day, which is really rare for me.  All through my reading I found passages that could have come right out of anyone’s diary.  What do I do when faced with a request from a friend and there is no right or wrong path to take.  The old “damn if you do and damned if you don’t” type of scenario.

How do we forgive, when there is so much hurt?  As human beings we are selfish but why?  are we selfish out of survival or are we just selfish because that’s just who we are? Most of us are self centered the same way that Rio was, which was the reason she was not able to see the reason why things were happening around her.  Sometimes due to her blind selfishness she was unable to see the pain in others.  She ran away from what?  herself or others.  The book explored all the deep feelings which cause us to do the things we do and think the thoughts we think.

I gave it 5 out of 5 stars.  I enjoyed every minute of it and was even a little sad when it ended.  I usually pick up another book and start reading and this time I was unable to do that.  I am still afraid the next read is not going to measure up…. unfair to the next author, I know, but…. Let’s give it a shot.

Until my next review.  Happy Reading!

Ana

Book Review – Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

IMG_0555

 

Book Review – Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

“Last night I dreamed I went to Menderley again.” The first sentence of the book, although very simple, it is as catchy as “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

I read a lot of reviews about Rebecca and Daphne Du Maurier. Unlike many bibliophiles I am not opposed to reading reviews and maybe even some spoilers before I open a book. Sometimes it’s almost a challenge to see if I agree with the reviewer or not. Perhaps that’s what made me pick up Rebecca.

The story follows a young woman who is a companion for an older bored and snobbish lady, and while on vacation in the South of France meets a wealthy gentleman 40 years her senior. We are at that point introduced to the reason why Mr. De Winter, the older gentleman is in the South of France. It appears that his wife, Rebecca, has suffered a tragic death. After getting to know each other our protagonist and Mr. De Winter become romantically involved and he ultimately asks her to marry him. The proposal leaves the reader wondering about the true feelings of Mr. De Winter, since it was a not a romantic proposal at all.

After a short honey moon the newly married couple goes to Mr. De Winter’s home, Manderley, where the story starts picking up speed. We are at this point introduced to the house keeper, Mrs. Denvers, and a host of other characters, including Mr. De Winter’s sister and brother in law as well the grandmother. Each character is developed well and, I as the reader, felt as if I could touch and feel them and have conversations with them.

Throughout the story Manderley comes alive. What a beautiful house surrounded by woods and a garden on one side and the ocean on the other side. We can feel the coldness of the stone and we can feel the warmth of the fires in each of the fire place. The writing is impeccable and draws the reader in effortlessly.

I really enjoyed meeting each of the characters, even the ones I disliked the most. Mrs. Danver’s, although mean and rude, I could not help throughout the book to like her. She was wearing her emotions on her sleeves and nothing less was expected. Then there was Rebecca’s second cousin whom we meet halfway through the reading and whom I really did not like. the writing of this character was so on point that I could even smell the alcohol and tobacco on his clothes when faced with him on a page. Although, the reason for his behavior was as excusable as much as Mrs. Danver’s I could not bring myself to root for this character and wanted him to just go away.

Through out the narrative, although Rebecca was dead, I learned to like her. She was described as beautiful by everyone, she appeared to be extremely organized and neat and very much into making a house a home. Towards the end we learn new things about Rebecca and still, did not make me hate her. I’m not sure if that was the purpose. The new Mrs. De Winter on the other hand…. made me crazy sometimes. She was described as a shy and simple woman, which is fine. However, at times I felt as if her shyness and simplicity was a bit over played. I found myself almost yelling at her to “suck it up.” It was apparent that Mrs. Danvers was not her fan, yet, and even though she was aware of that, she kept bowing down to Mrs. Danvers. I wanted rip my hair out. As the book progressed her demeanor became a bit more tolerable. Especially after a certain event where it appears was the tipping point for her.

This was my first Du Maurier book and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Although I hear that this was the best one.

I give this book 4.5 stars and not 5 only because of the main character’s faults. As I said, the writing was amazing but I am not sure that Du Maurier accomplished what she set out to with this character. There were also other characters that were introduced and never fully developed where perhaps they should have been either better developed or omitted all together.

I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery and even romance although I don’t think I would classify the book as a romance at all.

Ana

 

Book Review: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

 

IMG_0534

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2017
284 Pages, $25.99

I was five years old when I first laid eyes on her, on a postcard, sent to me by my dearest aunt, Sadie Boxfish, my father’s youngest sister, daring and unmarried and living in Manhattan.

With these words, we are introduced to Lillian Boxfish. Although a work of fiction, the book is based on the life of a real woman. Not just any woman, the highest paid female in advertising. I would even venture to say a woman ahead of her time.

The story begins in New York, on New Years Eve in 1984, as Lillian talks to her son on the telephone and we learn that Lillian, now eighty-three or eighty-four years old…. we’re really not sure because she has never told anyone her real age and that has actually started to confuse her. During that conversation we learn that Lillian moved to New York as soon as she was old enough to look for a job. We learn that Lillian applied for fifteen jobs and received an offer at H. R. Macy’s. a job she accepted and at which she excelled.

A job which in some ways saved my life and in other ways ruined it.

We learn of an ex-husband, whom Lillian loved more than life itself and for whom she gave up her career as it was expected of women in those days. A husband who eventually remarried. We learn some of the details of her life in New York, her path to becoming the best paid advertising woman, her path to becoming a published author and eventually the end of her career.

Lillian was funny and a force to be reckoned with. She pulled no punches. She knew what she wanted and she found a way to get it. At one point when she’s in her boss’ office asking for a raise having been touted as the “best paid woman in advertising,” and he tells her that “…it’s been decided that we really can’t do it.” Instead of giving up she confronts him and says:

The passive voice, Chip? The use of the passive voice to disguise one’s role in the making of a decision is imprecise and obfuscatory. You’re a better ad man that that. Active verbs! Why not say “I refuse to pay you fairly.”

This scene in the book brought Lillian closer to me. She was fighting a battle which continues to be fought today. In 2017. Will our children still be fighting the same battle?

The entire story takes place on one single night while Lillian walks to Delmonicos on New Years Eve for her traditional New Years Eve Dinner. “Veal rollatini with green noodles” and then back home again. Through her walk the reader is introduced to a few characters she meets on the street, the sights and sounds of the city so familiar to those of us to inhabit it or work in it day in and day out. The reader comes face to face with the changes which take place both in the city and and Lillian as they both mature. For me, these were the aspects of the book that made me fall in love with the character .

In 1984, the Island of Manhattan was going through a particularly bad time. The crime rate was at its highest and to give the reader some perspective the author tells the story of the Subway Vigilante. A man who moved around the city subway, murdering members of a particular type.

The city I inhabit now is not the city that I moved to in 1926. It has become a mean-spirited action movie complete with repulsive plot twists and preposterous dialogue.

For someone like me, who works in Manhattan and therefore, practically live in Manhattan, I was extremely curious about what all these places looked like in the 1930s and 1984. I found myself making mental notes on what places I want to go back and visit. I’m eager to find all the beauty Lillian saw through her eyes in the New York of her youth as well as all the corruption and misery she found in 1984. I want to compare it to what it is today. A bustling city that, although not for everyone, it’s beautiful, busy and full of life. However, through Lillian’s eyes I was able to see the difference between what it was and what it is. She is not the first person calling the Penn Station building as it currently stands — a monstrosity.

I found that the author’s writing to be beautiful, her narrative to be flowy and descriptive. Kathleen Rooney is a poet and as expected her prose, enchanting and captivating. Through her words, I was able put on Lillian’s shoes as she looked at the world around her. Like when Lilly is talking to her cat, or contemplating buying a gift for that one New Years Eve party she decided to attend at the last minute.

There were, however, some passages in the book that felt as if they didn’t belong. They were a bit forced. These were very few but in a way they spoiled the flow of the book. As a New Yorker and a female I would never stop and chat with someone who happened to have honked the car horn. Not only would I not give that person the time of day but I would probably run away from the scene. This, in 2017. I don’t even want to imagine what I would have done in 1984, walking late at night in Midtown or Downtown.

Throughout the book we find Lillian maturing in parallel with the City. To me it felt as though they both began their walk through life as innocent, inexperienced and with a hunger to achieve huge heights. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps the author was telling a story about Lillian’s and Manhattan’s walk of life. We find that both mature, become resigned to circumstances, turn bitter and eventually learn to accept that “stuff happens” and in the process get stronger and more beautiful.

I think Lillian did a good job at navigating her life without a map. She was funny and sure of herself even when she didn’t think she was.

A question remains: if I were not from Lillian’s beloved New York, would this book have as much of an impact on me? hmmmm, I’m not certain. I cannot deny that I loved the story, enjoyed the concept and fell in love with Lillian. In the process discovered a new love for a city. All great things. The book was entertaining and I will also admit that I cannot wait for Kathleen’s next one (which I’m told is in the works).

I gave the book 4 stars only because I really had trouble getting past some of the scenes with strangers as being believable. They interrupted the flow of the narrative and I removed me from the cozy feeling of following Lillian around the city.

I have recommended this book to many people and would expect that they will enjoy it as much as I did.

Thanks for making it this far
Ana