Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done
Author: Sarah Schmidt
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, True Crime

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Haunting, gripping and gorgeously written, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt is a re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty-two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable début makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.


Lizzie Borden was a name I had heard before, but her story wasn’t one I was familiar with. When my friend picked See What I Have Done as our next book club pick, I wasn’t sure what to think. Was this book going to be gory? Was it going to be thriller suspenseful? I didn’t know how to prepare myself for it. Luckily, for my sake, See What I Have Done wasn’t a gory or stressful read.

If you’re unfamiliar with Lizzie Borden like I was, I’ll give you a little history. Lizzie was an adult woman who lived at home with her father, step-mother, older sister and maid, Bridget. While her sister, Emma, was spending time out-of-town at a friend’s, their parents were murdered. The weapon was an ax. Lizzie and the maid were both home at the time of the murders. Lizzie was tried and acquitted of the crime, but many still suspect that she was the murderer. (I had to look all of this up after reading the book to find out what was fact and what was fiction.)

See What I Have Done tells the story of the murder of Andrew and Abby Borden through the eyes of four narrators: Lizzie, Emma, Bridget and Benjamin. The story mostly takes place over the day before the murder and the day of. The events of those days are set up by each character. Together, their point of views craft a look at what might have happened and who might have been the killer.

If this was a true account of the crime, I could understand why Lizzie was charged with murder. Lizzie was a little off and I wasn’t quite sure what to think of her. Listening to her thoughts made her seem like the most likely murderer. I completely understood why Emma felt the way she did about Lizzie. Lizzie was pretty horrid to her. That made me question some of Emma’s later devotion to Lizzie, though. I understood their relationship, but it was really weird.

Another thing that was really weird were the parents. Andrew Borden was made out to be a horrible man. Abby wasn’t made out to be much better. The dynamic in the household between the parents and the daughters was odd. The fact that Lizzie and Emma were grown women made it even weirder. I kept wondering if this is really how people saw the Bordens in real life?

The character I felt most sorry for was Bridget. I’m surprised she wasn’t the killer. (Maybe she was???) The Bordens were horrible to her. She waited on them hand and foot, and they took complete advantage of her. I liked her thoughts on the murder and the suspects. I have to admit that I was happy the murder let her escape the horrible household.

As for Benjamin, I wasn’t sure what to think of the addition of his character. He’s not in any of the official accounts of the murder. I guess he was a “What if?” situation to show what might have happened if someone other than Lizzie was possibly involved.

As you can probably guess, this book had me a little confused! In real life, the case was never solved. In See What I Have Done, there is only speculation. I wish I could find out the truth! Too bad the people who could answer the tough questions are long gone.

Overall, See What I Have Done was a fun read. It took an unsolved crime and gave it new life. I liked the author’s writing and the way she brought the characters to life. I was impressed that this is her début novel. It’s a book a would recommend to those who like true crime or historical fiction. It had me looking up the history behind the story the moment I finished reading it.

Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac Girls
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.
 
New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.


Lilac Girls is one of those books I’ve been seeing around since its release but didn’t really know much about. It wasn’t until a friend picked it for our next book club read that I became aware it was based on a true story from World War II.

The history recapped in Lilac Girls was new to me. Or at least it felt that way. I’ve read several other books set in the same time period, but this was the first I’ve read that included the “rabbits”. I knew the Nazis experimented at concentration camps, but I’ve never experienced it quite the way I did in this book. Nor have I read a book that included the perspective of someone involved in the operation of a concentration camp. Those things made Lilac Girls stand out to me in the World War II historical fiction genre.

Novels revolving around World War II are always tough reads. They evoke so many negative emotions from me. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. Relief. I felt all of those things while reading Lilac Girls. It’s tough realities stuck with me evening when I wasn’t reading it. I woke at four in the morning thinking about this book. It’s hard to imagine such a horrible time. If it wasn’t based on a horrible truth, it would be hard to believe.

I can’t say I loved reading Lilac Girls because it made me incredibly sad, and it took me a bit to get into. I can say that it was well written and informative. It made me want to know more about the real story behind several characters in this book. I will be headed to Google to search them once I finish this review. Historical fiction readers or anyone who has an interest in World War II would enjoy this book.

Review: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Alex & Eliza: A Love Story
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnum’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

1777. Albany, New York.

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball.

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

In the pages of Alex and Eliza, #1 New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz brings to life the romance of young Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler.


I haven’t seen Hamilton. I don’t know much about Alexander Hamilton. What I do know is that I loved this take on his relationship with Elizabeth Schuyler.

I’m not one immediately pulled in by historical fiction. It usually takes me a while to get into the time period, but Alex and Eliza captured my attention from the start. It was beautifully written and completely enchanting. It may have been based in the past, but the writing felt fresh and new.

Everything about the characters made me want to know more about their story. Eliza was a strong, somewhat outspoken young woman of her time. The way she stood up for her beliefs was inspirational. Alex wasn’t quite the war hero he wanted to be, but his book smarts were impressive, as was the way he was infatuated with Eliza. I loved how Alex & Eliza began with their first meeting and impressions of each other, and then ended with their marriage. I’m not sure how much of Melissa de la Cruz’s account was real and how much she crafted, but the relationship felt like it naturally progressed. All of the little bits of drama were fun and important to the story.

Eliza and Alex weren’t the only stars of this story. I absolutely loved Eliza’s sisters. They had such strong personalities of their own. Their stories seemed just as important as Eliza and Alex’s. If Melissa de la Cruz were to write their stories, I would be quick to read them!

Alex & Eliza was a truly delightful read. It was a captivating historical love story that all readers are sure to enjoy.

Review: The Guests on South Battery by Karen White

30068929The Guests of South Battery
Series: Tradd Street, #5
Author: Karen White
Publication Date: January 10, 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Mystery, Historical, Romance, Fiction
Note: I received an ARC from Berkley via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

New York Times bestselling author Karen White invites you to explore the brick-walked streets of Charleston, where historic mansions house the memories of years gone by, and restless spirits refuse to fade away…

With her extended maternity leave at its end, Melanie Trenholm is less than thrilled to leave her new husband and beautiful twins to return to work, especially when she’s awoken by a phone call with no voice on the other end—and the uneasy feeling that the ghostly apparitions that have stayed silent for more than a year are about to invade her life once more.

But her return to the realty office goes better than she could have hoped, with a new client eager to sell the home she recently inherited on South Battery. Most would treasure living in one of the grandest old homes in the famous historic district of Charleston, but Jayne Smith would rather sell hers as soon as possible, guaranteeing Melanie a quick commission.

Despite her stroke of luck, Melanie can’t deny that spirits—both malevolent and benign—have started to show themselves to her again. One is shrouded from sight, but appears whenever Jayne is near. Another arrives when an old cistern is discovered in Melanie’s backyard on Tradd Street.

Melanie knows nothing good can come from unearthing the past. But some secrets refuse to stay buried….


I was excited when I heard Karen White was going to be continuing her Tradd Street series. I was sure the fourth book, Return to Tradd Street, was going to be the end. That made me so sad because I loved every minute of this quirky series. Luckily, I was wrong!

The minute I began The Guests on South Battery, I was immediately sucked back into Melanie Middleton Trenholm’s world. It was fun to be back in her uptight mind, traversing around downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Despite getting married and having twins, Melanie hadn’t changed much. She still had her insecurities and anal-retentive compulsions. I enjoyed seeing how Jack, her husband, dealt with them. Their relationship was changing and progressing throughout the entire story and I loved that a lot.

I also loved how Karen White brought back all of my favorite characters from the entire series. She gave them each the perfect part in this story. There were also some great new characters introduced. They added some cool twists to the mystery of the story and brought a new depth to the recurring characters and their histories. I especially liked Jayne and her role in The Guests on South Battery.

My favorite thing about The Guests on South Battery, though; was the mystery of the story. I was fascinated by Jayne randomly inheriting the house on South Battery. I was dying to know why the previous owner chose her the entire time I was reading. I knew the ghosts inhabiting the house were somehow involved in the answer, but I never would have guessed why.

My only little issue with The Guests of South Battery was Melanie’s insecurity surrounding her post-baby life. She’s always been insecure, but there was denial she was going through that was a little odd. I didn’t like the way those around her acted about it. They were all controlling a part of her life and I didn’t really understand why. It was almost like I was missing a piece of their interactions or something. It didn’t make me dislike the book, but I just found it a bit…odd.

Once again, Karen White has written a beautifully crafted mystery. I truly loved reading The Ghosts on South Battery and being back in Charleston with the Middletons and the Trenholms. It was such a fun ghost story/romance/mystery. I especially loved the ending and how I felt that it left things open for the possibilities of more books in the series. I highly recommend the entire Tradd Street series to readers who like mysteries with a historical touch.

Before the Blog: Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve

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Before the Blog is a weekly blog meme hosted by Karis Jacobstein over @ YA Litwit. It’s an opportunity to showcase books a blogger read and loved prior to starting their blog .  I love this idea because there are so many amazing books I haven’t reviewed on A Novel Glimpse because I read them a long time ago. The only rules to this meme are to answer the following questions about the book chosen to review:

  • Why did you choose this book? 
  • When did you read this book? 
  • Who would you recommend this book to? 

828713Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve

Publication Date: November 21, 1999

Publisher: Abacus Software

Goodreads Synopsis:

On a beach in New Hampshire at the turn of the last century, a young woman is drawn into a rocky, disastrous passage to adulthood. Olympia Biddeford is the only child of a prominent Boston couple—a precocious and well-educated daughter, alive with ideas and flush with the first stirrings of maturity. Her summer at the family’s vacation home in Fortune’s Rocks is transformed by the arrival of a doctor, a friend of her father’s, whose new book about mill-town labourers has caused a sensation. Olympia is captivated by his thinking, his stature, and his drive to do right—even as she is overwhelmed for the first time by irresistible sexual desire. She and the doctor—a married man, a father, and nearly three times her age—come together in an unthinkable, torturous, hopelessly passionate affair. Throwing aside propriety and self-preservation, Olympia plunges forward with cataclysmic results that are the price of straying in an unforgiving era. Olympia is cast out of the world she knows, and Fortune’s Rocks is the story of her determination to reinvent her broken life—and claim the one thing she finds she cannot live without.

A meditation on the erotic life of women, an exploration of class prejudices, and most of all a portrayal of the thoughts and actions of an unforgettable young woman, Fortune’s Rocks is a masterpiece of narrative drama, beautifully written by one of the most accomplished novelists of our time.


My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Why did you choose this book? 

Fortune’s Rocks was one of the first audio books I ever listened to. My boss had checked it out from the library and lent it to me when she was done with it. I was fascinated by the story and loved listening to it.

 When did you read this book? 

My best guess is around 2005-2006.

Who would you recommend this book to?

Anyone that likes a good historical novel.

ARC Review: The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams & Lauren Willig

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig

Publication Date: January 19, 2016

Publisher: NAL

Synopsis:

In 1945, it’s rare for women to be doctors. Dr. Kate Schuyler must dedicate her life to medicine to be taken seriously. She works in Manhattan at an old mansion that has been turned into a hospital.

When injured Captain Cooper Ravenel arrives at the hospital, Kate can’t help but be drawn to him. She feels like she’s known him forever. The feeling is intensified by a portrait in the captain’s possession. A portrait that looks very much like Kate. Not only does the woman look like Kate, she is wearing a ruby necklace exactly like the one Kate’s mother gave her.

As Kate and Cooper start to search for the truth behind the mysterious painting, they begin to uncover stories of the past. The stories involve Kate’s grandmother Olive, her mother Lucy and the wealthy Pratt family.


My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Karen White is one of my favorite authors. Her writing is beautiful. I love how she mixes past and present, mystery, romance and history all into one amazing story. I was very excited to read her collaboration with Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. I haven’t read these authors before, so I was excited to read their work in combination with an author I love.The combination of the three authors was seamless. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell the story was written by three people.

The Forgotten Room was so interesting to read. I loved the way the three different characters and time frames were woven together. It kept my attention and kept me wondering what had happened in Olive’s Gilded Age and Lucy’s Jazz Age. I wanted to know how all three women were tied together. The authors did an amazing job doling out pieces of information a little at a time to keep the story fresh and entertaining.

My favorite thing about this book was that not all of the secrets were easy to guess. Just when I would think I had something figured out, I would learn something that changed how I saw the characters.

If you’re looking for a wonderful historical romance / mystery to read, I would highly suggest The Forgotten Room.

**I received an electronic copy of The Forgotten Room from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Nightingale

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Publication Date: February 3, 2015

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Synopsis:

It’s 1939 and war is raging in Europe. France has been preparing for war, trying to keep Hitler’s army out of its boarders. In the village of Carriveau, the Mauriac sisters are driven apart by their views on the war.

Vianne, the elder of the two, does not believe war will come to France. Even has her husband is sent off to war, Vianne chooses to believe life will go on as it has been. But when the Nazis invade her village, Vianne can no longer deny it. War has come to France. She must do everything in her power to keep herself and her daughter alive.

Vianne’s younger sister, Isabelle, does not agree with Vianne’s stance. Eighteen-year-old Isabelle would rather meet the war head on than mearly try to survive. She joins the Resistance and spends her time trying to save others.

As the war rages on, Vianne and Isabelle will make choices that tear them apart and pull them back together.


My rating: 5 out 5 stars


To be honest, I avoided reading The Nightingale. I wanted to read it, but I didn’t want to read it. I love Kristin Hannah’s books, but I heard it was a little slow and a lot sad. I checked it out twice from the library. The first time, I had to return the hardback before I had a chance to read it. Really, I just wasn’t in the mood. The second time, I checked out an electronic copy. I only read 18  pages before it magically returned itself. Then, my friend let me borrow her copy. It sat on my counter for two weeks before I picked it up. I’m really sad I waited so long to read it. It was really, really good.

I feel like no matter what I write about The Nightingale, it won’t adequately reflect my feelings about this book. It was heart breaking. It was beautiful. It was captivating. I couldn’t put it down.

I can tell The Nightingale is going to be a book that sticks with me long after I have finished reading it. Kristin Hannah did a wonderful job weaving the French history of World War II into her story. The Nightingale may have been fiction, but I could easily imagine it being real. It’s a devastating thought because the history of World War II is so devastating. It happened and a lot of people died. There’s no avoiding the truth of it all.

The Nightingale is a book I would recommend to readers who enjoyed Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. I would also recommend it to those reader who like historical fiction or just a really amazing book.