Sunday, February 28, 2016

540 (2016 #6). America's First Daughter

by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

It took me a long time to get through this historical fiction advance reader edition.  Partly because it was very long - 584 pages.  Partly because, other than the title character, Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph, important figures such as her father Thomas Jefferson, and his slave/mistress Sally Hemings, just did not quite come to life for me.  Nor did the era, although it was set in a time and place and about people who aren't the "usual" subjects of historical fiction.

I did learn a lot about the life of Patsy, who served as her widowed father's hostess for most of his years in the White House.  Authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie did a lot of research, and each chapter begins with a quote from one of many letters written by Jefferson and his family members Dray is self-described as an "author of historical fiction and fantasy", while Kamoie's experience is in romance (writing as Laura Kaye).  Jefferson himself, as well as Sally, remain enigmas.

I'm not quite sure of my opinion of this book.  To add the detail I think it needs to make it come alive would make it far too long.  Yet I am glad to have read it, as the main character is one I knew little about.  I'd be interested to read the authors' next book, which is about the wife of Alexander Hamilton, as well as Dray's other books.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this advance reader edition through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

Friday, February 26, 2016

539 (2016 #5). Parachute

by Danny Parker,
illustrated by Matt Ottley

Toby has a fear of heights, so he always carries his parachute around with him.  One day, though, his cat gets stuck in a tree....

Matt Ottley's colorful illustrations, rendered with "virtual oil paint, oil pastel, and pencil" (from the verso), exaggerates the perspective so the heights seem even more so for Toby.

Danny Parker's text is simple enough for both a read-aloud and an early reader, demonstrating how one might deal with fear.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.  It will be added to my university library's collection.]

Monday, February 15, 2016

538 (2016 #4). Sashenka

by Simon Montefiore,
read by Anne Flosnik

Sashenka is a fascinating work of historical fiction set in three time periods in twentieth century Russia - 1916, 1939, and 1994.  The title character was born in 1900 to a wealthy Jewish family in St. Petersburg, but decides to follow her uncle and become a Bolshevik.  By 1939 she and her husband are part of the Communist elite, but then Sashenka makes a mistake that brings her world crashing down around her.  The third part of the book is set in 1994 with a historian of the day trying to find out what happened to Sashenka and her family.

The story is quite long (over 500 pages in print), but I learned SO much about Russian history.  Author Simon Montefiore has written a biography of Stalin as well as other nonfiction works about Russia,  His extensive background (and research experience in formerly-inaccessible Russian archives) serves him well in providing the settings and atmosphere of this story.  I truly felt I was *there* along with the characters.

The main weakness of this first novel for Montefiore are the amazing number of coincidences that make the third part of the book a reality.  Two major characters from the 1916 era have to live to very ripe old ages to make the events in the 1994 section possible.

I also found Anne Flosnik's reading of the audiobook to be problematic.  Her British accent is not an issue, it was her attempt to provide Russian accents that caused difficulty.  It was much harder than it needed to be to understand what many of the characters were saying.  I would have preferred for her to just use her normal voice and not try to (poorly) do accents.

Oh, but I do absolutely love the cover of this book.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This audiobook was borrowed from and returned to my university library's digital collection.]