First Line Fridays: “Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen” by Sarah Bird

First Line Fridays (feature photo)

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hording Books.


Heya! It’s Friday!

I’m pretty excited to share my FLF pick for today because I have something special coming up next week related to it.

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Here’s the fist thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am a daughter of a daughter of a queen and my mama never let me forget it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just started reading Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen yesterday and I’m hooked. I couldn’t put it down. Cathy Williams is such an interesting character, tough and proud and brave. Also, I think the fact that I haven’t read much historical fiction set during the years when the Civil War happened made reading this all the more “more.” I learn and enjoy both at the same thing, which is really something.

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen comes out next week, September 4, and I’m excited to announce that I’m part of the blog tour for it. I was lucky to have a Q&A with the author, Sarah Bird. I will be putting up that post next week on the 8th, along with a giveaway, so stick along for that.

💗💗💗

Rachel

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Come and join in the fun. Visit Hoarding Books to see what other FLF bloggers has to share.

 

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: “Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen” by Sarah Bird

Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted Tressa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted Jill at Breaking the Spine.


We’re halfway through August, can you believe that? Wow! I’m almost done with my August reads and am now planning for September. This book, which I will be featuring today here for CWW, ranks pretty high on my priority list because I just can’t read enough historical novels.

37638135The compelling, hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.

“Here’s the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of queen and my mama never let me forget it.”

Though born into bondage on a “miserable tobacco farm” in Little Dixie, Missouri, Cathy Williams was never allowed to consider herself a slave. According to her mother, she was a captive, destine by her noble warrior blood to escape the enemy. Her means of deliverance is Union general Phillip Henry “Smash ’em Up” Sheridan, the outcast of West Point who takes the rawboned, prideful young woman into service. At war’s end, having tasted freedom, Cathy refuses to return to servitude and makes the monumental decision to disguise herself as a man and join the Army’s legendary Buffalo Soldiers.

Alone now in the ultimate man’s world, Cathy must fight not only for her survival and freedom, but she also vows to never give up on finding her mother, her little sister, and the love of the only man strong enough to win her heart. Inspired by the stunning, true story of Private Williams, this American heroine comes to vivid life in sweeping and magnificent tale about one woman’s fight for freedom, respect and independence.

I’ve always been a history geek and my love for history extends itself to fiction, which is why historical novels have a special place in my reader heart. I’m especially excited to read this one because there aren’t much stuff written about Cathay Williams and I think her story must be told even if it is through fiction. Imagine posing as a man to fight a war for your own freedom and independence.
Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen comes out September 4. Meanwhile, you can already pre-order it: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Books-a-Million // IndieBound // Powells

Bird - Author Image (credit Sarah Wilson)
About the Author:
SARAH BIRD’s previous novel, Above the East China Sea, was long-listed for the Dublin International Literary Award. Sarah has been selected for the Meryl Streep Screenwriting Lab, the B&N Discover Great Writers program, NPR’s Moth Radio series, the Texas Literary Hall of Fame, and New York Libraries Books to Remember list. She first heard Cathy Williams’ story in the late seventies while researching African-American rodeos.

Review: “The Masterpiece” by Fiona Davis

37504654Title: The Masterpiece

Author: Fiona Davis

Publisher: Dutton Books / Penguin Publishing Group

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-Million

(Digital ARC graciously provided by Penguin Publishing Group via their First to Read program)

 

New York’s Grand Central Terminal provides common ground for two women in Fiona Davis’ latest historical.

For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public’s disdain for a “woman artist.” Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded–even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter–Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they’ll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay’s life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece–an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

Goodreads

Fiona Davis has long been on my long TBR list since her first book, The Dollhouse, was released in 2016. I don’t know why, but for some reason I’ve never read any of her books so, when I saw that this one was up for request on Penguin’s First to Read, I grabbed my chance to change that.

And boy, it had me asking why I waited so long.

Going back and forth in time between late 1920s and mid-70s, The Masterpiece is told from the point of view of two women – Clara Darden and Virginia Clay. Together, these two very different but resilient women tell a stunning and engaging story with art and tragedy at its heart and New York’s Grand Central Terminal in the backdrop.

I absolutely loved this story. It had everything I was looking for in a historical fiction – romance, mystery, and whole load of well-researched historical background.

While both women’s stories were interesting, I was more drawn to Clara Darden. She is brash, unapologetically ambitious, talented and confident, and I loved her for all those characteristics. Her story is more about her fight for recognition as a female artist in a world dominated by men. She also adds a little romance into the story as she draws the attention of two wildly opposing men – wealthy, budding poet Oliver Smith and passionate, temperamental but talented painter Levon Zakarian. These two men would influence Clara’s story, helping her reach her dream of drawing cover illustrations for Vogue and challenging her to step out of her comfort zone to create what is to be her masterpiece, The Siren.  This work, thought to be destroyed in a tragic train crash serves as a tie to Virginia’s story.

I loved how Clara and Virginia connected. They are both different and similar both of the same time. Virginia’s challenges may have been different from Clara’s but both women faced them with incredible tenacity and toughness, and I think the latter saw this as well nearing the end of the book. I’m sure she saw a bit of her younger herself in Virginia, and I think this is why she still kept on talking to the younger woman even though her tendency towards insistence and naivety initially annoyed her.

Meanwhile, for Virginia who is still struggling with her mastectomy and recent divorce, the solving The Siren’s mystery  and helping save Grand Central from demolition gave her a new sense of direction. She’s bulheaded in her own way, never stopping her search even when blocks are thrown her way. It’s sublime but it takes a certain amount of strength to push through all those challenges especially after what Virginia has already been through, and this, for me, is what makes her character so relatable and likable.

The dual perspective and the time-jumping were seamless. And, for a historical fiction, this one was actually pretty fast-paced, which was a nice surprise for me. The bits of Grand Central history weaved into the narrative were fascinating, adding more color and richness to Clara’s and Virginia’s stories.

I definitely and insistently recommend The Masterpiece to everyone and anyone who loves historical fiction. I cannot rave about this book enough. It was just that good!

Review: “Eagle and Crane” by Suzanne Rindell

36694774Title: Eagle and Crane

Author: Suzanne Rindell

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Son’s/Penguin Publishing Group

Publication Date: July 3, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Pre-order it:

IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon Books-a-million

(Digital ARC graciously provided by publisher via Edelweiss)

Suzanne Rindell combines historical fiction, mystery, romance and family drama in her third novel Eagle and Crane.

Louis Thorn and Haruto “Harry” Yamada — Eagle and Crane — are the star attractions of Earl Shaw’s Flying Circus, a daredevil (and not exactly legal) flying act that traverses Depression-era California. The young men have a complicated relationship, thanks to the Thorn family’s belief that the Yamadas — Japanese immigrants — stole land that should have stayed in the Thorn family. 

When Louis and Harry become aerial stuntmen, performing death-defying tricks high above audiences, they’re both drawn to Shaw’s smart and appealing stepdaughter, Ava Brooks. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and one of Shaw’s planes mysteriously crashes and two charred bodies are discovered in it, authorities conclude that the victims were Harry and his father, Kenichi, who had escaped from a Japanese internment camp they had been sent to by the federal government. To the local sheriff, the situation is open and shut. But to the lone FBI agent assigned to the case, the details don’t add up.

Thus begins an investigation into what really happened to cause the plane crash, who was in the plane when it fell from the sky, and why no one involved seems willing to tell the truth.

Goodreads

A plane crash and two dead bodies, one too badly burned to even identify, opens up the story immediately bringing to the fore the mystery that readers will have to puzzle out throughout the whole book. At the center of it all are three characters – Haruto “Harry” Yamada, Louis Thorn and Ava Brooks. FBI Agent Bonner adds up tension to the story, playing the role of a connector stitching together the pieces of the story. The narrative toggles back and forth detailing the family feud between the Yamadas and the Thorns, the beginning of Harry and Louis’ daredevil act, and the internment of Japanese immigrants in the U.S. during World War II.

This was a slow starter for me. Rindell’s story took time to unfold, her prose stilted at times and meandering even at some points. Eagle and Crane is not the type of book you just pick up and read in one go. This sometimes counts against the book for me, but somehow I just couldn’t put this one down and let it go unfinished.

Meticulously researched and carefully detailed, Eagle and Crane is an immersive work that will transport readers to a time when America let fear rule over her.

I’ve read quite a few historical novels set during WWII but not one of them included anything about Japanese internment camps, so this was both a revelation and an informative bit of history for me. I didn’t know that this happened and I just can’t help thinking how it somehow mirrors what is currently happening in U.S. right now.

But more than the strong historical foundations of this story, it was the characters that made me stick through finishing this book.

All three of the main characters – Ava, Harry and Louis – were well-developed and complex. Their trio is Eagle and Crane’s heart and soul. Harry and Louis’ complicated friendship, Ava’s love for both boys, Louis’ conflicted loyalties – these fuel most of the book, and it were these parts I loved most. I think it brought out the human factor I’m looking for in every historical fiction and allowed me to connect more to the story. Though I must say, Agent Bonner’s parts often felt pat and contrived to me.

Overall, Eagle and Crane was a satisfying read. If you’re one for historical fiction, then I definitely recommend this book to you.

First Line Friday: “Eagle & Crane” by Suzanne Rindell

First Line Fridays (feature photo)

First Line Fridays is a weekly feature hosted by Hording Books.


It’s Friday finally! I, for one, couldn’t tell you enough how relieved I am to have reached the work week’s end. I’ve been sick (cough + colds) but I still went to work the whole week. I’m just glad I have the chance to rest and sleep and read this weekend. I admit my body needs it.

This Friday’s line is from I book I finished reading the other day, Eagle and Crane by Suzanne Rindell.

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They bump along the country road, rolling through golden hills that are punctuated with granite boulders and dotted with clusters of oak trees that appear blackish green from afar.

 

 

 

 

Eagle and Crane is a historical mystery circling around three friends – Ava, Harry and Louis – and their time with Ava’s stepfather’s barnstorming act. Main event of this book is set during World War II but other important precipitating incidents go as far back as the Great Depression.

I found this book really interesting albeit overlong. I’m going to try and write my review of it this weekend so you all could read what I think of it. Meanwhile, you can check it out on Goodreads.

💗💗💗

Rachel

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Come on and share the first lines of the book you’re reading and then head over to Hoarding Books to see other FLF bloggers.