Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book Review: Sloane Hall by Libby Sternberg

Sloane Hall 
Sloane Hall by Libby Sternberg
Publisher: Five Star
Publish Date: October 6, 2010
Hardcover, 390 pages

My Review:
Why I read this: I have interviewed this author before and she contacted me to be a part of the tour for this book, I read the blurb and was intrigued and immediately said yes.

How is the novel driven: Character, this is about the primarily about the life of John Doyle and Pauline Sloane.

My thoughts: Wow, Ms. Sternberg has done a wonderful job with Sloane Hall and it's ability to transport me back into time, into the 1920s.  I don't know much about this era, but her book feels real to me and I felt like I was in that time, when movies changed from silent to spoken word and how big a change that really was.  I honestly thought it was no big deal, but when you think about how much acting had to go into movies without sound it's really impressive.  So the setting and the time were done beautifully and I loved this setting.

I will now confess that I have not read Jane Eyre (but will remedy that soon) so I don't know about the parallels to Sloane Hall.  I do know that John is a tortured hero, he falls for Pauline but she continues to hurt him no matter what he does and there are some similarities between John's mom and Pauline's behavior that make John want to stay far from Pauline, but he can't.  I loved the tortured soul part of it and both characters John and Pauline are tortured in different ways.  But not so much that the book becomes unbearable to read, just enough that you feel for both characters trying to change and John trying to change Pauline.  The characters are well-written and well-developed.  They moved the story along and they were interesting.  They were the ones that kept me turning pages.  Would John still love Pauline, would she change, what would happen next.

There were even very unexpected things for me in the plot, I won't give those away because I want you to be surprised as well.  The surprises work beautifully to move the story along and create more character growth for John. 

What else can I say - Ms. Sternberg has a winner in this novel and I am thrilled I got a chance to read and review it.  She writes beautiful, tortured characters, puts you right in the time frame and crafts an amazing story around all of it.  Wonderful job and a wonderful book - give it a try and see for yourself.

My Rating: 4.75/5.0

About the Book:
In 1920s Hollywood, young John Doyle learns the craft of cinematography when a stupid mistake costs him his job. On a tip, he heads to Sloane Hall, the estate of a famous silent screen actress, Pauline Sloane, where he lands a position as chauffeur. Sloane Hall first offers him peace as he enjoys the bounty of the luxurious home, then unrest as its beautiful namesake returns and starts preparing for her first talking picture. Despite his best efforts to resist, John falls hopelessly in love with his employer. His future brightens, however, when she appears to return his affection, leading to plans for a secret wedding--until other awful secrets intrude, leading to heartbreak and separation. A story of obsession and forgiveness, Libby Sternberg's Sloane Hall was inspired by Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre.

About the Author:
Libby Sternberg is the author of historical fiction, young adult mystery (for which she was an Edgar nominee), and, writing as Libby Malin, humorous women's fiction.

Her YA mysteries have been called "taut, vivid and stirring," by Library Journal while her latest humorous women's fiction was called "a world of wit and chaos, intelligently written," by Booklist.

A graduate of a music conservatory, she worked as a Japanese Geisha, Russian courtier, French courtesan, Chinese peasant and Middle Eastern slave after college -- that is, she sang in the choruses of Baltimore and Washington Operas. Vocal music plays a crucial role in her historical mystery, Death Is the Cool Night, offered in digital format on Kindle.

A native of Baltimore, she now lives in Pennsylvania. She is married and has three children, of whom she is immensely proud.

Her website
Her Blog

FTC Information: I received this book from the author for review.  I have Amazon links on my review pages but I do not make any money from these because of NC laws.  I put them solely for people to check out the books on a retail site.

Book Review: What Alice Knew by Paula Marantz Cohen

What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper 
What Alice Knew by Paula Marantz Cohen
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: September 7, 2010
Paperback, 352 pages

My Review:
Why I read this: I was given a chance to read this by the publisher, it sounded fascinating and the author is new to me so I wanted to give it a try.

How is the novel driven: Primarily plot/action-driven though the character development is well-done also.

My thoughts: After the read-a-thon was done, this one was next on my list and I had a whole Sunday to myself (I have been sick, the kids were still at their grandparents and the hubby out of the house again), so I sat down to enjoy this novel.  And enjoy it I did.  I loved the look at the artist side of London in the late 1800s.  Where groups of authors, painters and other artists and patrons of the arts often had meals together and had fun together and made fun of each other.  The look into Henry James, his brother William and their sister Alice was a very interesting way to also look into the case of Jack the Ripper.

All of this wonderful backdrop was there, but that wasn't all, the story itself was very well-done.  I was kept entertained throughout with the antics of society and the trio of siblings trying to solve the difficult case of Jack the Ripper.  The mystery was fascinating and held my attention.  I was constantly wondering who it might be and was kept wondering right up until the end.  What Alice Knew was well-plotted, the characters well-developed and the setting was perfect.  I loved learning more about the time period and the writers of the time.

I will definitely look for more of Paula Marantz Cohen's work, her writing is very interesting and her story was entertaining.  The mystery is at the forefront but the characters steal the show and make this a magnificent book.

My Rating: 4.75/5.0

About the Book:

What is an American writer, a master in his own mind but less regarded by his peers, to do in 1880s London?  If you are Henry James, it means frequent dinner parties with the likes of Oscar Wilde, John Singer Sargent and George du Maurier, eating too much while suffering barbs and engaging in silly repartee.  But when Henry's brother William--a professor at Harvard renowned for his groundbreaking work in the new science of psychology--is summoned from America by Scotland Yard to help investigate an East End serial killer who calls himself "Jack the Ripper," things suddenly become more exciting.

Not to take a back seat to her m ore famous brothers, Henry and William's invalid sister Alice takes on the role of lead detective as the three precocious siblings attempt to unravel the true identity of the killer.  Searching London high and low, encountering characters both suspicious and ridiculous along the way, they inch closer to a killer, neither they, nor modern readers, would ever suspect.

With a pitch-perfect knowledge of the period and the players, Cohen, who has had a successful writing career in fiction with alternative takes on literary classics, captures a colorful Victorian London and its environs.  The action ranges from lavish dinner parties, music halls, and seances to Whitechapel slums, the Slade School of Art, and the Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane, in this delightful take on one of America's greatest literary families and one of England's most terrifying killers.

About the Author:

Paula Marantz Cohen is a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University where she teaches courses in literature, film, and creative writing. She  is the author of Jane Austen in Boca, Jane Austen in Scarsdale, and Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan, and four scholarly works of nonfiction including, Alfred Hitchcock: The Legacy of Victorianism, Silent Film and the Triumph of the American Myth and The Daughter’s Dilemma: Family Process and the Nineteenth-Century Domestic Novel. Paula is also the host of The Drexel Interview, a cable TV show based in Philadelphia

Her website

FTC Information: I received this book from the publisher, Sourcebooks for review.  I have Amazon links on my review pages but I do not make any money from these because of NC laws.  I put them solely for people to check out the books on a retail site.