Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Review: The Dressmaker's Secret by Kellyn Roth

Media Type: Ebook
Title: The Dressmaker's Secret
   *Series: The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy, Book I
Author: Kellyn Roth
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: Kindle; 205
Release Date: January 9, 2016
Source: Author
Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who are looking for a historically based read, with a little romance.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon
London, England, 1870

It comes to the attention of curious eight-year-old Alice Chattoway that her father is seemingly nonexistent. After realizing that his absence is making her mother unhappy, Alice becomes determined to find him and pull her family together. But Miss Chattoway’s answers to her daughter’s questions are vague at best and Alice begins to wonder if she will ever discover her mother’s secret.
Reading more historical fiction was something that I promised myself I'd tackle this year, and so I was very pleased with Kellyn Roth asked me to read The Dressmaker's Secret. I love all things with a classic feel, and this book seemed to fall within that realm. As it stands, both the premise of the story and the mystery woven into it were wonderful. I only had a few qualms, which I'll address below.

First off, I must give credit to Kellyn Roth for excellent character building. Although I felt like there could have been a bit less characters introduced, without affecting the overall story, she did succeed quite well in making sure that all of them felt realistic. I felt like I actually knew them, by the time I'd reached the ending. As a reader who always wants to feel invested, I genuinely appreciated that. I also very much enjoyed the atmosphere of this novel.Roth pays homage to the time period excellently. The Chattoways felt perfectly placed in the story that surrounded them.

My biggest issues with this story were fairly simple, the first being the large amount of dialogue that takes place in this book. Although it definitely assisted with my getting to know the characters, I felt like it hampered forward movement. There were large portions of the middle that felt dragged on, due to the dialogue between the characters. The other issue I had was that the plot seemed to rush to resolve itself in the latter half of the book. Things were going rather well at first, but the events that lead to the ending of this book were a bit frustrating to be honest. I felt like the ending was abrupt, and possibly not the best choice for the Chattoway's story. I had enjoyed following them enough that I felt a little let down.

Despite that though, I would definitely recommend this book to readers who are looking for historical fiction that is on the lighter side. There is a good message underlying all of this and, although the time period would dictate otherwise, this book doesn't have much scandal in it at all. It's a rather clean, and quick, read overall. I think Kellyn Roth is just cutting her teeth here, and that's a hopeful thought. I'd love to see what she writes next.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepard

Media Type: Audiobook
Title: The Secret Horses of Briar Hill
Author: Megan Shepard
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: Hardcover; 240
Release Date: October 13, 2016
Source: Library Borrow
Content Screening: Nothing of note

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Young readers who enjoy magical realism and amazing characters.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital. In the mirrors that line its grand hallways, which once belonged to a princess. In those that reflect the elegant rooms, now filled with sick children. It is her secret.

One morning, when Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens, she discovers something incredible: a white horse with broken wings has left the mirror-world and entered her own. 

Tucked into the garden’s once-gleaming sundial, Emmaline finds a letter from the Horse Lord. He is hiding the wounded white horse, named Foxfire, from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep the Black Horse from finding her new friend, she must collect colorful objects with which to blind him. But where can Emmaline find color when her world is filled with gray?
Oh, this book. I borrowed this on a whim from the library, and I'm so very glad that I did. Megan Shepard has woven a beautiful tale in The Secret Horses of Briar Hill. One that manages to mix fantasy and reality in a way that is both heartbreaking and sweet. I fell in love with Emmaline from page one, and I honestly wish that her story had gone on a little longer.

The writing in this book felt so familiar. Like an old friend, that I hadn't picked up in a while. I'd most easily compare this to something like The Secret Garden, with its rambling estate and precocious young characters. There was just enough magic patchworked into this story as well, with Emmaline's winged horses taking center stage. Which was perfection, to be honest. While there are definitely sad undertones, since this takes place during wartime, the magic here helps keep things on an even keel. I don't know if Middle Grade readers will get the layers here, but even with just the winged horses it's an excellent story.

As for the audiobook, I an attest that Fiona Hardingham is the perfect narrator for Emmaline's story. She brings the otherwordly place on the other side of the mirror, with its winged inhabitants, to life. I honestly think it gave me an even better experience than I could have hoped for. If you have an older MG reader, who is in love with simple magic, this is a book that you need to put in their hands. It was a gorgeous read.


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