Pageviews last month

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

            This novel, based on fact, is written by Jennifer Chiaverini. It tells the story of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a talented needlewoman and a former slave who worked to earn freedom for herself and her son. She settled in pre-Civil War Washington D.C. where she successfully established her own business as modiste, or dressmaker, to the fashionable wives of politicians.
            But the political atmosphere was changing in Washington D.C. Abraham Lincoln was elected as president and tensions grew between the northern and southern states. Elizabeth’s success increased when she was introduced to Mary Lincoln, the president’s wife, and became Mrs. Lincoln’s only dressmaker. Through the years of the Lincoln presidency, Elizabeth had a front row seat to their domestic life and historic events. She became the confidante of Mary Lincoln and was able to deal with her erratic moods which most of Washington D.C. society criticized.
            After Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, Elizabeth continued to emotionally support Mary while others turned away from her. However, Elizabeth’s decision to write her autobiography featuring her years of slavery, establishment of her dressmaking business, and relationship with Mary came back to bite her when the publisher modified some of the text to present a salacious view of Mary. Mary broke off all contact with Elizabeth and never reconciled with her.
            Even though the ending of the friendship upset Elizabeth, she continued with her life’s work of promoting equality for the newly freed slaves.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Murderer's Daughter

            The latest thriller from author Jonathan Kellerman features a very different protagonist from that of his usual series character Dr. Alex Delaware. She is Dr. Grace Blades, a successful, intellectually gifted psychologist, also based in Los Angeles as is Delaware, whose well-balanced demeanor conceals a secret. Grace was the daughter of psychologically damaged parents who died in a murder-suicide when she was five years of age. She was shuffled around the foster care system until ending up with a caring woman who happened to have a brother-in-law, a psychologist and professor, who recognized Grace’s intelligence and spirit and worked with her to maximize her potential. When the foster mother died suddenly under suspicious circumstances, Grace is adopted by the brother-in-law and his wife.

            Grace grows into adulthood living a much better life with her adopted parents. But while she transforms herself into a successful career woman, Grace also has a reckless side that includes racing cars and anonymous sex. Then some individuals from her foster care childhood appear and Grace’s life is threatened. Reluctant to contact the police because of complications, Grace instead manages to protect herself, identify the murderer, and arrive at justice. The breakneck pace of the story and the well-developed characters add to the reader’s enjoyment.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


            X is the 24th book in the best-selling Alphabet series written by Sue Grafton. Private investigator Kinsey Millhone is back to solving mysteries; this time the reader gets three for the price of one. As usual, the story is set in Santa Teresa, California; it is the spring of 1989. Some of the characters in this book are old friends of the reader: Henry, Kinsey’s nonagenarian landlord, Rosie the owner of the bar that Kinsey hangs out at, and others.

            And the three mysteries? One involves a job offered to Kinsey by a wealthy woman to find the child she gave up for adoption. Only the woman isn’t who she seems to be, as Kinsey discovers when the police question her about the marked bill that she received in payment. She eventually uncovers the truth as well as acts as the go-between for a divorced couple trying to one-up each other.

            Mystery number two is a job that PI Pete Wolinsky was unable to complete before he was murdered in Grafton’s last book. It involves a list of the names of six women that Pete was trying to protect. They all are or were involved with Ned Lowe: his daughter, ex-wives, current wife, and old girlfriends. Ned tried controlling all of them. Did he murder one of them too?

            Mystery number three is minor yet humorous. An elderly couple moves into the house next door to Henry and Kinsey. At first they are viewed as a pitiful pair, the husband is confined to a wheelchair and they are low on funds and without a car. Henry always is doing favors for them. But Kinsey senses something is not as it should be, and her investigations lead to the truth.

            Humor, suspense, well-drawn characters that you’d like to know better; this book has it all.