Killer Style

Title: Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed, and Murdered Through History
Authors: Alison Matthews David, Serah-Marie McMahon
Illustrator: Gillian Wilson
Publisher: Owlkids Books
Publication Date: 04/15/2019
Classification: Nonfiction, History

Clothing serves many purposes. At its base form, it’s one protection from our environment. Yet it can also provide comfort, or even be used as an expression of our personalities. Unfortunately, sometimes fashion can also have a severely negative impact. Simply:

Fashion can kill.

Maybe this sounds extreme, but authors Alison Matthews David and Serah-Marie McMahon have combed through fashion history to find a sometimes amusing, mostly horrifying series of deadly fashion vignettes. Their work is broken up into sections based on the human body. It starts with an exploration of head-based fashion like hats and hair, tumbles down the trunk, and ends on some killer shoes, pants, and skirts. The result feels all-encompassing for a short volume while showcasing that all articles of clothing and embellishments can be dangerous.

Radium poisoning from watches. Flaming tutus. Near decapitation by scarf. It’s all here, and Matthews David and McMahon deserve high praise for their sensitivity to the subject. The stories are sensational, but the authors push past the obvious and overused vanity tropes. They successfully humanize these fashion victims by rightfully placing their injuries or deaths in context—most died without realizing the inherent dangers of their clothes. Or, in many cases, it’s death by socioeconomic status, with the cheaper, more readily available product proving unsafe. This is most effective when they examine recent deaths, particularly sandblasting jeans in underregulated factories.

Gillian Wilson’s illustrations are another highlight. The subject matter is morbid, but her amazing work keeps the packaging attractive. Her graphics are dark, but beautifully playful.

This is a wonderfully macabre look into fashion history, packed with solid research, a plethora of pictures, and, well, death.

Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

Publication Day

Publication Day: The Little Book Café

Happy Publication Day to The Little Book Café by Georgia Hill! Its call number can officially be found in library catalogs everywhere, meaning you can grab your own copy starting today.

My Review | Author’s Website | Goodreads

From the publisher:

A charming new series from the author of Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe

Tash, Emma and Amy couldn’t be more different
A successful estate agent who has her life pretty much on track, Tash has ticked all the boxes. Hasn’t she?

Emma is a budding writer who yearns to flex her writing skills and shake up her life that has become, well, a little stale…

And then there’s Amy, the manager of The Little Book Café, a hopeless romantic who had her heart broken, but quietly refuses to give up on love.

Brought together by their love of books and delicious cake from the café next door, they are in for a year of romance, crime and classic novels that will help them get through all that life will throw at them…

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday – 12/12/2018 Edition

Starting this week, I’m participating in WWW Wednesday. It’s hosted by Taking on a World of Words, and, like the name suggests, it’s all about the three Ws:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

If you feel like joining in, head over to the Taking on a World of Words post for this Wednesday, drop a link to your own post, and take a look at some of the other blogs participating. Just don’t be surprised if your TBR pile grows a bit.

Here’s what’s going on with my reading this week:

Currently Reading

The Red and the Blue
by Steve Kornacki

Killer Style
by Alison Matthews-David
& Serah-Marie McMahon
Illustrated by Gillian Wilson

Recently Read

Once Upon a River
by Diane Setterfield
Review Here

The Little Book Café
by Georgia Hill
Review Here

The City of Second Chances
by Jane Lacey-Crane
Review Here

Coming Up Next

Straw Into Gold
by Hilary McKay
Illustrated by Sarah Gibb

Queen of the World
by Robert Hardman

I intended for this post to be up earlier today, but WordPress had other plans. I’ve been making an effort to get more comfortable with the new editor, Gutenberg, and it’s been an experience. Fortunately, everything worked out … eventually.

And with that, happy reading!


2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Since the wonderful Mackey over at macsbooks311 made this sound like so much fun, I thought I’d join in on my first reading challenge ever.

Passages to the Past has announced the 2019 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, and the rules could not be simpler. All you have to do is read as much historical fiction as you want during the next year. All sub-genres count, and anyone is free to join. Since this isn’t a genre I’ve read much of, I’m hoping this will be a great way to diversify my reading piles.

Also, the reading levels you choose from have fun names, which makes my day:

20th Century Reader – 2 books
Victorian Reader – 5 books
Renaissance Reader – 10 books
Medieval – 15 books
Ancient History – 25 books
Prehistoric – 50+ books

I’m aiming for Victorian Reader. I don’t want over-commit, so five seems like a fair number.

So … Have you been using Wolf Hall as a doorstop? Got Alias Grace stuffed under your bed? Is Cold Mountain staring at you from the forgotten corner of your bookshelf? Excavate them, head over to the sign-up page, choose your level, and join me in a bit of reading.


The City of Second Chances by Jane Lacey-Crane

Title: The City of Second Chances
Author: Jane Lacey Crane
Publisher: Aria
Publication Date: 12/11/2018
Classification: Romance

Evie Grant, widowed and with children who have other holiday plans, is facing the prospect of a lonely Christmas. However, after brazenly quitting her job, she embarks with her best friend on a visit to her sister in New York City. Determined to make the most of the hustle and bustle, she almost immediately runs into Daniel Roberts, a former college boyfriend … who also happens to now be a famous actor. As his world of Hollywood clashes with her own steady, peaceful life, Evie must face her past and the potential for a new beginning.

The City of Second Chances opens with a bit of an explosion—multiple bodies are found in a deserted cabin in New York. Evie believes there’s a chance one of the victims is her friend, Olivia, who disappeared on holiday twenty years previously.

It’s a shocking beginning, but brilliant. Author Jane Lacey-Crane has dished up a masterful romance that isn’t afraid to examine the realities of depression and anxiety. She lays it all out right in the beginning—Evie has never really gotten over the disappearance of Olivia, a situation which was exacerbated by the death of her husband, Tom. It drives the beginning of the plot, and her intense need to get to New York is palpable on the page.

Even after arriving to the city, Lacey-Crane returns to the tragedies. These scenes where Evie attempts to reconcile them against her mostly happy life are some of the most gripping in the book. Particularly, an early moment between her and a diner server, Judy, is a highlight, and the personal wisdom passed between the two reads like a literary hug.

This all sounds heavy, and it is, but that’s not to suggest there isn’t a bit of fun and fluff. In fact, it’s damn funny. After all, Evie is looking for an escape for the holidays. Fortunately, her best friend Rachel comes along for the ride, and she likes nothing better than a good drink and a day shopping. However, it’s her sister, Kate, who lands most of the attention. It’s a heartwarming relationship, and anyone with a sibling will be able to appreciate their playful banter and barbs.

Of course, there’s also the romance aspect and, while this review has skirted around it, it plays a starring role. Daniel is a charming leading man, though external forces create tension for the pair. This was another great aspect—the conflict is completely believable and frustrating. However, Daniel performs some downright swoon-worthy actions, though I won’t spoil them.

It’s just refreshing to read a romance with so much honesty about personal mental health. Lacey-Crane is an absolutely wonderful writer with an original voice. While Evie introspects, it’s impossible not to get sucked into her world, rooting for her to discover whatever answers and closure she needs. And if she gets the man, all the better.

Author’s Twitter | Publisher’s Page | Goodreads

Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.


The Little Book Café by Georgia Hill

Title: The Little Book Café
Author: Georgia Hill
Publication Date: 12/13/2018
Classification: Romance

Tasha is living the perfect life. She has a great job. A luxurious house. A wonderful boyfriend. But everything isn’t always as it seems.

Emma loves her boyfriend, Ollie, but a new literacy course has her studying the charming professor.

Amy buries herself in her work, but a bookshop regular has her questioning whether she’s ready to love again.

Three different women. Three different romances. One quirky book club.

First, it should be noted that this is actually three different books wrapped into one compendium. Each section can be read as a single novel, but author Georgia Hill expertly packs callbacks to previous books as the series progresses. So, if Tash grows on you (and she will), don’t worry! She has plenty to say in the next two books, culminating in an ending that ties everything together.

Each of the stories centers around one of the women from the book club at The Little Book Café, and the location alone makes this work completely charming. But it’s the growth and eventual bond of the three women that will keep readers engaged. On the outside, each of the three women couldn’t be more different. Hill, though, weaves a common thread of self-doubt that creeps into their lives in varying ways. Tash questions her seemingly idyllic life, Amy lacks confidence, and Emma is just plain bored. As their narratives buck and weave, it’s no surprise that their lives ultimately intertwine—they’re just so suited for each other.

These carefully formed friendships represent one of the biggest appeals of Hill’s writing. When the three women gather for lunch or a slice of lemon drizzle from Millie Vanilla’s, the café next to the bookshop, it reads like sitting down with a couple of pals. It’s effortless.

However, Hill does not shy away from unlikable characters and difficult situations. There are a couple of characters and a few scenes that are downright despicable. This was actually a refreshing change of pace for a cozy romance as Hill explores abuse, predators, and the legal system in a tactful way. A happy ending is understood, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a bumpy ride.

This is not to suggest it’s all dark times in Berecombe. The romantic plots are strong and flow naturally for each of the three women with just enough drama to keep them lively. And of course, the titular bookshop scenes are a high point and will play especially well with anyone who has ever attempted a book club. As well, the secondary characters offer just enough quirk and fun to balance out the main stories, with the erotica-obsessed Biddy being a standout.

For a fun read with a bit of drama, stop by The Little Book Café.

Author’s Website | Goodreads

Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.


Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Title: Once Upon a River
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: 12/04/2018
Classification: Historical Fiction

Everyone has a story, and the regulars at the ancient The Swan inn on the Thames are no exception. They drink, swap tales, jest, and repeat. But, one night, a haggard man collapses on the threshold, the corpse of a small girl in his arms.

Only, she wakes up.

The questions and, with them, the stories swirl. Who is she? How did she get there? Why do three sets of people separately feel they know her? And do the answers come down to science or magic or something else entirely?

Much of the success of this novel stems from the use of a large cast of characters. The reader’s focus, like the rushing water in the ever-present river, is never in one place for too long. Helena and Anthony Vaughan hope the girl is their daughter, kidnapped two years prior. Robert Armstrong, a Black farmer, assumes the girl is his absent son’s daughter. Lily White, surely in her forties, claims the girl as her sister. Through it all, Nurse Rita Sunday and photographer Henry Daunt, juggle between the factions, investigating and aiding, while their own stories complicate. Each section contains riveting, high-stakes, and sometimes even playful wordcraft and plot-play at its finest.

At the novel’s core is the conundrum of the child, and this alone would be enough for a healthy book. However, author Diane Setterfield’s prose twists and turns, but always moves with the current. The multitude of plotlines are never overwhelming, and the result is a fully realized world that’s easy to dip into. She guides readers across scenes like an expert ferryman, a twinkle in her writing. She knows how both the story and the trip will end but understands it’s really the journey that’s important. Just when you feel you know where you’re going—Ah, look! Another turn up ahead.

Special mention must be given to the folklore, myths, and magic which are abundant. The novel takes place on the cusp of change, right at the dawn of Darwinism. Rita opts for scientific reasoning in the face of mysticism and folktales. These two worlds are most interesting when complicated by each other. In many ways, assuming this were all true (and, really, aren’t all stories based in some truth?), this places the events of Once Upon a River as perhaps the first of tales somewhere between fairytale and science story.

At the beginning, readers are introduced to the inn regulars who constant opine on the art of the story. Diane Setterfield deftly suggests everyone has a story, and we should all be thankful she shares hers.

Author’s Website | Goodreads

Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.