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Review – The List – Karin Tanabe

the listThe List
Author: Karin Tanabe
Release Date: 5 February, 2013

Review Copy Provided by Washington Square Press, via Edelweiss

Description:
Meet Adrienne Brown, a twenty-eight-year-old Wellesley College grad who recently left her glamorous job at Town & Country for a spot at the Capitolist. Known simply as the List to Beltway insiders, it’s the only media outlet in D.C. that’s actually on the rise. Taking the job means accepting a painful pay cut, giving up perks like free Louboutins, and moving back in with her parents, but Adrienne is certain that her new position will be the making of her career. And it is—but not at all in the way that she expects. The Capitolist runs at an insane pace: Adrienne’s up before five in the morning, writing ten stories a day (sometimes on her BlackBerry, often during her commute), and answering every email within three minutes. Just when it seems like the frenetic workload is going to break her, she stumbles upon a juicy political affair, involving a very public senator—and her most competitive colleague. Discovering that there’s much more to the relationship than meets the eye, Adrienne realizes she’s got the scoop of a lifetime. But should she go public with the story?

Review:
Having lived and worked in DC for nearly three years now as a member of the Federal Gov’t, I was immediately drawn to the description provided. I mean, most of us have probably caught glimpses of those government/celebrity scandals on different TV stations and wondered how they came to list – which is what Ms. Tanabe did in her debut novel, The List.

I have to admit, however, that as the book progressed, I became more and more conflicted about the outcome and what route Adrienne would take. While so much of the book was a play on the hypocrisy of people in situations like that (and I have been in them to), I kept hoping that she would take the high road. But in the end, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed in the outcome. I had grown to like Adrienne as a character, as well as the various secondary cast, but her actions, ultimately pissed me off. Yet, this highlighting of the hypocrisy of peoples actions in order to make their mark and get ahead was intriguing. Much of my career in the military has been similar – and there is a reason that one of the unofficial mottos in my career field is stab, stab, look, stab stab…because there is a belief that in order to get ahead, you need to be able/willing to sacrifice others. What kind of society have we turned into where that is acceptable is scary unto itself…

While I have to say that I disliked the ending, overall, I remained intrigued through-out most of the book and will be interested in seeing what this author comes up with in the future. I would give it 3.5 stars overall, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Mrs Lincoln’s Dressmaker – Jennifer Chiaverini

mrs lincolnMrs Lincoln’s Dressmaker
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini
Release Date: January 15, 2013

Review Copy Provided by Dutton Adult via Edelweiss

Description:
In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents a stunning account of the friendship that blossomed between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city’s elite. Keckley made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the White House, a trusted witness to many private moments between the President and his wife, two of the most compelling figures in American history.

In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Keckley from among a number of applicants to be her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire Keckley had fashioned. The relationship between the two women quickly evolved, as Keckley was drawn into the intimate life of the Lincoln family, supporting Mary Todd Lincoln in the loss of first her son, and then her husband to the assassination that stunned the nation and the world.

Keckley saved scraps from the dozens of gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln, eventually piecing together a tribute known as the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt. She also saved memories, which she fashioned into a book, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Upon its publication, Keckley’s memoir created a scandal that compelled Mary Todd Lincoln to sever all ties with her, but in the decades since, Keckley’s story has languished in the archives.

Review:
I have previously read/listened to Ms Chiaverini’s work (her Elm Creek Quilters series) and enjoyed it, so when I saw that she had written a new book that was primarily historical fiction, I jumped on the opportunity to read/review it. My favorite part of her other series is how she is able to seamlessly go back in time to describe a key element, so I was curious to see how she could pull off an entire HF book. There have been numerous books written about Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, her modiste (although the title is dressmaker, that isn’t necessarily accurate). However, I haven’t read any of them, which I am kind of glad of, because it meant that going into reading this book that my mind was a clean slate.

I found the first part of the book the most interesting about how Elizabeth came to work for Mrs. Lincoln following the election. But not only that, the sense of realism that was portrayed in how Mrs. Lincoln was talked/gossiped about – I made me think about the similarities between her and celebrities today – nice to see that some things haven’t changed. I really enjoyed the book up until the point just after Lincoln was assassinated and what happened to Mrs. Lincoln and her family – but then it just felt like it started going down hill. There were parts that it seemed like the author had just gotten a hold of Elizabeth Keckley’s memoir (which I am planning on reading) and was just regurgitating some of the stuff mentioned in there. It felt much more memoir-ish, than historical fiction -which is a pity. The last 25% of the book or so just dragged – I wasn’t that interested in what was going on which was a disappointment because I had enjoyed the first part of it. The story behind the tell-all memoir was intriguing, and kind of reminds me of how pretty much every celebrity today has had a bio/memoir written about then and how newspapers like the National Enquire go to extreme lengths for these “tell-all” tales – so maybe some historical basis to how these items came to be?

I think that this stage, I probably would have gotten more out of reading the memoir, so I could see what was real and what the author had actually interpretated based on her research. The story behind the quilt was interesting (and I did like that in the authors note, she described how she had come up with the storyline for it that she had). While I enjoyed bits and pieces of the authors writing style, I think I am going to stick to her contemporary fiction with flashbacks – I found it much more enjoyable. I have requested a copy of Elizabeth Keckley’s memoir from the library and am curious to read it. Overall, I’d give Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker 3 stars, but it is on the lower side of the 3.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Book Review

 

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