The Dressmaker’s Dowry Review

The Dressmaker’s Dowry: A Novel (Paperback)

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Writing an engaging historical fiction novel with dual timelines is not easy.  I consider Sarah McCoy, Christina Baker Kline, and Ellen Marie Wiseman to be experts at it.  And now Meredith Jaeger can join their ranks.  Considering The Dressnaker’s Dowry is a debut novel, that is high praise.

This novel tells the story of dressmakers Hannelore Schaefer and Margaret O’Brien, both struggling to survive their fathers’ lifestyles and provide food for their siblings.  When Margaret fails to show up for work one morning, Hanna decides to take it upon herself to find out what happened with her new friend Lucas’ help.  As they set upon the Barbary Coast looking for answers, they come face to face with debauchery and evil.

In the present, MFA student Sarah Havensworth discovers a news article from 1876 about these two dressmakers and makes it her mission to find out their fate.  In doing so, secrets from her past bubble to the surface and she discovers not everyone in her life may be telling the truth.

As I read this, I couldn’t wait to get back to the historical section, which proves to me that the mystery was compelling.  The present kept it moving forward as the reader made discoveries along with the characters.

Any reader who enjoys a good mystery will want to pick up this novel.  And historical fiction fans will be thrilled at learning more about San Francisco during the 19th century, especially the antics found along the Barbary Coast.

I am eager to see what Meredith Jaeger writes next.  If this book is any indication, I know it will be a bestseller.

Thanks to Harper Collins for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

About the author:

Meredith is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. She was inspired to write The Dressmaker’s Dowry by her own engagement ring, which is an heirloom from 1903.

Like the character Hannelore Schaeffer, Meredith is also the daughter of a European immigrant, who moved to California in search of a better life.

Meredith finds the urban immigrant experience a rich part of the fabric of American history, and is drawn to the lives of working-class Victorians.

She loves to wander around the Jackson Square neighborhood of San Francisco on her lunch hour, looking at the buildings which used to be dance halls, saloons, and brothels.

No matter how many startups move to San Francisco, its storied past will never be erased.

She can be reached via her website, Facebook, and Twitter.



Center Ring Review

If you are a mother, have a mother, or want to be a mother.  If you have a job, had a job, or want a job.  If you are married, used to be married, or want to be married.  If you relate to any of those categories, you will find a relatable character in this debut read.  Grab your girlfriends and your wine because this is a book you’ll want to read with company.

Center Ring is the first in The Circus of Women trilogy by Nicole Waggoner.  It features five best friends:

Norah, an ob-gyn struggling with her own infertility and marriage

Camille, a photojournalist at a crossroads in her career

Leila, mother of two and former professor

Ellison, a publicist for Hollywood’s elite and unlucky in love

Kate, brand-new mother struggling with trying to be perfect

As the girls get together for a night out, Norah lets out a secret and the book follows each woman share her story as they rally around her.  The book continuously changes point of view from woman to woman, but the chapters are short so it’s easy to read large portions at a time.

As a working married mother, I completely related to multiple stories in this book, especially those when the characters were trying to balance it all, just like the “circus” theme suggests.  Nicole does a fabulous job of bringing readers back to that concept throughout.  You’ll be rooting for each woman as she experiences her highs, and sympathizing with them as they experience their lows.

This book would make a great addition to your beach bag, but I guarantee you’ll want to share the story with your friends.  It will be hard having time pass by as you immerse yourself in the lives of these women.  What will be harder is waiting for Book 2 in the trilogy to find out what happens next.

Thanks so much to Nicole Waggoner for the copy in exchange for an honest review.  Be sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

Release Day for SUMMERLOST by Ally Condie

Dear Readers,

I think most of us have had our hearts broken. Sometimes we can see it coming, and sometimes it comes down with the unexpected force of a sudden gale of wind or a rising of waters that we thought were still and safe. Loss is universal to human experience, but the way we each feel and recover is one of the most personal things we do.

In Summerlost, Cedar is dealing with the loss of her father and younger brother. And my intent was to show how hard their deaths are for her. But this is also a book about the healing power of friendship. Most of us have been broken-hearted; I hope that most of us have also discovered the miracle of friendships that were just what we needed. Cedar and Leo’s friendship is based on someone I met when I was twelve. Like Leo, my friend was fun and liked to enlist me in crazy adventures (although we never gave a secret guided tour of our town the way they do in Summerlost). And, like Leo, he thought I was wonderful and of worth at a time when I needed it most.

SUMMERLOST is my attempt to pay tribute both to the pain we feel and the friendships that save us. Thank you so much for supporting this book, and for your willingness to give Cedar’s story a try. I hope it makes you think of a wonderful friend of your own, whether that is someone you met in the pages of a favorite book or outside, in the world where it is often hard and beautiful to live.

Best wishes and happy reading always,
Ally Condie



A Spring 2016 Kids’ Indie Next List Top 10 Pick!

Named one of Publishers Weekly’s Most Anticipated Children’s and YA Books of Spring 2016

● “Condie (Matched) strikes a deep emotional chord with this coming-of-age story.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

● “Multiple, seemingly random details, including a family of turkey vultures that now roost outside Cedar’s window, an absurd soap opera narrative of a woman buried alive, and Leo’s quest for a trip with his father, coalesce into metaphors that help Cedar make sense of her grief and the life she now has to look forward to. Thoughtful, poetic chapter endings guide readers new to psychological depth toward meaningful connections between plot events and thematic reflections.” – BCCB

“A moving tale of friendship and loss. I loved these characters—I wish we could have been friends when I was a kid.” –Brandon Mull, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fablehaven and Five Kingdoms series

“Ally Condie’s first middle grade book might also be my favorite out of ALL her books to date. Summerlost is a story packed with nostalgia, heart, and gorgeous prose.” – The Novel Novice

“A nuanced portrait of grief deeply grounded in the middle-school mind-set.” – Booklist

“Honest, lovely, and sad.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A sweet, heartfelt story.” – School Library Journal

“Achingly good.” – Summer Laurie, Books Inc


Read an excerpt and BUY your copy from any of these retailers:

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Thanks to Word Spelunking and Penguin Kids for sponsoring this release day blitz!

The Mapmaker’s Children Review

The Mapmaker’s Children: A Novel (Paperback)

New From: $10.24 USD In Stock
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Lately I have been drawn to books that mix a storyline from the past along with one from the present, like Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline and What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman.  Even better if there is a connection that ties the two together.  In Sarah McCoy’s The Mapmaker’s Children, she does that beautifully.

The historical side tells the story of Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, who was executed for aiding slaves through the Underground Railroad.  Sarah’s artistic talent lends itself to the cause, as she’s able to create detailed maps to assist the slaves in finding freedom.  Knowing she will forever be unable to bear children, she risks her life to fight for what she believes is right.

Fast-forward to the present where we meet Eden Anderson, a former PR executive who moves to New Charleston and discovers a porcelain doll head in her pantry.  She becomes angry and bitter after struggling with infertility in a new town where she knows no one.  That is, until her 11-year-old neighbor appears and helps become a detective as to why that doll is in her house.

Sarah McCoy truly has a way with words and as the chapters alternate between past and present, you oftentimes believe you are reading separate books because of how distinct the writing is.  I learned so much about the Brown family and saw the Civil War through their eyes.  It’s amazing how much we can take for granted now, just having a warm house in winter and food on our table, things that families had to fight for during hard times.

The newly released paperback version of this book is perfect for book clubs as it already has preprinted questions and a discussion with Sarah about her research into this story and music she listened to while writing.  I am eager to go back and read the author’s first novel, The Baker’s Daughter, knowing how much I enjoyed this one.  Be sure to check out Sarah’s bio on the Penguin Random House page.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  Thank you for the copy in exchange for an honest review.