Book Review of Widow 1881

When I read the first version of this book four years ago when it was published under another title, I remember being impatient with main character Jane, which was reflected in my 4-star review at the time. I don’t know if it was the additional content in this version or my four more years of life experience, but Widow is a 5-star book. I adored it.

I wish I could go into all sorts of spoilery things in this book and how much I relate to them, but I’ll keep it high level for those of you who haven’t read the book yet.

First, a little background. Jane is a widow…in 1881… (no, really?) who leaves her comfortable life on the east coast to go west in search of a new life and maybe even a new love. Circumstances following her husband’s death result in Jane’s desire to reinvent herself in a place where no one knows her. But life on the prairie is hard and sometimes gruesome work, which comes as a shock to Jane. To pile on, Jane also has to room with a native woman who doesn’t speak to her.

Luckily, Jane is realistic with a thirst for knowledge, which makes her surroundings more bearable, even when she messes up royally at first. With her eager demeanor and open-mindedness, Jane endears herself to the town, and vice versa. Soon, it becomes her home, and she grows more and more comfortable playing house with her employer, Irishman and fellow outsider Dr. Kinney.

Of course, the life Jane was trying to escape catches up to her in a dramatic and painful way, which changes her relationship with Dr. Kinney. I read the last third of the book at rapid speed. Even though I thought I knew how it ended, I needed to know it still ended the way I remembered from the first read.

Sara captivated me once again with her vast historical knowledge and ability to create a vivid, engrossing scene. What she excels at most is capturing the maturity of love and how adult responsibilities intersect and with and sometimes impede the pursuit of happiness. With an ultimately deliciously satisfying ending.

This weekend, Sara and I will be partying it up at the Chanticleer Authors Conference, where she will be leading a few sessions and also competing for the Chatelaine Book Award for Women’s Fiction & Romantic Fiction for her book Wine & Children. Which is also a 5-star book, by the way. Good luck, Sara!

Meanwhile, I’ll be nervously awaiting the results of my two categories, the Gertrude Warner Book Awards for Middle Grade Readers and the Dante Rossetti Book Awards for Young Adult Fiction. Wish me luck, too!

Book Review of The All-Stars: Teen Rock Sensation

While I was working on marketing or some such book-related task, an ad on Front Row‘s sale page caught my eye. The cover was bright yellow (now people who know me realize why it caught my eye) with a guitar and the raised arms of excited audience members at a concert.

I LOVE this cover.

I contacted Sydney Faith, the author, and also the host of The Sassy Sister Show on Youtube, which has almost 44,000 subscribers! Get it, girl! By the way, I just checked out their channel to add the link, and my daughters would love this. I have to show it to them. Anyway, I told Sydney about Front Row and sent her a copy, and she sent me a copy of The All-Stars to check out.

The All-Stars is the story of normal teenager Ro meeting her little sister’s favorite band and eventually becoming a member of said band. Of course, teens being teens, high-jinks ensue in the meantime. The book is told in first-person, switching between the POV of Ro, members of the band, and the evil Lindsay. At first, I thought Lindsay was a typical mean girl, but the author nailed the crazy fan aspect in her too, which I enjoyed. Who among us crazy fans have not thought we would marry our favorite musician one day? I was certainly guilty of that. Not that I was ever that crazy and creepy.

Sydney mentions on her Amazon page that she wrote this book when she was fifteen, revised it, and decided to publish before she turned 18. She admits, “this book would never be perfect, I’m sure I have missed a small plot hole or two, but I feel like I owe it to my fifteen-year-old self to show people what she did.” And I totally, 100% get that.

I saw so much of my past teenage self in this book. This story reads like fan fiction, which is not a criticism. While there are quite a few characters, throughout the story, we get to know each of the band mates and their distinct personalities. It’s easy to grow to like excitable, giggly Chloe, protective big brother Logan, and dreamy but misunderstood heartthrob Dylan. And if you do get lost, Sydney has their bios listed on her website.

I enjoyed the flirtation between Ro and Dylan (and other characters, no spoilers) as the story built up, but I do wish Ro joined the band earlier in the book. I would’ve liked to see how her position in the band evolved as they toured. Maybe in the sequel? The last third of the book was my favorite. Having said that, the story did keep me interested the whole time, wondering what was going to happen next and how things were going to resolve themselves.

Do any bands really do the “First Fans” thing? If they don’t, they should. You’ll have to read the book to know what I mean, but I thought it was a cool idea.

Overall, this was a fun read, especially for a teen and pre-teen audience. I would give this book 3.5 stars, rounding up to a 4.

Be sure to check out Sydney Faith’s website, too. It’s very well done, and she even has All-Stars merch! How cool is that?

Here’s the book trailer for your viewing pleasure: