Review: The Magnolia PalaceTitle: The Magnolia Palace
Author: Fiona Davis
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
Source: Book of the Month
For: Book of the Month
Rating:
Steaminess: 0.5 Flames

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Goodreads Synopsis

THE MAGNOLIA PALACE tells the story of two women separated by nearly 50 years. 21-year-old Lillian Carter stumbles upon an employment opportunity, but the longer she works as a private secretary to the imperious and demanding Helen Frick, the more deeply her life gets intertwined with that of the family, pulling her into a tangled web of romantic trysts, stolen jewels, and family drama that runs so deep, the stakes just may be life or death. Her life falls apart as a looming scandal leaves her entirely without a safe haven. When 18-year-old English model Veronica Weber is dismissed from the Vogue shoot taking place at the Frick mansion, she chances upon a series of hidden messages: messages that lead her on a hunt that could finally reveal the truth behind a decades-old murder in the infamous Frick family.

My Thoughts

I received THE MAGNOLIA PALACE as my January book from Book of the Month. I’ve been excited to read it ever since I read the synopsis and I’m happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed.

I was hooked on THE MAGNOLIA PALACE from the get-go. I adored it from start to finish. When I’d put the book down, I’d keep thinking about it and I’d want to pick it right back up again. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

I really loved the dual timeline. I thought it was the perfect vehicle for the story, especially with the mystery aspect of it. I was more invested in Lillian’s story than Veronica’s. I didn’t dislike Veronica or anything; I was just more interested in the 1919 time period than the 1966 one.

The rich think they’re protected, that they have magical powers, when in fact they’re only mortals, like the rest of us. Bodies break down, betray you. People you love die. Children die.

I had no idea that Henry Clay Frick, his daughter, and the Frick Collection were real as I read the story. I didn’t even know that Lillian was based on a model from the 1900’s. I loved reading the author’s note and finding out that Fiona Davis mixed non-fiction with fiction to create the magnificent story that is THE MAGNOLIA PALACE. I don’t know what historians or relatives of the Frick family and the model would think about Fiona Davis’ fiction, but I thought it made for a compelling read.

Ever since I finished reading THE MAGNOLIA PALACE at 2am, I’ve been trying to decide if I want to rate it 4 or 5 stars. I finally settled on 4.5 stars, which might change. One thing is for sure, I’m definitely going to be checking out more of Fiona Davis’ books.

Have you read THE MAGNOLIA PALACE? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for death of a parent.

The Sunday Post is a blog news meme hosted at Caffeinated Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things received.
Feeling

I’m feeling many things. First, I have to explain what happened this week so you know why I’m feeling so much and then I’ll explain what I’m feeling.

Corey was sent to the ER on Wednesday afternoon after eating at a Wendy’s. It’s suspected that a disgruntled employee put cleaner in his Coke. Not only did it make him extremely sick (vomiting and the like), he also had a severe allergic reaction to it and went into anaphylaxis (trouble breathing, closed throat, bright red, etc.).

Right. I’m feeling:

  • extremely thankful that what happened to Corey isn’t worse than it was. He’s recovering pretty well. He still feels crummy, but he’s getting on with life.
  • overwhelmed because I’m behind on my homework now.
  • tired because I’m not sleeping well. I keep waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety-filled dreams.
  • disappointed in humanity. I can’t believe that someone would try to poison a customer just because they were having a bad day.
Blogging

Even though it’s been a crazy week, I still had a good blogging week. I visited many blogs and I’ve had a lot of visitors too. I’m also excited for some of my scheduled posts coming up.

Reading

I finished reading THE MAGNOLIA PALACE at 2am on Thursday night. I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up reading. I really enjoyed doing that. I’m posting my review tomorrow. After I get caught up on my homework, hopefully tomorrow, I’ll start reading TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han. It’s my IRL book club’s book for February.

I also have BROKEN by Jenny Lawson out from the library and I got a notification yesterday that my hold for ROCK PAPER SCISSORS by Alice Feeney is now available.

Listening

While I was driving to the hospital, I kept having scary thoughts. I distracted I’m myself with music. One of the songs I listened to was “LifeBlood” by Fabrizio Paterlini, which was really calming and soothing. It helped a lot.

Watching

I watched the first episode of The Gilded Age on HBOMax. I noticed that it was another Julian Fellowes creation. I adore Downton Abbey, so I thought I’d give this one a try.

It’s set in New York City at around the turn of the 20th century. One of the main characters, Bertha Russell, is “new money” (her husband is a robber baron) and she’s trying to get accepted into polite society. The “old money” families don’t want to accept her because she doesn’t come from a long-line of aristocratic families. It seems like it’ll be interesting.

Loving

I discovered I couldn’t eat gluten about a year and a half ago. It’s been a struggle finding substitutes I like. However, in the past six months, maybe, I’ve started to find my stride and figure out what I really like. On Friday, I tried a new gluten-free bread by Udy’s and I it. I’ve had toast with jam for breakfast the past few days and it has been grand!

Wanting

I want to know which books I get to choose from for the February book from Book of the Month. I know I only have to wait two more days and I still want to know now. First world problems.

Needing

I need more time to get caught up on my homework so I don’t feel so overwhelmed.

How was your week? Anything exciting happen?

There are spoilers for PRINCE CASPIAN: THE RETURN TO NARNIA in this post. ( Don’t click the “View Spoiler” link below if you don’t want to be spoiled for THE LAST BATTLE.)

Prince Caspian: A Discussion

PRINCE CASPIAN is the second book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 I’m participating in about a week ago. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

I really love this installment of the Narniad. I love that all the Pevensies are back in Narnia. I think it’s interesting to see Narnia in ruin and that the story takes place many years after the Pevensie children ruled as kings and queens in Cair Paravel.

I also love the new characters, except Nikabrik. I wanted to strangle him, especially when Peter, Edmund, and Trumpkin happened upon the council in Aslan’s How. It frustrated me so much that they waited as long as they did to go into the meeting. My favorite new character is Reepicheep. I him. I love him more in upcoming stories, though.

I forgot that the ending of PRINCE CASPIAN is just as abrupt as LWW, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t bother me like it does in LWW. I think it’s because I love the last line:

‘Bother!’ said Edmund. ‘I’ve left my new torch in Narnia.’

I think that line is rather funny whereas LWW tries to end on a more serious note.

As with LWW, a couple things regarding the allegory stood out to me more during this read. I thought it was interesting that Lucy, the youngest, sees and believes Aslan has returned first. This reminded me of how pure a child’s faith is compared to an adult. Children believe so easily and so strongly (e.g. Santa Clause, Easter Bunny) whereas adults are much more skeptical and cynical. When I was a child, I believed wholeheartedly in the tenets of my own faith. Now, as an adult, I have to work at it much harder. CS Lewis captures my own journey with faith and religion perfectly in the chapter “The Return of the Lion.”

The other thing I noticed about the allegory this time was the timeframe of Narnia and Aslan’s return. In the Christian faith, most believe that Christ will come again to deliver the faithful when the world has fallen into sin, ruin, war, and chaos. When the Pevensies return to Narnia in PRINCE CASPIAN, it has been thousands of years and Narnia is in ruins and war. As the children and Trumpkin head to Caspian and his army, Aslan returns to help the Narnians who believe in Old Narnia.

The parts of the Narniad that don’t make any sense to me start to crop up in PRINCE CASPIAN. At the end, Aslan tells Peter and Susan they’re too old to return to Narnia. If Aslan is Christ, or as CS Lewis says:

Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He [Christ] would become a Talking Beast there, as He became a man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; (b) Christ is called “The Lion of Judah” in the Bible; (c) I’d been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the work.

Companion to Narnia: Revised Edition

Then why would Peter and Susan outgrow being in Aslan’s presence? View Spoiler » You can see how much CS Lewis’ choice here bothers me. I am trying to keep an open mind as I read through the series a second time, but it’s hard in these instances because they bother me a lot.

Have you read PRINCE CASPIAN: THE RETURN TO NARNIA? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

I only read 12 books last year and four of them were rereads. That means, at the most, I could’ve only discovered eight new-to-me authors in 2021, which I did. However, I didn’t like all of the new-to-me books/authors I read. Here are my top five and one honorable mention new-to-me authors I discovered in 2021:

Beth O’Leary: THE FLATSHARE was my favorite book of 2021. I absolutely adored it. I loved Tiffy and her eccentricity and Leon and his quiet, sweet personality. The notes they wrote each other were the best. I laughed and smiled all throughout this book. Their romance was heartwarming and a treat to read. I also enjoyed the heavier themed aspects of THE FLATSHARE, especially what Tiffy dealt with. It felt very real and plausible.

Leigh Bardugo: I really enjoyed reading NINTH HOUSE. I’ve always been interested in secret societies like Skull and Bones at Yale. When I heard about NINTH HOUSE, I knew I had to read it. I loved this gritty tale of magic and murder among college students. I really like Alex and I have high hopes about her and a certain someone in the rest of the series. I was blown away at what Bardugo accomplished with the story and where it leads for the next book.

George Takei: Reading about George Takei and his family’s experience in THEY CALLED US ENEMY was very eye opening and heart wrenching. Even with what I was “taught” or read about in school about the Japanese internment during WWII, I didn’t know most of what Japanese Americans went through in these camps. It’s so disheartening that humans are capable of treating other humans like this simply because of their race and nationality.

Emmanuel Acho: I read UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN. Acho doesn’t pull any punches as he discusses race, Black culture, and racism in a very open and sometimes uncomfortable conversation with his readers. I thought Acho’s words were eye opening and they gave me a lot to think about. If more white people were willing to sit down and read his words, maybe we could actually learn from our mistakes and end racism and bias once and for all.

Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD: I’m glad I read BIASED via audio book as Dr. Eberhardt reads her own book and was a fantastic reader. She was very engaging to listen to. She came across as genuine as she had experienced some of the discrimination she wrote about herself. I thought the information on implicit bias was very interesting. I think the information in BIASED is important for people (read white people) to learn, especially in today’s political climate.

Honorable Mention (sort of)
  • Rachel Hawkins: I also read THE WIFE UPSTAIRS. I didn’t like it very much. I only gave it two stars. However, I’m willing to give her another shot as I haven’t read her Hex Hall series yet and I really want to.

What about you? Which new-to-you authors did you discover in 2021? Do we have any in common?

The Sunday Post is a blog news meme hosted at Caffeinated Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things received.

This was a Thoughtful Sunday post, but I decided to join in on The Sunday Post each week and changed my previous two posts to match.
Feeling

I’m feeling more comfortable with my classes and I’m no longer feeling stressed.

I’m also feeling better now. My infection is gone and I don’t feel yucky from the antibiotics anymore. It’s great!

Blogging

It was a good week. I really loved the turn out I got on my Top Ten Tuesday post. Thanks for commenting! I always reply and return the favor by commenting on your blog.

Reading

I finished reading PRINCE CASPIAN tonight for the Narniathon. I read it really quickly, in two sittings, because I really enjoy that installment of the series.

I’m going to start reading THE MAGNOLIA PALACE today. It was my pick for January’s Book of the Month pick.

Listening

While I was waiting for my therapist this week, this song came on in his waiting room. I shazamed it and immediately added it to my Piano Favorites playlist. Sometimes, the classics are the best.

Watching

Corey and I started watching How I Met Your Mother. He’s seen it all the way through and I haven’t. We watch a couple of episodes each day and we just started on Friday. I Neil Patrick Harris. He’s my favorite in this.

I’ve also been watching The Book of Boba Fett. I like most of it. I thought the Scooty Puff Jr. (see picture for explanation) pursuit in Mos Espa in episode 2 seemed more like a slow race than a high-speed chase. However, episode 3! I can’t believe View Spoiler » It was f*ing amazing!

Loving

I’m loving my basic programming class. I’m learning Python. Corey has always said he thought I’d like programming. So far, he’s right. I don’t know if I’ll like it enough to do it full time, though. Only time will tell.

Wanting

I want to know what the number is for February for the Unofficial Trim Challenge that I’m participating in so I can come up with a game plan. I may be a mood reader, but I still like to have an idea of what I’m reading next. It’s weird.

Needing

I need more sleep. I’ve been having trouble falling asleep OR getting restful sleep when I do fall asleep.

How was your week? Anything exciting happen?