Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ride for Rights by Tara Chevrestt

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Author
Read: Jan. 23, 2012 

In the summer of 1916 women do not have the right to vote, let alone be motorcycle dispatch riders. Two sisters, Angeline and Adelaide Hanson are determined to prove to the world that not only are women capable of riding motorbikes, but they can ride motorbikes across the United States. Alone. From a dance hall in Chicago to a jail cell in Dodge City, love and trouble both follow Angeline and Adelaide on the dirt roads across the United States. The sisters shout their triumph from Pike’s Peak only to end up lost in the Salt Lake desert. Will they make it to their goal of Los Angeles or will too many mishaps prevent them from reaching their destination and thus, hinder their desire to prove that women can do it?

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I’m not going to pretend I don’t enjoy the occasional paranormal story adventure but I can’t help getting depressed browsing young adult lit. All the vampires, werewolves and whatnot are starting to run together. With Ride for Rights, Chevrestt pulls a complete one eighty. The author’s first foray into the world of historic fiction is a refreshing narrative of adventure and perseverance in a time too many of have seemingly forgotten. 

Less than a century ago career women were few and far between. Many had only limited involvement in activities unrelated to homemaking and child-rearing. Societal rules were highly restrictive where women were concerned yet even in this climate there were those who took a stand against inequality. Angeline and Adelaide Hanson are fictional characters but their courage of conviction and unwavering dedication exhibited in their journey across North America are as real as the women on which they were based. 

In addition to introducing readers to a lesser known chapter of the women’s rights movement, Chevrestt uses her story as a platform for the stories of other advocates and pioneers in the struggle against gender based discrimination. Inez Milholland, Amelia Earhart and Lillian Heath are only a few of the notable ladies who make cameo appearances throughout the book.  

I have great appreciation for the content and overall message of Ride for Rights but as with most of my reviews, I am not without criticism. I believe the author opted to name her characters Adelaide and Angeline out of respect for their real life counterparts. While I admire the author’s intent, I found it somewhat challenging to keep Adelaide and Angeline straight during the early chapters of the book. Despite frequently substituting the wrong sister in my imagination I found that as the novel progressed and the characters developed my confusion dissipated, eventually becoming a nonissue. 

The only other comment I have is that Angeline enjoys more face time with the reader than her sister. Angeline’s vivacious nature, her relationship with Joe Miller and access to her diary allow considerable insight into her character. Adelaide is the more reserved of the two, making her harder to relate to even when she appears at the forefront. I would have appreciated having a slightly deeper understanding of her character especially as her ultimate transformation is more dramatic than that of Angeline. 

Clearly, at four stars, these observations are of little consequence. Consider my more critical comments food for thought, a few drops the bucket if you will. It is my opinion Chevrestt has single-handedly crafted an entertaining story with an enduring message that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. 

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Angeline smiled and broke into a laugh. “Who are you, and what have you done with my sensible, calm sister?”
Adelaide wrapped the horrid garments around the chamber pot and as she raised her arm even with the window, looked at Angeline. “She got left somewhere on the road in Wyoming!”
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Uneasy Spirits by M. Louisa Locke

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Kindle Loan
Read: Feb. 11, 2012 

In Uneasy Spirits, the sequel to Maids of Misfortune, It’s the fall of 1879 and Annie Fuller, a young San Francisco widow, has a problem. Despite her growing financial success as the clairvoyant Madam Sibyl, Annie doesn’t believe in the astrology and palmistry her clients think are the basis for the domestic and business advice she dispenses, which is making her feel increasingly uncomfortable. Kathleen Hennessey, Annie Fuller’s young Irish maid, has a plan. When her mistress is asked by one of the people in Annie’s boarding house to investigate and expose a fraudulent trance medium, Arabella Frampton, Kathleen is determined to assist in this investigation, just like the Pinkerton detectives she has read about in the dime novels. Nate Dawson, the up-and-coming San Francisco lawyer, has a dilemma. He wants to marry the unconventional Annie Fuller, but he doesn’t feel he can reveal his true feelings until he has figured out a way to make enough money to support her. In Uneasy Spirits, this light, romantic follow-up to Locke’s debut historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, Annie Fuller, with the help of Nate Dawson and Kathleen Hennessey, delves into the intriguing world of 19th century spiritualism, encountering true believers and naïve dupes, clever frauds and unexplained supernatural phenomena, soon finding there are as many secrets as there are spirits swirling around the Frampton séance table. These secrets will threaten the foundation of her career as Madam Sibyl, the future of her relationship with Nate Dawson, and, in time, they will threaten her very life itself.

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Dandy Detects was an entertaining short but it was Maids of Misfortune that captured my attention and piqued my interest in Uneasy Spirits. I looked forward to the book for months and now, after reading the book, I find I have very mixed feelings. 

I obviously enjoyed the book. A four star rating isn’t exactly a finger in the eye but I found that while I appreciated the piece, many of my pre-read expectations were only moderately satisfied. Dandy Detects was cute and I was so absorbed by Maids of Misfortune that I hardly found time to put it down. I expected the same humor and captivating storytelling in the newest installment of the Victorian San Francisco Mystery series. I didn’t find it. I had absolutely no problem setting this book on my side table, consuming it in small doses over the course of eleven days. 

I hope I haven’t scared anyone away from Uneasy Spirits by that admission. I am not implying that the sequel is of poorer quality, just that I found the reading experience differed dramatically novel to novel. In terms of content, the book is no less interesting or engaging than its predecessors. For instance I found that Annie’s struggle over the morality of her occupation offered fascinating insight to her character while keeping the character fresh and new for those already familiar with the boarding house matron. 

Kathleen was by far my favorite character to read. For much of book, her scenes offered the most movement in terms of plot but she is also the individual most desperate to achieve something against the mystery at the center of the novel. Where Nate is struggling with his feelings for Annie and Annie is having reservations regarding Madame Sibyl, Kathleen is determined to prove herself useful and worthy of the trust her mistress places in her. 

It is my opinion there are two particularly noteworthy aspects to the novel.  The intricacies of Evie May’s story are truly astounding and will hold the imagination long after the final page. I also found Locke’s foray into the late nineteenth century obsession with spiritualism wonderfully illustrated and entertaining. Madame Sibyl’s work as a palm reader and astrologer are relatively tame compared to the elaborate shows invented by those claiming contact with the other side. I found I quite liked the chance to explore the more dramatic side of Annie’s trade.  

The richly imagined recreation of Victorian era San Francisco offers a delightful backdrop for Locke's indomitable heroine. Once again, I applaud Ms. Locke's work. A must read for anyone who appreciates cozy historical mysteries.  

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The girl straightened and pointed, her index finger contorted in a grotesque fashion. “You stop it right now.” Her voice, despite a quaver, was sharp and strong, and its force twisted her face into a mask of fury. “I see what you did. I see everything. You can never hide from me . . . stop . . .” The girl clutched at her chest, and the beads broke, cascading to the floor.
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Interview with Tara Chevrestt, author of Ride for Rights

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Tara Chevrestt to Flashlight Commentary to discuss Ride for Rights.

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Your heroines, Angeline and Adelaide Hanson are based on two real life women's rights advocates. Tell us, where did you first come across the story of Augusta and Adeline Van Buren?
The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame. They have a little area dedicated to women in the history of motorcycling. At the time, a mere posterboard of pictures and a timeline was up about them.

Why did you feel that the cross country journey of the Van Buren sisters needed to be told?
Well, nobody had told it, and I felt that was quite a feat, motorcycling across the U.S. when there wasn't a highway system and alone!

Have you heard a response from the Van Buren's or any other members of the family in regards to your work?
Yes. Bob Van Buren is a descendant as well as the master of the womens' website. He has responded favorably and wrote me a foreword.

Angeline and Adelaide meet several notable individuals during their adventure. Can you tell us a little about these women and why you chose to include them in your story?
I did a series on my blog the last six months and I spoke about many of these women and even posted pictures of them. Book Babe has featured articles on lawyer Inez Milholland, physician Lillian Heath, and even aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart in promotion of Ride for Rights.

Being a motorcycle aficionado yourself, did you feel a particular connection with the women you were writing about?
I felt a connection to them not over their motorcycles, but over their desire to have the right to vote. Even today, women face discrimination and naysayers. As a woman who has worked most of her working life in a male dominated field, I've faced it. So I felt a connection to them more when they were fighting to prove themselves.

The Van Buren sisters are minor footnotes in the history of women’s rights. Do you consider their efforts a success?
Yes. I do. I don't consider them a minor footnote. I don't consider any women in history who struggled for the right to vote to be "minor." It takes one and all. Every little thing a woman contributes makes a big difference in the long run. I wonder how many young ladies they inspired at the time? How many men changed their views about women? They probably did more than they were given credit for, probably did more than even they realized.

Your previous publications were written with adult readers in mind. Why did you want to write this story for a younger audience? 
I wanted to keep it clean, for one thing so that all ages could read it and learn something from it, and I wanted to inspire women to be all they can be, to not be intimidated or beaten down.

Modern readers may have trouble understanding the confines of social acceptability in 1916. Exactly how ‘crazy’ of an idea was this undertaking?
It was insane. They were literally arrested for wearing pants. No joke. That's how society was back then.

What message(s) do you want readers to take with them after reading Ride for Rights?
Women can do whatever they set their minds to do. We don't have to confine ourselves to being housewives or sex objects. We have options. If two women could ride motorbikes across the country in a time when it wasn't even acceptable to wear pants, then what excuse do we have for holding ourselves back from anything almost a hundred years later?

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"The characters Angeline Hanson and her younger sister, Adelaide, are based on the teenage New York society ladies and suffragettes, Adeline and Augusta van Buran. These two young ladies actually did ride their Indian Model F Power Plus bikes from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1916, to both publicise the equality of women, promoting the cause of the suffrage movement, and to demonstrate that women should be considered for the role of dispatch rider in the First World War, with the consquence of freeing up more men for front line duties." - Lance Mitchell, Amazon Reviewer

"Inspired by real suffragettes, Ride For Rights is the amazing story of two sisters who rode their motorbikes cross country to prove woman should have the right to vote and could assist in the war as dispatch riders." - Laura DeLuca, Amazon Reviewer

"Ride for Rights is a short book since it's aimed at the young adult audience, but the characters are fully drawn, engaging young women. They're well-bred, but feisty and independent, fighting for what they believe in. Along the way they encounter love and overcome hardship, working at various jobs to earn money for gas and accommodations. In some places they're able to stay with relatives or acquaintances; in others their bed and board is less than stellar. I couldn't put the book down. It was a great read, and educational. I highly recommend it for you, your daughters, and your granddaughters--whatever their ages." - Rochelle Weber, Amazon Reviewer

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Tara Chevrestt is a deaf woman, aviation mechanic, and dog mom. She loves vintage clothes and period dramas and wishes she could time travel. You’ll never see her without her Kindle or a book within reach. As a child, she would often take a flashlight under the covers to finish the recent Nancy Drew novel when she was supposed to be sleeping.

She no longer writes books, but you can still read her thoughts and opinions on books and movies and articles on women's issues on her blog.

Blog ❧  Goodreads

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Format: Ebook
Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Released by: Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B0076Z6O52
Length: 155 pages
Genre: YA Historical Fiction

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