Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Fall Reading and New Releases

If you need a few book recommendations, here are a few new books that are my most recent reads:

Glass Houses by Louise Penny 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35197712-glass-houses

35197712

The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor 

Release Date August 01, 2017

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32600721-the-cottingley-secret?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

“Because the world was still at war, we needed to believe in something better. In that moment, and perhaps for much longer, it seemed to me that the possibility of believing in fairies was more important that one little girl telling the truth.” – The Cottingley Secret, Hazel Gaynor

32600721

The Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon

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UPDATE: Now that I have read the entire novel, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book this Fall. It is fun and energetic. You will warm to Bridget’s character quickly and her emotions feel authentic. Definitely a must read!

Original Post: So far so good! I have only read the Prologue and the first three chapters but I am left wanting more! I hope Bridget’s story continues along the path of being exciting and fun with hint of romance. There is a small chance that the plot of this novel will be predictable but as it is my first time reading a novel by Paige Toon I cannot say for sure one way or the other. I can say that so far the first three chapters are entertaining, convincing and witty and that Paige Toon’s novel has drawn me in. I can’t wait to read The Last Piece of My Heart in its entirety. Thank-you also to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read a pre-release teaser of the novel. https://read50.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/light-summer-reading-and-spring-2017-new-releases

In the Midst of WinterIn the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Expected Publication October 31, 2017
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Richard, Lucia and Evelyn’s lives collide and intertwine in a way that none of them could have predicted. Richard, a man who struggling with his own inner demons is forced into a situation where he needs to react, make decisions and take control of his own happiness. Lucia is a feisty woman who is originally from Chile but has carved a life out for herself in Brooklyn, NY. Lucia is an optimist who is always able to help those around her but when it comes to making decisions for herself she is unusually hesitant. Evelyn is a young woman from Guatemala who has struggled and been forced to see and experience things that no one should ever have to endure. An unexpected accident thrusts these three individuals together into a journey it seems only lifetime could have prepared them for.

I really appreciated Isabel Allende’s newest novel In the Midst of Winter. She dug deep into the hearts of what would otherwise be unremarkable people. She took an underpaid young house maid and gave her a history that is unimaginable but real at the same time.

Allende also explores some BIG, real social and political events in Latin American history. I might argue that one of these events would be enough for the novel. In the Midst of Winter tackles three characters each with very different and very tragic lives. At times some of the political events got lost in transition for me. I found myself stopping to think about which thread was being described, which country and which character.

The beginning of the novel was very good in my opinion. It drew me in and kept my attention. Once the action began for the conflict I was reading quickly and cared less about how Richard, Evelyn and Lucia resolved their situation. The climax seemed rushed, almost like you could see the author writing and someone over their shoulder saying, “alright, now resolve and finish this novel in 5 pages or less”.

However, there are too many good elements to this story for me to give it less than a four. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to my friends and I think it would be excellent for a book club.
***I also want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for the chance to read a pre-release copy of this book.

View all my reviews

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Mystery and Intrigue in London in the 1800s

Just a quick book review if you are looking for a recommendation for some light reading this April! A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain is a time-shift historical fiction available April 11, 2017.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30334200-a-twist-in-time?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

A Twist in Time is chock-full of mystery and secrecy in upper class British society. The novel which takes place against the backdrop of London in the 1800s is a surprisingly good read! When I read the description I was expecting it to be a bit like Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict but this book was far better!

Julie McElwain gives us a vivid view of life in 1815. Kendra Donovan the heroine of the series struggles to accept that she has been dropped somehow in 1815 and is thrown into a series of murder investigations. The literary is style engaging and Kendra’s character is confident and adventurous. The plot of “A Twist in Time” keeps up a good pace moving from scene to scene and I didn’t feel like there were any long and drawn out sections. Some time-shift novels have an heightened sense of implausibility but because Kendra has chose to trust the Duke of Aldridge and his nephew Alec with her secret, it somehow makes her presence in the 1800s more plausible. I also appreciated the author changing the point-of-view intermittingly from Kendra to some of the other characters to allow for differing perspectives. Kendra Donovan is an intelligent, solid and delightful heroine and I cannot wait to read more about her adventures.

I also want to thank NetGalley and Pegasus Books for a pre-release copy of the book to read and review.

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The Final Countdown

Happy Holidays! It’s the last month for my 2015 READ50 challenge and I only have 3 more books to go!

I have finished up the last published books in the C.S. Harris series Sebastian St. Cyr. I really enjoyed all of these books. At the core of each of the stories is a little piece of true British and/or French history as well as some conspiracy theories which the author uses as inspiration for her fictional tales. The historical aspects of the novels are what draw me in and the author does a good job at making the events in the story seem historically believable.

I would classify this series as solidly in the Historical Fiction genre but leaning slightly towards Mystery. Romance is not prevalent in the themes of these novels but rather they are mysteries full of revenge, conspiracy and murder. Some threads in the storyline progress very slowly and leave me wishing there was more development to Sebastian and Hero’s characters from novel to novel. I find as a reader I only get tiny bits of what Sebastian and Hero are thinking. Furthermore, Hero plays a very small role in the last few novels. It would be nice if she came more to the forefront in the next book(s) in the series because I think she has the makings of a strong heroine.

C. S. Harris’ next book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, When Falcons Fall, is scheduled to be published March 01, 2016. If you are looking for a good mystery series I highly recommend these books. For those in the Leduc Public Library system you usually have to request the books as they all seem to be scattered around Alberta rather than one library holding the entire series.

P.S. Random fact: The author C.S. Harris is just a pen name and the author’s real name is Candice Proctor. She also pens under the name C.S. Graham for a Thriller Series. http://www.csharris.net/author.php

47 ~ Who Buries the Dead by C. S. Harris

  • Beheadings, Slave Traders and Murder

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18590094-who-buries-the-dead?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

46 ~ Why King’s Confess by C. S. Harris

  • Lost Dauphin, Peace talks between France and England, French Revolution

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18114102-why-kings-confess?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

45 ~ When Maiden’s Mourn by C. S. Harris

  •  Camelot, Lady of Shallot, Murder of Upper Class Maiden

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11879594-when-maidens-mourn?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

44 ~ Where Shadows Dance by C. S. Harris

  •  International Politics, Natural vs. Unnatural Death, Lies and Diplomacy

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8450509-where-shadows-dance?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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READ50 Books ~ 40, 41, 42 and 43

It’s not long now until 2015 is over! Christmas is coming up quickly! Some of the books leading up to the end of my READ50 list are: The Bee Keepers Apprentice by Laurie R. King, The Painted Lady by David Ashton, Who Buries the Dead, When Maidens Mourn, Why Kings Confess (all by C. S. Harris).

43 ~ Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew

LOVED it! I think this novel just made my top 5 books for 2015. I thought the idea of blending food and recipes with a strong female heroine were the perfect mix. Tannie Maria is a superb character. I envy her forcefulness and her desire to make the most out of her life. Tannie Maria goes through a tough marriage and comes out a better person; through her experiences she is able to discover what she is passionate about. Her concern for those around her also seems very genuine. Sally Andrews does an excellent job at portraying life in the small village in South Africa. Tannie Maria lives in the Klein Karoo in a remote house where she enjoys testing new recipes, feeding her chickens and sitting on her deck with a coffee while watching the wildlife. To make some money, Tannie Maria is happy working for the Gazette writing a food column only to have her column changed to a love AND food advice column. She starts to receive all sorts of letters from readers asking for love advice and in return Tannie Maria writes back with honest love advice along with recipes which she believes will help their situations. Tannie Maria believes that different foods can help different situations and she is constantly cooking and bringing people food. BUT don’t be tricked by all my talk of food, there is a murder mystery underneath all the yummy cooking. It takes the whole village to work together to solve the murder(s) and even a few handsome police officers.

Definitely you should read this book!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26010158-recipes-for-love-and-murder

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2874812.Sally_Andrew

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1435836813

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

42 ~ What Remains of Heaven by C. S. Harris (Book #5 Sebastian St. Cyr Series)

I have been really enjoying this series. A mystery with a little bit of suspense and romance thrown in; I can’t wait to get to the next books.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6423507-what-remains-of-heaven

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22067.C_S_Harrishttps://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1435834404

41 ~ The Next Always by Nora Roberts (Book 1 of Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy)

Not horrible, but a 3 star. This novel has a great cover which piqued my interest but the storyline felt a bit forced and elaborated. The descriptions of the Inn were in-depth to say the least and the stalker Sam felt like he was added in as an afterthought to add drama. A quick read and a feel good novel but fell a bit short for me on content. Interesting to find out that Nora Roberts and her husband actually renovated and own the Inn.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10305231-the-next-always?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

40 ~ Where Serpents Sleep by C. S. Harris (Book #4 Sebastian St. Cyr Series)

A fun easy read. Not a romance really, more of a mystery/detective novel. I read the first book in the series and didn’t love it but decided to give it another chance. Just starting book #5. I appreciated that there was enough mystery and action to keep to me interested and wanting to find out who was killing everyone and why. The story has Hero Jarvis, who is very independent and an early feminist type character. She claims that she does not want to get married but would not mind having children of her own if she could without society rejecting her. She follows class protocol most of the time but occasionally throws it off to accomplish her own agenda. Secondly there is Sebastian who is trying to recover from his heartbreak with Kat. He is not ready for a relationship either but he and Hero work well together in solving the murders.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3142581-where-serpents-sleep?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

 

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The Other Daughter, Circling the Sun and Orphan #8 (37, 38, 39)

39 ~ Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

I found this book a bit tough to get through. I was intrigued by the historical plot of Jewish Orphans but quickly realized it was in fact quite horrible for the orphans at the Hebrew Infant Asylum (Hebrew Infant Home in the novel). I don’t mind learning about history but I found each time the novel had a flashback to Rachel Rabinowitz’s life at the Orphan Home I wanted to skim read. Experimentation on children and the lifelong impact on the children’s general wellbeing is hard to read about. I remember not thinking much of Rachel’s description of her bright red hair until mid book when I realized what that was foreshadowing (the permanent loss of hair due to excessive X-rays). Orphan #8 was also a great deal more historical than cultural, as a reader I wanted a bit more of the Jewish heritage to come through.

On a side note, I agree with other reviewers on the fact that Rachel’s love life didn’t seem to fit the story. Rachel’s history is complex enough with the murder of her mother and Rachel and her brother being sent to the Hebrew Infant Home, therefore, I’m not sure if her being a lesbian really adds to her overall character development. I would have liked to hear more about her relationship with her brother and possibly any other connections from her childhood experiences that she carried with her into adulthood.

Orphan #8 manages to capture a dark time in history and I think because of its uniqueness it is very memorable.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23287179-orphan-number-eight

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6306189.Kim_van_Alkemade

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1361928222

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

38~ Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the Sun was a pleasant surprise. I had previously read  The Paris Wife also by Paula McLain and not really liked much about it. I gave this novel a try because I love historical fiction and the plot of British ex-pats in colonial Africa really intrigued me. Circling the Sun is a historical novel which bases its plot on the life and events of Beryl Markham in a fictional way.

Beryl Markham was not only the first female to fly solo over the Atlantic from Europe but she was also many other things. Beryl was a farmer, a horse trainer, a wife, a pilot and later in life, an author. She was an independent thinker and very ambitious. Raised on a farm in Kenya by her father, Beryl learned to fend for herself even after consecutive failures. She wrote a memoir about all of her adventures in 1942 but it was not well received at the time. Her memoir West with the Night wouldn’t become popular until it was re-released in 1983, 3 years before Beryl’s death.

If you are intrigued by the life of Beryl Markham I would highly suggest reading Circling the Sun.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23995231-circling-the-sun

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/290189.Paula_McLain

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1420520244

37 ~ The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

A short and easy read but still an enjoyable novel. The plot was unique for this genre but the romantic interests weren’t entirely convincing. Not much to review on this book but the plot could be summaries as:

-Rachel finds out that she is actually the daughter of an Earl and resorts to a disguise to gain herself access to the family.

-She is befriended by Simon who hopes to further his own agenda by helping Rachel confront her father.

-Rachel soon finds herself in the midst of many family secrets as she discovers half siblings and extended family that were previously unbeknownst to her.

-The illusion of a love triangle seems to shatter leaving an opening for Rachel to swoop in and claim her happy ending.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23014679-the-other-daughter?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

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33, 34, 35, 36

Happy Fall everyone! Here are a couple of reviews for the books I have recently finished…14 more to go for 2015 for my Read 50 list!!!

 

Coming up next on my “to-read” list I have: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory, Circling the Sun by Paula McLain and The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig. 

36 ~ The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

VERY similar to All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr BUT I felt  The Nightingale was better. Both novels were set in WWII German occupied France and both novels also have a strong father-daughter relationship that has been woven into the plot. Unlike Anthony Doerr’s novel, The Nightingale keeps flowing smoothly from event to event and the character development is very strong. The reader can understand the way Vianne, Isabelle and their father change over the course of their lives because of the life experiences that they have to endure. They all work through feelings of grief, fear and determination together. Each character in the novel is constantly making choices to stand up for what is right in a world where it was easy, and sometimes safest, to look the other way.

Vianne is happily married and mother of one only to have her husband quickly sent away to fight during the war. Vianne acts selflessly trying to protect her daughter, her close friends and her family home. Like many women, she defaults to routine during her everyday life to try to handle all the external events that she has no control over. She tends to her garden, cooks meals and takes care of her home while the world directly outside is falling apart. Vianne isn’t just a bystander though and eventually finds the determination to stand up for some of the things going on around her. Her closest friends are being taken away to concentration camps and having to leave behind children in need of protection and care.

Isabelle is by far my favourite character in the novel. She is intense and always speaking her mind without thinking of the repercussions.She is free to follow her impulses because she is young and unmarried. I did feel a bit heartbroken when Isabelle gets sent to a concentration camp and wish that part of the story was developed a bit more. It would have been nice if somehow Isabelle’s story had continued separately in another novel. I found myself secretly hoping throughout the book that the elderly lady was going to turn out to be Isabelle.

All in all, I WOULD definitely RECOMMEND this book to those who enjoy WWII historical fiction.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21853621-the-nightingale

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/54493.Kristin_Hannah
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

35 ~ The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah E. Ladd (Whispers on the Moor, #1)

It was just good but nothing spectacular. Amelia didn’t come across as a strong person consistently throughout the book; although she had some moments of self-determination. Her love for Lucy didn’t come across as believable enough for me, and I wish Graham’s attachment to Lucy was also more developed. As with A Lady At Willowgrove Hall, the Biblical scriptures seemed forced, almost an oversight and edited in after the rough draft was done. I agree with other reviewers in that the summary makes this book appear more promising than it is and I am left giving The Heiress of Winterwood a 3 out of 5.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15760508-the-heiress-of-winterwood?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

 

34 ~ What Angel’s Fear by C. S. Harris

 

I think when you have read a ton of historical fiction like I have, you find this storyline a bit repetitive. I felt like I had read this story before with different names and a slightly different plot. War hero, a damsel in distress and a rogue ex-husband just about sums up the plot. I really enjoy a good historical fiction and a romance but this one just felt like the author was copying too many things from other books and there wasn’t enough uniqueness to the style of writing to make me want to read any of her other books. I was left feeling disappointed when I had looked forward to getting to this book on my “to read” list.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39149.What_Angels_Fear

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22067.C_S_Harris

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1361925748

 

33 ~ A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd (Book 3 in a 3 part series)

An easy, quick and enjoyable read but this book was also very predictable. At times I felt like the author was putting in sentiments in Cecily’s character that didn’t make sense. I also felt like the references to Proverbs and Biblical passages were forced. All that being said,  I would still recommend this book for your bedside table.

Series: https://www.goodreads.com/series/86458-whispers-on-the-moors

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18588426-a-lady-at-willowgrove-hall

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6445698.Sarah_E_Ladd

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

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28-32

Well, with it being the end of summer and now the first week of back to school, my reading list has been pretty light. Most of the books I have chosen to read lately have been for my enjoyment only and I have not tackled any challenging topics. Sooooo if you are looking for some easy reading, check out Carol K Carr’s Madam of Espionage series – as I read all 4 with a break for Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende in the middle.

Up next on my Read 50 list I have: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn,  Orphan Number Eight by Kim van Alkemade, What Angels Fear by C. S. Harris and If I Could Turn Back Time by Elizabeth M. Harbison.

30, 31, 32 ~ India Black and the Widow of Windsor; Indian Black and the Shadows of Anarchy; India Black and the Gentleman Thief all by Carol K Carr

I  found myself enjoying the Madam of Espionage books more than I thought I would. I was expecting a romance series with a hint of mystery but in fact this series leans more towards a mystery with a strong heroine playing secret agent. Some of the long-winded descriptions found in the first book, India Black, got shorter as the series went on.

To briefly condense the premise of the series, there is a strong-willed heroine, India, who is recruited to help the Prime Minister of Britain (Dizzy) with political conspiracies that need to go away without the public knowing. India is often paired up with the dashing male hero and secret agent, French. Vincent is their sidekick and he plays the role of lackey and messenger but regularly finds himself in the role of unlikely hero. The author Carol K Carr does an excellent job of describing London and making the reader feel like they know what it would have been like to walk the streets of London in the 1800s. The themes all revolve around threats to the government which place India and French in immediate danger throughout the stories.

That being said….what you WONT find in these books is a compelling romance (despite what the covers may depict). India and French’s relationship is pretty stagnant and gives little hope that it will ever go past the hint of romantic interest to a more well-rounded relationship. After 4 books India and French are about as close to beginning a relationship as they were the moment they met in the first book of the series.

All in all I would recommend this series. The books have easy and enjoyable storylines and will keep you interested. By the end of the series I was hoping there was more to India Black but I will just have to wait!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10653263-india-black-and-the-widow-of-windsor?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15724975-india-black-and-the-shadows-of-anarchy?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18114092-india-black-and-the-gentleman-thief?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

 

29 ~ Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

I will admit, this novel took me a while to finish. I could only read a bit at a time as it felt like there wasn’t enough action in the plot to keep me wanting to come back to it. The plot was a bit repetitive at times, the same events happened over and over with only slight differences.  I DID however enjoy the descriptions of life during the slave trade in Haiti and how the author integrated religious beliefs into the plot. I couldn’t help my inability to understand the mindset of Valmorain, the plantation owner. I just can’t grasp how people were able to devalue human life the way they did during the slave trade. I have read many books on the slave trade, but this book did not give me that warm feeling like everything was going to be ok in the end. Zarité had trial after trial throughout her life and her optimism to keep going seemed a little strained for me to relate with. If you like this sort of fiction I would recommend The Book of Negroes first before recommending Island Beneath the Sea.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7005479-island-beneath-the-sea

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2238.Isabel_Allende

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

28 ~ India Black (Madam of Espionage, Book 1), by Carol K. Carr

Historical fiction is my favourite genre but I found India Black a little harder to get through than other novels in the same category. I found the political descriptions too lengthy and skipped paragraphs at a time that were adding nothing to the plot. Overall I enjoyed the story and love French’s character. India Black was good enough for me that I have ordered the next few in the series to try out.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8665427-india-black?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4143142.Carol_K_Carr

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

 

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25, 26 & 27

27 ~ Nor Will He Sleep by David Ashton (#4 in Series)

David Ashton’s stories of Inspector McLevy always have enough drama to keep me interested. It is true that they can sometimes lose me somewhere in the middle for a bit but I always manage to catch up to the characters. I also was intrigued by Robert Louis Stevenson’s character in the book and of course had to google a bit more about his life to get a full picture of who he was. His character added a great deal to this novel and I think Robert Louis Stevenson in real life lived such an exciting life going from a life in Scotland and Britain to exploring Hawaii and Samoa. A great series if you like inspector/mystery novels.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18051573-nor-will-he-sleep

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/400916.David_Ashton

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1360992950

26 ~ The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

A 5 out of 5 for a summer beach read. I loved Ella and Blake and thought they were really entertaining characters. The lies they told one another just got bigger and bigger until they could blame no one else but themselves for the trap they had created. I appreciated how Ella became more strong willed as the story went on and by the end of the book she realizes that she needs to act in order to accomplish her life goals. The theme of love is threaded throughout the story; it leaves the reader with no answer on what love really is other than a changing and morphing emotion that no one can control. The ending leaves you feeling hopeful and optimistic towards the lives of the characters. A great book for a quick summer read.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23014609-the-idea-of-love

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/207337.Patti_Callahan_Henry

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1328127607

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

25 ~ God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

I read this book in one day. It was a quick read and I didn’t find it difficult to get through. I liked the way Toni Morrison goes back and forth between characters but didn’t care for any of the characters in particular. The book didn’t give me any hope or sense that anything would change for any of the characters. Bride’s behaviour was very self focused. She was successful and didn’t appear to value her own life or those around her. I think Bride’s best quality was that she seemed to genuinely care about the troubles people face but yet she never made the effort to actually help anyone. I hate feeling at the end of a book that the world is a scary place and that there are so many child predators out there. I know these things exist but I wouldn’t normally pick up a book to read about it. I’m left feeling so so about this novel so I gave it a 3 out of 5.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23602473-god-help-the-child

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3534.Toni_Morrison

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38629860-adrienne-b

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20 & 21 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and A Trick of the Light by David Ashton

21 ~ All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 

*Voted Goodreads best Historical Fiction book of 2014 https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2014

*On the CBC 2015 Summer Reading List http://www.cbc.ca/books/2015/05/cbc-books-2015-summer-reading-list.html

Anthony Doerr really captures the tones of WWII and what it must have been like to be growing up during that time in history. His story moves between the life of Werner, a German orphan, and Marie-Laure a young Parisian. This story gives us a juxtaposition of individual realities during the war; each character battling against their own fears as their lives are upturned. Werner is an orphan but gets selected to be one of a few hundred children who will be trained up and educated in a special German school. He is gifted with intelligence and is given a position constructing radios so he can catch radio signals for the German army. He leaves behind his sister Jutta at the orphanage who provides the female counterpoint to growing up German during WWII.

Marie-Laure, blind at an early age, has her own strengths of freewill and a determination to live and thrive with her disability. Her blindness heightens her sense of sound and smell which she uses to survive through major life changes. She and her father must flee Paris and move to Saint-Malo and the home of her wealthy great-uncle. When Marie-Laure’s father is taken prisoner and sent to a German war camp, she must learn to survive on her own and learn to discern between those who are trustworthy and those who are not.

I really enjoyed the way the plot of All The Light We Cannot See centers around radio broadcasts and how it ties the story together nicely. I also appreciated the way the author did not sugar coat the story as the reality during WWII for people on both sides was not a positive experience. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18143977-all-the-light-we-cannot-see

20 ~ A Trick of the Light (Inspector McLevy #3) by David Ashton

I have so far really enjoyed the Inspector McLevy series. I find them engaging and they have enough conspiracy and mystery to keep me interested. I found this book a little more predictable than the first but otherwise a great read.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12456448-a-trick-of-the-light

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12 ~ Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Mesissner really took me by surprise. It is a historical fiction but very different from the novels I typically read. This book is set in London, UK and jumps back and forth between the Blitz in London in 1940 (WWII) and present day London. I learned a great deal about the London Blitz from this book and even more about the evacuation of children from London during that time. But remember this is a novel, it is a coming of age story about a young girl and her sister who are trying to balance their dreams and desires for themselves and literally surviving the constant threat of bombings in London. Secrets of a Charmed Life is about dreams and ambitions, death and loss, survival and determination. An American girl named Kendra Van Zant is studying history at a University in London and receives a rare offer to interview an elderly lady who survived through the Blitz but has yet to make her story public. I appreciated the author’s ability to interweave a theme of free will throughout the novel. Emmy, the main character, has many choices to make throughout her life. She chooses to make decisions based on an ideology that she will never be successful without making decisions for herself and choosing the best path she sees in front of her. Emmy understands that she can have ambitions in life but unless she takes the necessary steps towards those goals then they will never become anything but dreams. A secondary character in the novel is Emmy’s sister Julia and we are given insight into her through the use of “letters” which are basically a first person diary. As a secondary story, we learn that Julia is just as passionate as her sister but her story feels like she had less power to make choices of her own than Emmy did. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book and I think I might explore some of Susan Meissner’s other books.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22544024-secrets-of-a-charmed-life?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1230865368

 

 

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