Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

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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