The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Review

I just realized this book was first published in 2011. Oh, how I wish I had known about this book back then! Luckily, it’s never too late to find a gem–and this book is truly a gem! Even if you have never heard the expression Achilles’ heel, or known that you have a tendon named after the guy, or maybe you are not into Greek mythology, or never heard or read the Iliad, you can still enjoy this book.

That’s the magic that Madeline Miller brought to these pages. She has made a classic story accessible to everyone, young and old. Her prose is lyrical, poetic, and beautiful–but never in a snobbish way.

The plot revolves around the Trojan War, and we learn about Achilles from Patroclus’ eyes. That, my friend, makes all the difference in this book.

Patroclus is Achilles’ closest friend and because of his love for Achilles, we see a more humane version of the Greek hero.

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

This book has left me crying and wishing for more. I highly recommend this delightful book about love and friendship.

“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.” 


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Review: The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

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Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play. So begins The Hangman’s Daughter–the chillingly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller from German television screenwriter, Oliver Pötzsch–a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.

I should start by saying that this is not the sort of novel I’d gravitate towards, but the cover of this book had a lot to do with my decision to give this book a try and I don’t regret it a bit.

“because a rumor is like smoke. It will spread, it will seep through closed doors and latched shutters, and in the end the whole town will smell of it.”

This is the story of Jakob Kuisl, a hangman in the small town of Schongau, Bavaria. When some children are found dead, a local midwife is accused of witchcraft and arrested for the murders. Jakob and a local doctor believing in the midwife’s innocence set out to figure out the mystery. I’m not sure why the title of the book is the Hangman’s Daughter. She plays a part in the book but certainly not enough for a title. In any case, this is a very interesting historical mystery. Pötzsch really did a good job researching his family history and that period. I really enjoyed the illustrations in the book and the descriptions of the town and the people were excellent. It really transported me to that time. 

As for the mystery itself, I feel like many will be able to figure it out half-way through the book. It is still an interesting reading even though some of the torture scenes were rather graphic. Good pick for fans of historical fiction/thriller.

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Review: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy

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This is the story of Sarah Brown daughter of abolitionist John Brown. She is one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers. After learning the shocking news that she cannot bear children, she starts to create maps and hide them in her paintings helping save the lives of slaves fleeing north.

The narrative is split between 1850-60s West Virginia and the present day. The flow of the narrative worked well for this novel, with Sarah Brown’s narrative of the past being better developed than the present day story. Overall, this style of narrative brought the characters to life and made it to a very interesting story.

I certainly recommend this book even if you are not a huge fan of historical fiction. I really enjoyed Sarah McCoy’s The Mapmaker’s Children. This book pulled me right in from the very first pages. The characters are vivid and believable. A perfect blend of real historical people and fictional characters.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

5 star

Book Details:

Title: The Mapmaker’s Children/Author:Sarah McCoy/Genre:Historical Fiction/ ISBN:9780385348904/Publisher:Crown/Rating: 5-Stars/Read:July, 2015.

Review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

The Mine

In May 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. 

Who does not love the concept of time travel? The chance to go back in time and maybe meet famous historical figures, or see our parents when they were little. I’ve been a huge fan of time travel stories since I first read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, and I still have very fond memories of my childhood, and watching Back to The Future.

The Mine is a time-travel novel, but unlike many novels of the same genre this story is also a beautiful love story. Joel Smith is a cocky twenty-something guy who walks into a mine and comes out in 1941. Joel is flawed, but a well-written character. The historical descriptions of America in the age of swing dancing really transports you to that period in time. My favorite character in this book is Ginny–witty and funny she is such a delight, and as you start reading the story you’ll know why she is so special. I have to say that half-way through the book I thought I had the story figured out, and I was very happy with how surprised I was at the end of the book. This story does not disappoint. I had a great time reading it. This is book one of the Northwest Passage series. Looking forward to the next ones.

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for my honest review.

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Book Details:

Title: The Mine/Author: John A. Heldt/Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance / ASIN:B0078S9B6G/Publisher: Self-Published/Rating: 4-Stars/Read: May, 2015.

Review: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

The Enchanted April

Title: The Enchanted April

Author: Elizabeth von Arnim

Pages: 222

Genre: Fiction/Classics

ISBN: 9780143107736

Publisher: Penguin Classics

Rating: 4-Stars

Read: May, 2015

Four very different women take up an offer advertised in the Times for a “small medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April.” As each blossoms in the warmth of the Italian spring, quite unexpected changes occur.

This is a lovely book by Elizabeth von Arnim! Four women decide to leave their dreary lives in London and rent a villa in Italy. A delightful afternoon read, and a great homage to friendship and most importantly, the power of traveling and how transformative it can be in our lives. I love Arnim’s descriptions of the landscape, the scenery and the flowers. I love flowers and I could almost smell them on the pages of this book. My only complaint, and the reason I didn’t rate this book 5 stars was the husbands’ part in the story (without giving too much away). I would’ve let them out completely and glorified the power of female friendship. Overall, a fantastic read.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest review. The new edition of this book is scheduled to be published on June 2, 2015.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Review: Landfall by Ellen Urbani

Landfall-CoverTitle: Landfall

Author: Ellen Urbani

Pages: 304

Genre: Contemporary Historical Fiction

ISBN: 9780988265776

Publisher: Forest Avenue Press

Rating: 4-stars

Read: May 2015

In a car laden with supplies intended for hurricane victims, Rose and her mother catapult off the road onto the shoals of the Black Warrior River in Alabama, killing an unidentified storm survivor. To escape the scene, Rose, orphaned by the crash, laces the dead girl’s sneakers onto her own feet and cannot bring herself to take them off. When she learns she shares not only shoes but a name and a birth year with the Jane Doe, Rose embarks upon a guilt-assuaging odyssey to retrace the girl’s last steps…

Ellen Urbani’s second novel Landfall is a beautifully written tale of two girls, their mothers, and the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The book is written from the  alternating perspective of these two teenagers, Rose and Rosebud (Rosy), who share the same name and birth year. The book describes how their destinies merge, and develops into a surprising twist and unexpected ending.

At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book, but Urbani’s writing is gorgeous, her voice is convincing, and the characters are well developed. I really liked the way the author researched the events that took place after hurricane Katrina, and how she was able to weave those details in the story. After finding out the author came from a healthcare background, I understood why she took her time describing with great details the passages at the Superdome and the events at the Crescent City Connection Bridge.

The story is not necessarily a happy one, but I definitely recommend this book for its fascinating historical accuracy, beautiful vernacular, and rich and well-developed characters.

I’d like to thank Edelweiss for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is scheduled to be published in August 2015.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars