Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
Category: Historical Fiction
The Familiars by Stacey Halls
Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance, she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft. Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
The Familiars by Stacey Hall was an interesting work of fiction based on events and people from the real Pendle Witch Trials of 1612. The story is told by Fleetwood Shuttleworth’s point of view. Fleetwood is a noblewoman who is anxious to have a baby after having had several miscarriages.
Fleetwood soon meets Alice Gray, a midwife who assures Fleetwood she can help her carry her pregnancy to term. They start a friendship in the midst of the Witch Trials and Alice is accused of being a witch and practicing witchcraft.
This book had several very good points from a feminist point of view. It elicited issues of female powerlessness in a society that expected women to behave in a certain way and the power that a patriarchal society exerted over them. I also really enjoyed Fleetwood and Alice’s friendship.
Where the book fell short for me was in the slow pace of the narrative. Divided into four parts, I struggled with the pace until the middle of part two. Also, Fleetwood’s alienation and naivete got on my nerves at times.
Overall, I recommend this book to anyone interested in witch trials, and the oppressive rules women in 17th century England were subjected to.
She is a midwife, like her mother before her. Are you like the king now, thinking all wise women and poor women and midwives are carrying out the Devil’s work? Why, he must be the largest employer in Lancashire.
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
It is 1887. London is a city preparing for the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and Veronica is burying her spinster aunt. Orphaned Victoria is now free to resume her adventures and world travels. When she successfully defeats her own attempted abduction thanks to the help of a German baron, she is forced to seek sanctuary at the care of a man named Stoker. Shortly before the baron reveals what he knew about her attempted abduction; the baron is found murdered. Now, Veronica and Stoker are on the run searching for the truth about her assailant.
I’m going to start by saying that I’m probably in the minority here. I had read and heard raving reviews about this book and series, and I even bumped other books in my list to read this one first. So, what happened? Well, I’d like to start by saying that I love a strong female character. I have no problem reading historical fiction books that depict smart, independent women. The book, overall, is well written and I enjoyed the sparkling dialogue between Veronica and Stoker. However, the problem I found with Veronica Speedwell was that she just wasn’t that nice of a person. Witty, smart, and independent–yes. However, she was also extraordinarily narcissistic and insensitive. At the start of the book, she is attending the funeral of her aunt that adopted her, and she is lamenting the fact that she can’t even shed a tear over her aunt’s death? Another problem I found was with the mystery itself, which I found rather blah.
The book started slowly for me, and I struggled to get into it until chapter eight. After that, I was interested in the book for a while, and certainly enough to finish the book, but not enough to be looking forward to reading the next books in this series.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
I feel like I need a little disclaimer. I want to start this review by saying that I am aware that there were a lot of controversies with this book concerning its accuracy and historical faithfulness. I decided to approach this book with the intention of reading it as historical fiction. The following review is strictly based on the story, prose, and flow of the book.
This book is the story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who is taken to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Lale is multilingual and therefore given the job of Tätowierer (tattooist in German) tattooing numbers on the new prisoners. This book is also the story of Gita, a scared young woman who Lale tattoos and falls in love.
I love reading books about the Holocaust, watching movies about the Holocaust, and the Holocaust museum in Los Angeles. Love in the sense that I feel this is a part of history that should never be forgotten. I have loved people in my life who were either, themselves, survivors of the Holocaust, or descents of survivors. Suffice to say; I loved when I came across a copy of this book displayed at my local library.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is much more than just a love story set against the background of one of the worst crimes in human history. It is a story of survival, endurance and ultimately love–not just the romantic type but love for humanity.
So, you might be wondering by now why I gave it such a relatively low score. The writing to me was too choppy. I never enjoyed reading screenplays, and this book reads like a screenplay. When I first saw the cover, I thought to myself, “oh, boy! This one will be a tearjerker.” Unfortunately, for as much as I wanted to love this book, I just couldn’t. The prose didn’t flow for me, probably because of the excessive amount of dialogue, or the lack of cohesiveness between the paragraphs.
Is it a book worth reading? Absolutely! It is a great story, regardless of the way it was delivered. The style of writing did not work for me, but it can certainly work for you.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
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.
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.”
Review: The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch
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.
Review: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
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.
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
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.
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
Title: The Enchanted April
Author: Elizabeth von Arnim
Publisher: Penguin Classics
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.
Review: Landfall by Ellen Urbani
Author: Ellen Urbani
Genre: Contemporary Historical Fiction
Publisher: Forest Avenue Press
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.