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review 2018-08-21 09:12
Falling In Love With English Boys by Melissa Jensen
Falling in Love with English Boys - Melissa Jensen

Sixteen-year-old Catherine Vernon has been stranded in London for the summer-no friends, no ex-boyfriend Adam the Scum (good riddance!), and absolutely nothing to do but blog about her misery to her friends back home. Desperate for something-anything-to do in London while her (s)mother's off researching boring historical things, Cat starts reading the 1815 diary of Katherine Percival her mom gives her-and finds the similarities between their lives to be oddly close. But where Katherine has the whirls of the society, the parties and the gossip over who is engaged to who, Cat's only got some really excellent English chocolate. Then she meets William Percival-the uber-hot descendant of Katherine-and things start looking up . . .

Amazon.com

 

 

 

This epistolary novel spans two centuries (through alternating chapters, all of Cat's chapters headed with song titles), combining the stories of two young women, Cat and Katherine. Cat, who shares her adventures with the reader via a blog format, is a modern day American teen who travels with her mom to the UK so that her mom may study the life of Mary Percival, whom Cat describes as "some woman who did absolutely nothing of import and has been dead for two hundred years."

 

*In the story, this Mary Percival character died before the age of 45, like Jane Austen. The reader will pretty quickly notice that this novel is heavily influenced / inspired by Austen's work.*

 

Katherine is a teen in 1815 England, whose story is provided through journal entries. While reading the excerpts from the journals of both Katherine and Mary Percival, Austen fans will likely notice that those journal scenes are basically remixes of plot points from Austen's Sense & Sensibility as well as Pride & Prejudice, but with some changes to make it Jensen's own unique imaginings. For one, a character in Katherine's era drinks too much at a party and suffers a sexual assault... which helps make even this fluff piece a bit of timely reading material.

 

While it may be easy to dismiss this as an easy breezy read, there are some respectable moments of character growth to be had here as well as some important, and as I said earlier, timely, topics to think on. Cat outwardly comes off as spoiled and obnoxious, but as the reader gets to know her a bit better, we learn that there's actually a fair amount of emotional hurt in her that she's struggling to address. But I did enjoy her sense of humor.

 

For example, visiting the Tower of London and the National Portrait Gallery and coming back with the hilariously simplified "King Henry (VIII) was rather hard on his wives... and I gotta say, after Anne Boleyn, they all look a bit anxious."

 

Continuing on in the NPG: "Winston Churchill didn't always look like a bulldog... Queen Victoria kinda did..."

 

Meanwhile, Katherine in her own time is struggling to maintain her sense of self when it's expected that she should just go along with her father's plan for her. I grew to really like Katherine's mother, who did her best to keep her daughter distanced from the gross choice of a suitor Katherine's father had picked out for her.

 

Mama curled in her favorite cushiony chair, feet tucked beneath her. In the moment, with the fire behind her and her face softened by shadow, she was familiar, like a mirror.

 

"Promise me something, Katherine," she said in a quiet moment.

 

"If I can."

 

"Oh, you can. Promise me that you will think, in every moment possible, what you want for yourself. And you will stand for yourself, especially in the times when no one seems interested in standing for you."

 

I did not understand, not really, but I promised nonetheless.

 

One moment in the story also illustrates a good point regarding double standards to think on: If we can acknowledge that some women may be fine pursuing fat, ugly or socially odious men simply for monetary gain, why is it so baffling to think men might likewise pursue plain women for THEIR wealth?

 

If you only get through the first few chapters of this, it'll be easy to dismiss it as forgettable froth, but there is a layer of depth here I found impressive and entertaining. Admittedly, I did prefer Katherine's portions of the book, but I'm a history junkie, not to mention I just found her story, that of a young woman so desperately trying to show others she has plenty of worth as an individual, not dependent on nabbing a husband, much more interesting than Cat's humorous but somewhat privileged ramblings around London... but Cat, though maybe a little irritating at first... she grew on me :-)

 

 

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review 2018-08-20 13:17
Tiffany Blues
Tiffany Blues - M.J. Rose

Jenny Bell has run away from a dark past in Hamilton, Ontario and has found her way to New York with a new name, new look and a continuing dream to be an artist.  Now, in 1924 Jenny's magnificent studies in black, white and grays in an attempt to capture light have won her a coveted spot in Louis Comfort Tiffany's art colony in Long Island along with her friend Minx.  Jenny is inspired by the beauty around her, especially that of Mr. Tiffany's grandson, Oliver.  However, the anxiety of her past catching up to her stays with Jenny especially when another artist begins to hint at knowing her past.

Engaging and mysterious, M.J. Rose has taken the unfortunate burning of Louis Comfort Tiffany's Laurelton Hall and created a story of beauty, danger and intrigue. Jenny's character brought me into the story with her puzzling past and intricate artwork.  Her refusal to use color in her art was a conundrum considering she saw color in everything else, including people's voices.  Rose's writing masterfully created a world of art, color and light; I could perfectly see paintings, imagine Laurelton Hall and the way the sun shone through the stained glass windows.  The mystery was well crafted with a slow reveal of Jenny's past, who was torturing her with that knowledge in the present and stolen Tiffany jewels.  The Jazz Age was also brought alive in speakeasies, bootleggers, the grandeur of Laurelton Hall and the spiritualism that so many people believed in.  Overall, an engaging and fascinating mystery that brings together history, mystery, art and spiritualism. 

This book was received for free in return for an honest review

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review 2018-08-17 23:03
Book Review of The Devil's Cup: A Medieval Mystery (A Hawkenlye Mystery) by Alys Clare
The Devil's Cup - Alys Clare

Sir Josse d'Aquin is summoned to assist the beleaguered King John in the 17th - and final - Hawkenlye mystery.

 

September, 1216. A foreign army has invaded England. The country is divided. Some support the rebel barons and Prince Louis of France; others remain loyal to the king. His rule under threat, King John summons Sir Josse d'Acquin to support him. But can Sir Josse save the king from himself?

 

Meanwhile, Josse's daughter Meggie is summoned to Hawkenlye Abbey to attend a sick patient in a very distressed state. The elderly woman is warning of terrible danger unless she can complete her mission. What she learns from her patient will set Meggie on a perilous journey to retrieve a cursed treasure. But will she be in time to prevent a tragedy?

 

Review 3*

 

This story is the seventeenth and final book in the Hawkenlye mystery series. When I picked this book up at the library, I didn't realise it was part of a series at all. However, this didn't seem to matter, as the story reads as a stand-alone, though there are some references to other characters and books in the series.

 

Sir Josse d'Aquin is an interesting character; he's a knight of middle age, or maybe between the age of fifty or sixty years old in the year 1216. He finds himself being summoned by his childhood friend, King John, to help him as he tries to drive the invading force of Prince Louis of France out of England. But, while he's travelling with the King, Josse's daughter, Meggie, finds herself on a mission of her own.

 

Meggie is also an interesting character. She is a healer, working with the nuns at Hawkenlye Abbey as they tend to the sick and infirm. When a mysterious woman who is ill arrives at the Abbey with a warning of danger, Meggie finds herself journeying with the ailing woman's son, Faruq, to locate a relic that is cursed. But, as danger threatens, will they be able to retrieve the relic in time, or will it exact a terrible price?

 

As I said above, I saw this book in my local library. I love a good mystery, even a historical one, so after reading the synopsis, I decided to read it. I am struggling to write this review, not because it's bad (because it isn't), but because it isn't that good either. It is an okay read for me.

 

I found myself putting this book down, reading something else, and coming back to it with no problem. It is not a hard read by any means; in fact, it's a pretty easy read. This story told through several character's eyes, should have made it more interesting. However, something is missing from this tale. Maybe other mystery novels have spoilt me, but the plot is missing a crucial element - fast-paced suspense/mystery. This tale plods along at such a slow pace that I lost interest at times, which is why I would put it down and then come back to it. I've read other historical fiction novels that have sucked me in and left me breathless from the wild ride. Unfortunately, this book didn't do that to me. It is only in the last third of the book that the action picks up. The Devil's Cup of the title is an artefact that carries a curse. But the author, instead of using it as a tool to build suspense, focuses on King John and his attempt to forestall Prince Louis's invasion of England, which, I feel, is a shame as the object should have had a more significant role in this fictional tale.

 

Apart from the slow pace of the story, Alys Clare has written an intriguing story that brought the past to life. I love how she invoked the feeling of being transported into the past with her descriptive writing. The story flow is a little jerky in places where some of the scenes change in my opinion, but other readers may disagree with me, so will leave you to decide for yourselves. Nonetheless, I would consider reading more of this author's books in the future.

 

Due to some scenes of violence, I do not recommend this book to younger readers. However, I do recommend this book if you love historical fiction, mysteries, and thrillers. - Lynn Worton

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review 2018-08-16 19:58
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death
The Patriot Bride - Kimberley Woodhouse

The Daughters of the Mayflower series continues with “The Patriot Bride” by Kimberley Woodhouse. This unique series is generational, with each installment highlighting a woman descending from Mayflower voyager Mary Elizabeth Chapman, who was the focus of the first book. In “The Patriot Bride” we meet Faith Lytton Jackson, a 32-year-old woman residing in Boston as the colonies head toward war with England. With things intensifying, Faith and a named Matthew Weber become spies for the patriot cause, facing the dangers both of being caught and of their budding relationship.

This story contains many gems that make it stand out in the historical fiction genre. Faith makes a daring heroine, one who challenges the status quo of eighteenth century female conduct with her sharp intelligence, independence, and valor. The faith element is strong, and there are many scripture verses throughout the text, underscoring how much the fight for and eventual victory of the American Revolution depended upon the patriots’ faith in God. Along with the fictional characters are some easily recognizable historical figures, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Including them not only strengthens the setting but also gives readers a glimpse into what they may have been like in their personal lives and interactions. It is all too easy to view the Revolutionary War from the safety of history, knowing the outcome and forgetting how radical it actually was. “The Patriot Bride” drives home the reminder of how steeply the odds were in Britain’s favor and of the awful—and often gruesome—consequences that awaited the patriot leaders if they lost and demonstrates how these early American overcame the odds to form our nation.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

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review 2018-08-16 01:08
The Green Lama by Adam Lance Garcia
The Green Lama: Scions - Adam Lance Garcia,Douglas Klauba

This story was way more fun than I expected. I do enjoy pulp fiction but I usually have to be in a mood for it as so much of the genre can be campy and sexist. Not this one! I was happy to see so many female characters in the book – and they get stuff done too! They don’t just look pretty while being rescued.

Set in New York, there’s a variety of characters for the Big Bad Evil to infect and/or kill. The creeptastic aspects lead back to a ship that crashed into Liberty Island. It’s something out of a horror movie and it has the police baffled. But never fear! The Green Lama knows what this evil is, much to his sadness.

For such a short story, it’s a pretty big cast of characters. I did have a little trouble keeping them all separate. However, they are all interesting. There’s Jean Farell, who is a good shot and doesn’t shy away from rescuing men knocked unconscious. Frankie, who is French Black American, has a soft spot for kids that need rescuing.

Jethro Durmont, the hero of this tale, is a bit standard. He’s a millionaire white guy who lost his parents under horrible circumstances, and ran off to Asia to learn some mystical self-defense arts. Sound familiar, no? Batman, Iron Fist, The Arrow, etc. He does have at least one unique aspect – he needs his special radioactive salts on a regular basis to maintain his special powers. I hope he labels those appropriately so the guests don’t use them to flavor their soup!

Betty Dale, a newsreporter, has me wondering what will happen in the next book. She knows the Green Lama’s secrets but he also knows who she is. Then there’s poor Lt. Caraway. He made me laugh a few times but things didn’t go well for him in this story. Overall, it was a fun story. 4.5/5 stars

The Narration: Jiraiya Addams puts on a great performance. He has unique voices for all the characters and his female characters sound feminine. He went all out voicing the Evil, which was multi-layered voices for individual characters affected by it. Chilling! There were no technical issues with the recording. 5/5 stars
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