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Search tags: historical-fiction
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text 2017-08-19 16:33
Yes, yes and so much yes.
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

I'll write a real review for this soon, but since I just finished it this morning I'll have to do a little more pondering before I write. Otherwise it'll just be an entire review filled with something along the lines of...

 

OMG PERCY AND MONTY ARE SO CUTE AND FELICITY IS A BADASS AND PIRATES GUYS! PIRATES. BUT ALSO ROMANCE AND AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

 

So, yeah. I'll sit for a bit and figure out what I want to write. I LOVED this book though. It was so brilliantly written, overall. The plot was great, the characters were stellar, the attention to detail in the settings was amazing. Ugh. I love Mackenzie Lee. I do. I don't care who knows it.

 

I need much more Monty and Percy very very soon.

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review 2017-08-18 20:57
The Cost of Sugar by Cynthia McLeod
The cost of sugar - Cynthia Mc Leod

This is a lively, melodramatic work of historical fiction set in mid-18th century Suriname. At that time, the small nation on the northern coast of South America was a Dutch colony consisting of sugar and coffee plantations carved out of the jungle, many of them run by Jewish owners who arrived in Suriname via Portugal and Brazil, and all of them worked by slaves. Unlike in North America, however, proximity to the jungle meant that slaves often escaped to form their own communities, which were in constant conflict with the colonial government.

The story spans 14 years and has a large cast for under 300 pages, but its protagonists are stepsisters Elza and Sarith, both daughters of Jewish plantation owners. The two are best friends as girls, but soon find themselves opposed, primarily because Elza is a sweet young woman who treats the slaves well while Sarith is short-sighted and willing to ruin the lives of everyone around her in order to get her way. Yes, it’s that kind of book. The book focuses on Elza early on, then shifts its attention later in the story to Sarith, Sarith’s slave Mini-mini, and a young mercenary named Jan.

Which is to say that there’s no single plotline, and characters come and go rather oddly (I expected Alex to become more important than he did, and Amimba, as the first character we meet, to have something more than a walk-on role). But as a story about a place and a society, rather than any single protagonist, it flows well. The plot moves quickly and stays interesting, the translation is fluid, and the characters – if not particularly complex – are sympathetic, except when not intended to be. It presents a detailed picture of a historical era that doesn’t feel overly influenced by modern views, though it can be a little ham-fisted. The author has clearly done her share of research on Surinamese history and is able to bring her cultural knowledge to the pages.

Interestingly, most of the novel was originally written in Dutch, but slaves at the time were forbidden from learning Dutch, so conversed among themselves and with whites in Sranan, a creole language related to English as well as other European and African languages. The author originally wrote conversations involving slaves in Sranan, which is evidently still sufficiently widely-spoken in Suriname for the original audience to understand. In the English version, the Sranan dialogue is translated, but you can see the original in the footnotes. Helpful footnotes also explain those words or concepts that will be unfamiliar for the English-speaking reader (there’s a glossary at the end too, but I didn’t need it).

Overall, this is an entertaining work that will likely appeal to those who enjoy popular historical fiction. It’s not great literature but doesn’t try to be. And props to the author for writing a book for a country she was told “doesn’t have a reading tradition” – this book is now apparently beloved in Suriname after all.

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review 2017-08-18 17:10
The Velvet Prison
The VELVET PRISON - Sheldon Friedman
Travis Kane grew up under the watchful eye and heavy hand of his grandfather, Barclay Kane.  Travis' father was killed fighting in the Great War, meanwhile, his mother continued to grow distant until the birth of his baby sister.  Shortly after giving birth, Hannah Kane gathered up her things and her new baby and disappeared.  Left with his grandfather, Travis continued to practice the art that he loved, but was continually pushed toward a career in law by Barclay. When Travis becomes serious about his art, he decides to show and sell some paintings in a speakeasy.  Through the speakeasy, Travis finds friends that pull him into the underworld of rum running, but also opens him up to the world of professional art. Meanwhile, Lindsay Wayne is entering the world of professional theatre with the help of her mother.  Lindsay and Travis' worlds soon collide through Travis' friend, Gino. 
 
This historical saga took me on a journey from the end of WWI through the beginning of WWII. Through Travis and Barclay I had a very unique view of the politics of World War I, prohibition, the depression and the tensions rising to World War II.  More interesting than the perspective on history however, was the family dynamic of the Kanes.  From the beginning, the family had significant issues. Clearly, Travis' mother felt uncomfortable in Barclay's house, there are several reasons explored throughout the story, but none that we know for sure.  Though, there was something strong enough for Hannah to force herself to abandon her son and leave with her newborn daughter.  Travis is the most affected by his mother's abandonment and his grandfather's pressure to make him into something he is not.  I'm not sure his character ever really comes to terms with his mother's actions or his grandfather's will.  However, I am glad that Travis seems to finally do what makes him happy in the end.  I was really interested in Travis' artwork, his style and the mission he was sent on.  Hopefully I will discover more in book two!
 
This book was received for free in return for an honest review. 
 
 
 

 

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review 2017-08-18 17:08
Weathering the storm
Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick

I was totally charmed by Wonderstruck because I went into it totally blind as to what it contained. I had a clue from the bolt of lightning on the front cover but even that was just a tiny portion of this stellar novel. The reader follows a boy on a journey from his small town into the bustling metropolis of New York City as he tries to find a clue to his origin story. Once again we are treated to detailed illustrations of not only the New York of the 1970s but of the 1920s as well. And a large part of the novel takes place in one of my favorite places in NYC: The American Museum of Natural History. There's a description of early museums and cabinets of curiosities (look out for a post in the future about this in more detail) which entrance as well as educate. Selznick explores Deaf culture, survival against all odds, and how we are all connected to one another. There is a grounding in true historical events which lends an extra dimension to the narrative. 10/10

 

Source: Brain Pickings

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2017-08-18 16:39
Reading progress update: I've read 75%.
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

I hereby profess my undying love for Henry Montague, and his rakish ways! The banter and tension between him and Percy is giving me life this week, since it hasn't exactly been the best of weeks by any measure. The fact that today is Friday and that I can probably do nothing this evening but lay around and read is the only thing keeping me together.

 

That, and Felicity's boundless wit and venom:

 

“Just thinking about all that blood." I nearly shudder. "Doesn't it make you a bit squeamish?"

 

"Ladies haven't the luxury of being squeamish about blood," she replies, and Percy and I go fantastically red in unison. 

 

I do love this book though. Endlessly. I think it's destined for the favorites shelf.

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