Posts Tagged With: historical fiction

Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See – 3/5

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Man, I am so in the minority here. Sorry, guys, but I just did not find myself enjoying this book.

Maybe it’s because at this point I have read a decent amount of WWII books. I dabble in a lot of historical fiction set in Europe during that time, and I’ve also found about an equal amount of memoirs or biographies as well. It might not be fair to compare the books but in all the ones I’ve read this one just really fell short for me.

What was it missing? I don’t know exactly. It took a really long time for me as a reader to see the connection between the stories, and, in reality, I still don’t really see it. Yes, paths crossed but… why do I care again? I guess there was impact, kind of, but it just didn’t feel meaningful to me. The timeline jumps around which, I guess, is to make the story not feel like its unfolding as slowly as it is, but it didn’t fool me at all. I kept waiting for something unpredictable to happen but it all just fell more or less into place. I also thought the story of a blind girl would be more poetic. I don’t think Doerr did a poor job, but it wasn’t as different as I expected it to be.

I really should have loved this book. I’m a sucker for WWII stories, historical fiction in general, and, to top it all off, I’ve been to (and am in LOVE with) the town of St. Malo. Just having that as a setting should have caused me to fall in love but instead it was like I was kept at arms length. I just didn’t really connect with anyone, nothing shocked me, and even the hardships of war didn’t hit me like they should have.

Sorry, Doerr. It’s not that it was bad, per se, and I did enjoy the last few chapters when finally, finally it all seemed to come together (though not to any real satisfaction) but the rest of it just felt flat to me. I can’t say I would recommend this book. I’ve much sooner refer someone to read The Invisible Bridge. Now that is one hell of a WWII historical fiction.

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Book Review: The Other Typist – 3/5

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell


My rating: 3 of 5 stars


So, this book, if you haven’t already heard, has a strange ending. It’s a very confusing one at that and, unfortunately, for me, puts the whole book into a tailspin. Prior to the last couple of chapters, this would have been a much higher rating.

I don’t want this to get spoiler-y, but some people are comparing the book a sort of “Sixth Sense” – where you feel like you need to re-watch it in order to understand the ending. In my opinion, this is more like a much lower caliber of horror story (think Hide-and-Seek, or any other similar styled movies) where there’s a “trick” ending, but going back and watching it again doesn’t help. Part of me wants to read this story again, but I don’t think that would clarify. Perhaps I am wrong, but I get the feeling that Rindell didn’t make a firm understanding one way or the other and we just have to decide for ourselves.

Anyone remember watching Shutter Island with Leo DiCaprio? Where you don’t know for sure at the end whether or not the top will fall? This is that kind of book. I truthfully don’t think the answer is there, and I personally think that’s a cop-out.

Aside from that, I think the book is really well done. I enjoyed the writing of it, I enjoyed Rose’s voice, and I liked the setting.

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Book Review: The Gods of Gotham – 5/5



The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Engrossing! This book had me hooked from the start. I’m not one who often tackles mysteries but this has so many other nuances – historical fiction, romantic interest, poetry – it’s going to be pleasing to all kind of readers.

Let’s start with the last I mentioned; the poetry. Faye’s writing is beautiful. I just love the way the story is described. The unfortunateness of an audiobook is how hard it is to dog-ear favorite lines but I have a lot of them. The way people grimaced, the way the sun fell over the city, the smells and sounds of the day all were described so uniquely and so beautifully. It fit is really well with the setting and I think that manner of seeing the world a little differently helped us as the reader understand the main character as well. It was like the general narration was a part of what made Tim such a great detective- he already saw the world in a unique way.

Let’s add that on to the historical fiction – oh, I love the setting. So interesting, so changing. I adored the use of the different language and jargon – it worked extremely well in the book. Very pleasingly hard to follow at times. It wasn’t just thrown in there to be in there – Faye used it well.

The characters in this story are unique – people in particular like Valentine and Mercy are a mixed bag of questions. They really off-set the other cast of characters. That’s the thing with mysteries that is always hard – you have to have a good sequence of people so the suspect list isn’t too short, but you can’t flesh out everyone. Having two really unique people I thought helped balance it out nicely. The fact that these people meant a lot to the main character – brother and love-interest respectively – made it all that more important that they were the interesting ones.

Lastly, of course, there’s the plot. It was a truly good story! Unique background that kept me guessing. Toward the end I had a very good understanding but it wasn’t so far in advance that it was predictable.

And that’s that! I don’t have a bad thing to say about the book. Recommend!

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Book Review: Golden Earrings – 5/5

Golden Earrings by Belinda Alexandra


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, this book.

Do you ever read a historical fiction and think, “This must have happened.” It was so expertly woven, the truth and tales of the times intermingled with the fiction so beautifully I thought it had to be true. The richness of the story, though certainly not all uplifting, felt like something that just had to have happened. Of course, I realize that’s not the case, but I don’t think I’ll be able to ever think about the Spanish Civil War without imagining La Rusa’s impact.

I adored this (audio) book. It’s a historical fiction that reads like a mystery. I knew the instant I picked this up it would be a winner of my heart: Spain, flamenco, and ballet? It’s like Alexandra knew what draws me to a story and decide to put it all into one place – beautifully at that. If you don’t already have a soft spot for any of those items, you’ll be hard pressed to walk away from this tale without one.

What more is there to say? Paloma, Evelina, Celestina – Golden Earrings is a tale of strong women who are impacted by a terrible war. It’s a story about how people react when their lives are altered by others’ choices. It’s not a story about making all the right decisions. Each and every one of the characters in this novel make mistakes – very large mistakes – that send waves of impacts down the line for years. But mistakes don’t make a person, and Alexandra’s weaving of the characters shows that mistakes can be made by good people, but that good people aren’t immune to hard choices.

This is a little known novel that needs some serious love. It’s incredibly via audio book and I’m sure just as good on paper. Highly recommend,and I will definitely be picking up more of Alexandra in the future.

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Book Review: I Shall Be Near To You – 4.5 of 5

I Shall Be Near to You: A Novel by Erin Lindsay McCabe


My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This book is such a good example of why I love historical fiction. Historical fiction can take the liberties needed to craft a really excellent story, while still teaching me a little about the lives and actions of past history. For me, nothing makes things like love or loss ring more true than when I’m reading it in a historical context. McCabe does a truly wonderful job of making all that happen in this book.

I Shall Be Near to You is clearly well researched, but you’re not overwhelmed by facts. The book isn’t about the Civil War in of itself; it’s about Rosetta. She’s a feisty woman who wants nothing more than to run a farm with her husband, Jeremiah, a local boy she’s loved forever. Their lives promise to be happy, if it weren’t for the war.

Rosetta’s voice is incredible. McCabe does a wonderful job of using language of the time and of Rosetta’s upbringing (which would have consisted of only an average education). But her farm-like manner doesn’t hinder the reader from seeing how strong, resourceful, and passionate Rosetta is. And never, not for one moment, do we doubt her love for Jeremiah.

Romantic as it is, this isn’t a book for the weak of stomach or for someone who doesn’t have any tissues handy. About half of this book takes place marching or on the battlefield and McCabe provides us with a myriad of visions, sounds, and smells (especially smells!) of what is going on. It’s gut wrenching and I guarantee you heart is bound to break. In all honesty, I didn’t think what happened was going to happen and I was astounded when it did. I think it was best for the story, but I can tell you it was not what I wanted.

What can I say? This is a great story and adds just a little to what we know and think of when it comes to the Civil War. An excellent read.

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Book Review: The Invention of Wings – 5 of 5

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“You got to figure out which end of the needle you’re gon be, the one that’s fastened to the thread or the end that pierces the cloth.”

Reading The Secret Life of Bees just meant I had a favorite book. Reading The Invention of Wings means I have a favorite author. Sun Monk Kidd is tremendous, folks.

This book pulls at your heartstrings in a way that isn’t cheesy. It’s authentic without being boring, it’s about slavery without chastising, and it’s about abolition without pride (well, at least the bad kind of pride). It gives the bad guys of the story hearts while it keeps the good guys with their feet on the earth. Sun Monk Kidd weaves in so much symbolism you can see it without the help of your English teacher. Instead of feeling overdone, though, the nuances of water and wings and sewing makes the story so full-bodied you feel like you’ll burst.

There’s a lot I love about this story but probably my favorite part is how this novel, at first glance, is about slavery and it’s impact on two women – Hetty and Sarah. When you actually read it though, I think each reader will pick out something else that’s important to him/her. For me, I adored how much this book was about women. Men play very minor roles. The men in this story do little more than hinder the women along the way. Each step for these women are taken on their own – and it’s beautiful.

To sum it all up?


(Also – the audio version of this is excellent!)

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Book Review: His Haven by Harper A. Brooks – 3 of 5

His Haven by Harper A. Brooks


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Debut author alert! This is such a great start – I fully intend to continue with the series when the next one is released.

In this book, the world revolves around Haven and Avrum, and their worlds revolve around each other. Sure, there are some other things going on along the way but that is the true meat-and-potatoes of it. Their eyes catch at the beginning of the novel and that’s the end of it. Though there are some wrenches thrown into the plot as a whole, we more-or-less know what’s going to happen at the end. This isn’t a bad thing in the least, after all, that’s why we have genre labels.

I love how human the vampires are in this book. It’s not easy to write a book that contains vampires after the Twilight rise (and then horrific crash and burn). Brooks’ vampires are different, though. Sure, they have an aversion to sunlight and a pretty intense lust for human blood but, other than that, they are just a like (and as variable) as you and me. I like that. I like that the vampires still breathe and sweat in addition to rapid healing and speed. It makes them “more-than-human” instead of different creatures overall and this makes the attraction between Haven and Avrum feel very natural.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. Brooks is showing herself as a great blooming author. Her story is fresh and, though some of the wording and scenes are a bit clunky, others are overall brilliant. I liked the addition of little subplots, though sometimes they were a bit of a distraction or not entirely resolved (I thought the whole Henri seeing Haven as Linna part would have more oomph to it). Also, some of the book moved dizzying fast from one part to the next.

Overall, though, this is a quick and enjoyable read. Great start, Harper!

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Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal – 3/5

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel just wasn’t my bag. I’ve actually had the pleasure of seeing Mary Robinette Kowal speak in Chicago and enjoyed hearing her ideas, so I was excited to pick up this novel. She says it herself – when you hear “Jane Austen with magic” you get pretty interested. Super props to another NaNoWriMo novel. Despite what I think, this book is obviously a success and I love that.

Still, for me this just fell flat. I think the danger in saying it’s like Jane Austen is that then the writing gets compared to one of the greatest writers of all time (in my opinion). That’s a pretty high bar. I felt Kowal can definitely hold her own with style and form but pieces of this novel just didn’t work for me. Some of the scenes felt forced or unimportant and, try as I might, I had such a hard time seeing the magic and the ether and really understanding what the magic was.

Probably, for me, the most frustrating part of this novel was the use of the magic. Everything in this world was 100% normal except for the magic. And what was it used for? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was just a way to make things prettier. Whhaaaa – how disappointing. What’s the point of having magic if it doesn’t otherwise change their lives? Sure it enhances and obscures items but it didn’t mean anything. It could make items prettier and more lifelike. Man, I wanted so much more than that. I wanted this ether to matter somehow – I wanted the positives of the beautiful created to have some kind of negative (aside from exhaustion). I liked the idea but I feel like there could be so much more here.

The other piece I found challenging was how closely the storyline mirrored Jane Austen. I knew, of course, that was the intent. I have no problem with the usage of similar plots but this felt so incredibly similar to Pride and Prejudice it made it dull. I knew immediately who the end man would be. Maybe it’s because I have read all of Austen’s completed works and I know them a bit more than the average reader, but I wasn’t able to feel any element of surprise. With this, I found the main character, Jane, to be unbelievable. Why was she so vain, really? “Plain” is not a unique problem to have, or a big one. You would think the rest of the world were supermodels by how worried she is about the length of her nose. It just seemed silly based on how talented she was. If she had a cleft lip or something, then I would have understood, but I felt it was a stretch. It simply didn’t make sense that she was passed up for as long as she was with her only downfall, literally, the only one, being “plainness”.

Still, I think this novel has some positive parts. I did get through it quite quickly and, unlike Austen, it was pleasantly easy to read. It still has the elements of old language but has the satisfying tendency to have direct conversation and events, rather than implications. The idea of glamour was interesting and her characters are well developed. I think historical fiction fans can really like it but I hesitate to recommend to die-hard Austen fans such as myself.

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