Genre: Historical Fiction

Waiting on Wednesday – The Lake House by Kate Morton

April 15, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Waiting on Wednesday 5 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Lake House by Kate MortonThe Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton
on October 13th 2015
Pages: 512
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: The Secret Keeper, The House at Riverton, The Clockmaker's Daughter

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heartstopping suspense and uncovered secrets.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heartstopping suspense and uncovered secrets.

Living on her family’s gorgeous lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, clever, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented fourteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest son, Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined, leaving their estate as empty as their broken hearts.

Nearly sixty years later, having enjoyed a long, successful career as an author, Alice is now eighty years old and living in London. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is a spellbinding and satisfying read.

About Kate Morton

Kate Morton grew up in the mountains of southeast Queensland, Australia. She has degrees in Dramatic Art and English Literature and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Queensland. Kate lives with her husband and two young sons in Brisbane.

Kate Morton's books have been published in 31 countries. The House at Riverton was a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2007 and a New York Times bestseller in 2008. The Shifting Fog (now The House at Riverton) won General Fiction Book of the Year at the 2007 Australian Book Industry Awards. Was nominated for Most Popular Book at the British Book Awards in 2008. Her second book, The Forgotten Garden, was a #1 bestseller in Australia and a Sunday Times #1 bestseller in the UK in 2008.

I have yet to make it through all of Kate Morton’s books but there’s something so appealing about her stories that I can’t help but love. Dual timelines are some of my favorite types of stories and she does them oh so well.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a link to your post and I’ll be sure to stop by!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Early Review – Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (Prisoner of Night and Fog #2) by Anne Blankman

April 10, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 5 Comments

I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke (Prisoner of Night and Fog #2) by Anne BlankmanConspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #2
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 21st 2015
Pages: 416
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, WWII
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Prisoner of Night and Fog

three-half-stars

In this thrilling sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog—perfect for fans of Code Name Verity—Gretchen and Daniel must uncover dark secrets and revisit old enemies to unravel a dangerous conspiracy.

In 1930s Oxford, the days are long and pleasant, the people simple and straightforward.

Except for one.

The girl known as Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: she used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. More than a year after she made an enemy of her old family friend and fled Munich, she lives with a kindly English family, posing as an ordinary German immigrant, and is preparing to graduate from high school. Her love, Daniel Cohen, is a reporter in town. For the first time in her life, Gretchen is content.

But then Daniel gets a telegram that sends him back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside down. And when she receives word that Daniel is wanted for murder, she has to face the danger she thought she’d escaped—and return to her homeland.

Gretchen must do everything she can to avoid capture, even though saving Daniel will mean consorting with her former friends, the Nazi elite. And as they work to clear Daniel’s name, Gretchen and Daniel discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and get out in time—or will Hitler discover them first?

Prisoner of Night and Fog series

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Prisoner of Night and Fog (Prisoner of Night and Fog #1) by Anne Blankman {PurchaseMy Review}

‘It was starting. What Hitler had always promised – the Party and Germany were becoming one. The union that she had once thought sounded so perfect. Now it terrified her.’

 The year is 1933. Gretchen and Daniel have managed to extricate themselves from the dangers of Germany and have been slowly rebuilding their lives in England. Their lives are far from perfect and they both miss their families, but they’re at least safe. When Daniel receives a telegram with terrible news about an incident involving his family he rushes back to Germany without a second thought. Gretchen, being unable to remain sitting in safety while constantly wracked with worry, packs her bags and follows him straight back into danger.

Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke centers around the mystery behind the factual Reichstag fire. Gretchen and Daniel feel that if they can expose the lies surrounding the fire that they can hopefully put a stop to Hitler’s rise to power. I actually knew very little about the fire prior to this read so a little investigation of my own was needed. It was shocking to learn just how important that fire became in establishing Nazi Germany because as a result of the fire, Hitler was able to get the Reichstag Fire Decree passed which subsequently suspended civil liberties of German citizens. This Decree remained in effect throughout WWII, technically legalizing many of Hitler’s actions according to German law. That time in history will never cease to shock me.

This second installment in the duology was a solid one with the inclusion of actual historical events adding some legitimacy to this tale. The characters seemed to be constantly placing themselves needlessly in danger but I can’t decide whether it was actually or the fact that we know the outcome of it all made it just seem like a lost cause. Akin to horror movies where people are constantly making the worst possible decisions and you’re screaming at them to stop, I was begging them to stop from the very start when Gretchen and Daniel both travel back to Germany and right into Hitler’s dangerous hands. But considering it from their point of view, they may have understood the danger as it was during that time, but they couldn’t even begin to understand just how terrible it would truly get.

Equally knowledgeable and thrilling, this is a must-read for historical fiction fans. What I loved most about this duology is how interesting it was to read a story that was set well before the war, just as Hitler was first gaining power. While we are all cognizant of the occurrences of WWII, it was still hard not to hope that Gretchen and Daniel would actually succeed.

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Book Tour Review – Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan

March 19, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Book Tour, Read in 2015, TLC Book Tours 1 Comment

I received this book free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Tour Review – Fiercombe Manor by Kate RiordanFiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan
Published by Harper on February 17th 2015
Pages: 416
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: TLC Book Tours
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three-stars

In this haunting and richly imagined dual-narrative tale that echoes the eerie mystery of Rebecca and The Little Stranger, two women of very different eras are united by the secrets hidden within the walls of an English manor house

In 1933, naive twenty-two year-old Alice—pregnant and unmarried—is in disgrace. Her mother banishes her from London to secluded Fiercombe Manor in rural Gloucestershire, where she can hide under the watchful eye of her mother’s old friend, the housekeeper Mrs. Jelphs. The manor’s owners, the Stantons, live abroad, and with her cover story of a recently-deceased husband Alice can have her baby there before giving it up for adoption and returning home. But as Alice endures the long, hot summer at Fiercombe awaiting the baby’s birth, she senses that something is amiss with the house and its absentee owners.

Thirty years earlier, pregnant Lady Elizabeth Stanton desperately hopes for the heir her husband desires. Tormented by the memory of what happened after the birth of her first child, a daughter, she grows increasingly terrified that history will repeat itself, with devastating consequences.

After meeting Tom, the young scion of the Stanton family, Alice becomes determined to uncover the clan’s tragic past and exorcise the ghosts of this idyllic, isolated house. But nothing can prepare Alice for what she uncovers. Soon it is her turn to fear: can she escape the tragic fate of the other women who have lived in the Fiercombe valley . . .

About Kate Riordan

Kate Riordan is a British writer and journalist who worked for the Guardian and Time Out London. She is also the author of Birdcage Walk and is already at work on her third novel. Born in London, she now lives in the Gloucestershire countryside.

‘Fiercombe is a place of secrets. They fret among the uppermost branches of the beech trees and brood at the cold bottom of the stream that cleaves the valley in two. The past has seeped into the soil here like spilt blood.’

In 1932, twenty-two-year-old Alice Eveleigh finds herself pregnant by a man she thought she loved but is already married to another. In an attempt to spare the family scandal, her mother sends her to stay with an old friend, Mrs. Jelphs, at Fiercombe Manor in the English countryside until the baby is born and they can give it up for adoption. With nothing to do to keep her occupied, Alice gets drawn into the curious history of the Stanton family and the previous residents of Fiercombe that seemingly disappeared without a trace. Discovering a diary kept by Elizabeth Stanton which details her pregnancy only increases her curiosity and the more she finds out about her, the more she fears she’s destined for the same fate.

‘Elizabeth. That was the first time I saw her name. What did I think, if anything? I’m sure I traced the letters with my finger; perhaps I even whispered it under my breath, the hiss of the second syllable, the sigh of the last. But that was all. My interest in her and the estate’s history was fleeting then – a faint glimmer of intrigue that glowed and then dimmed again, though not before it had lodged itself at the back of my mind, ready to be brought out later.’

This book had everything going for it: Gothic setting in the English countryside, the dual-narratives/timelines that inevitably collide with one another in the end, and even a creepy Rebecca-esque housekeeper. It was everything I should have loved, and I did, for the most part. The issue I have with most dual narratives is the fact that one is most generally always more interesting than the other, as is the case with Fiercombe. Elizabeth’s narrative set in the late 1800s centered around the common affliction that was terribly misunderstood of puerperal insanity, a form of postpartum depression. It’s always difficult reading about medical issues being misconstrued in the past resulting in far worse instances than should have occurred. But Elizabeth’s narrative was not only terribly sad but it was gripping and truly haunting. Alice’s narrative involved her trying to uncover information about Elizabeth, having formed something of a mental kinship to her from her diary since most of Elizabeth’s writings were during the time when she too was pregnant. The attempt to join the two narratives together wasn’t exactly convincing, and Alice’s fears were tame in comparison to Elizabeth’s genuine ones, although my interest in finding out what happened to both women never seemed to wane.

Fiercombe Manor kept me fully invested to the very end with atmospheric writing and a haunting past revealed piece by piece.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton {PurchaseMy Review}
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier {Purchase}
The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio {PurchaseMy Review}

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This post was a part of ‘Fiercombe Manor‘ blog tour.
Click the button below for a complete list of tour stops.

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Classic Curiosity – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

March 14, 2015 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2015 1 Comment

Classic Curiosity – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Narrator: Sissy Spacek
Published by Harper Audio on July 11th, 1960
Length: 12 hours and 17 minutes
Genres: Classics, Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Go Set a Watchman

five-stars

Harper Lee's classic novel of a lawyer in the deep south defending a black man charged with the rape of a white girl

One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It won the Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. Most recently, librarians across the country gave the book the highest of honors by voting it the best novel of the twentieth century.

 ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.’

I recall reading this for the first time early on in school, in junior high possibly, and I can definitely say that the powerful message behind the book was completely lost on me at the time. As wonderful and inspirational as it is, it’s also much more complex and layered than my memory served. This is a book that teaches tolerance, morality and ethics, about the senselessness of violence and the differences between right and wrong. Doing what’s right meant something vastly different down South in the 1930s when Mockingbird was set and also in the 1960s when first published, however, even 50+ years later, it’s sad to see that we still deal with these issues to this day even if it may not necessarily be on the same large scale. This story still manages to retain significant meaning and teach us something about humanity regardless of time or place.

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

In addition to the various storylines that serve to teach an important lesson is the full cast of amazing characters that act out these life lessons. Atticus Finch, by far my favorite character, is a man that saw everyone as his equal. He believed this wholeheartedly and was willing to put his very livelihood on the line to fight for those rights. He was able to accept the differences in all of us and see the true bottom line: regardless of race, color, gender or any of the multitudes of ways that not only make us who we are but also separates us from the rest, at the end of the day we are all the same; we’re all human beings. This world would be a far better place with a few more Atticus Finch’s in existence.

As simplistic as this story is delivered, it’s actually deceptively significant. It’s not a preachy how to guide on how to be a decent person but instead it’s the didactic story of one man’s fight for what’s right.

Notes on the narration: Sissy Spacek delivered an amazing narration with her authentic Southern accent that had me listening well past my bedtime. I couldn’t imagine Scout sounding any other way. Listen below for a clip to the audiobook.

classic curiosity

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Book Review – The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

March 5, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 4 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – The Cure for Dreaming by Cat WintersThe Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters
Published by Harry N. Abrams on October 14th 2014
Pages: 368
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Uninvited: A Novel, The Steep & Thorny Way

three-stars

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl-a suffragist-in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It's 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia's father, concerned that she's headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she's able to see people's true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she's drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

‘You will see the world the way it truly is. The roles of men and women will be clearer than they have ever been before. You will know whom to avoid.’

The Cure for Dreaming is set during the early 1900’s in Oregon where the fight women’s suffrage is really starting to gather steam. It won’t be until August 26th, 1920 when the 19th amendment to the Constitution becomes ratified but even at this point, women are determined to speak their mind. Olivia Mead is a modern girl with hopes and dreams of one day being able to wear pantaloons in public, of going to college and getting a job and of one day being able to vote for President. Her mother had these same hopes and left her with her father when she was just four years old to follow her dreams. Not wanting to be accused of being just like her mother, Olivia has kept her thoughts and feelings to herself, for the most part. When her father determines it’s his duty to cure her of her dreaming, he hires a hypnotist, Henri Reverie, to remove any thoughts or feelings that would be considered inappropriate for a lady to possess. Instead of doing what was intended, the hypnotist opens her mind to see the world exactly how it is, showing her the true monsters around us.

“She’s only a bird in a gilded cage…”

What I loved most about Cat Winters debut novel In the Shadow of Blackbirds was the interesting fusion of historical and supernatural elements. She uses this same technique in The Cure for Dreaming, however, it didn’t seem as fitting in this situation. After being hypnotized, Olivia is able to see the true ugliness of people. The mean-spirited and nastiness within causes them to be reflected in her eyes as legit monsters with fangs and claws. Often compared to the descriptions of her favorite book Dracula, suddenly she’s seeing these monsters in real life. The constant references to Dracula made it all seem like a strange coincidence and made it seem as if it was just a product of an overactive imagination. In addition to the monsters, she also begins to witness women throughout town literally fading into existence yet there are other women, those who are in support of the women’s suffrage movement, who shine brightly with their determination to have their voices be heard. I loved the message, but the supernatural elements made the evil villains feel like a caricature and essentially lessened the true strength of it for me.

What this atmospheric story does do extraordinary well is bring the 1900’s to life with a wonderful amount of detail. Cat Winters also incorporated various black and white photographs from the period with fantastic quotes as she did in her previous novel, which I loved. What I also loved, which was a surprise to me, was the romantic element. It was crafted slowly, there was a distinct lack of insta-love and didn’t get overly focused on at all. It was incredibly sweet and touching and I loved that it was all a part of her journey of self-discovery rather than a deterrent. I may not have loved this one as much as her debut, but there’s still something incredibly intriguing about the stories that Winters decides to tell and the way in which she brings them to life.

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Book Review – Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff

February 20, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 2 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel WolffShadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff
Published by Bantam on February 10th 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Historical Fiction, WWII
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: A Vintage Affair, The Very Picture of You

four-stars

A childhood mistake. A lifetime of regrets.

Jenni is a 'ghost': she writes the lives of other people. It's a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.

Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara's help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest?

Gripping, poignant and beautifully researched, Ghostwritten is a story of survival and love, of memory and hope.

‘This was Polvarth, a place I’d vowed never to return to, yet which I saw, in my mind, every day.
It was my idea.
I closed my eyes as the memories rushed back.
We did it all by ourselves.’

Jenni Clark is a ghostwriter that takes the ghosts of a person’s past and molds them into a story. Her most recent commission is Klara, a woman that survived after being confined as a child in a camp in the midst of World War II. Klara currently resides in a town called Polvarth, a town that Jenni spent time there and where the ghosts of her own past currently reside. The opportunity presented to her in this job though is enough to make her willing to finally face those ghosts after all these years.

Jenni has run into trouble in her relationship with Rick; he wants to have children and she does not. The two agree that maybe this trip to Polvarth will give each of them a chance to reflect on their lives together and hopefully help them to work things out. The issue behind her refusal to have children stems from a childhood incident that she’s never told him or anyone for that matter. The tragedy is one she blames herself for and it isn’t until Klara shares her own story does she realize how similar the two are, and how both women need to find it in their hearts to finally forgive themselves in order to truly move on. Jenni’s story may have been mostly a side-story but it was still a vital piece of the whole story that was interwoven and resolved beautifully.

Stories about World War II, especially when they are centered around a concentration camp, are some of the hardest stories for me to read yet I’m completely incapable of passing one up. They are typically all stories about general devastation but Klara’s story adds a piece of history to WWII that I didn’t previously know much about concerning the Japanese invasion of the Dutch colony of Java where Klara grew up. The natives of the island were left in peace but any and all European residents of the island were forced into concentration camps. Her story details being separated from family, the incessant degradation, the backbreaking work, the hunger, the sickness, and inevitably the death. They were constantly forced to travel on foot to new camps which were generally worse than the camp they left behind. Even after the war was finally over and they were no longer being held against their will in the camps, they were forced to stay when the natives wished to cause them harm for what happened to their country at the hands of the Japanese. It was of course incredibly painful to read but Shadows Over Paradise did a brilliant job at bringing this unforgettable time in history to life.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys {Purchase}
A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff {Purchase}
Night by Elie Wiesel {Purchase}

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Early Review – Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy Hepinstall & Becky Hepinstall Hilliker

February 19, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 3 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy Hepinstall & Becky Hepinstall HillikerSisters of Shiloh by Becky Hepinstall Hilliker, Kathy Hepinstall
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 256
Genres: Civil War, Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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four-stars

A best-selling novelist enlists her own sister to bring us the story of two Southern sisters, disguised as men, who join the Confederate Army—one seeking vengeance on the battlefield, the other finding love.

In a war pitting brother against brother, two sisters choose their own battle.

Joseph and Thomas are fresh recruits for the Confederate Army, daring to join the wild fray that has become the seemingly endless Civil War, sharing everything with their fellow soldiers—except the secret that would mean their undoing: they are sisters.

Before the war, Joseph and Thomas were Josephine and Libby. But that bloodiest battle, Antietam, leaves Libby to find her husband, Arden, dead. She vows vengeance, dons Arden’s clothes, and sneaks off to enlist with the Stonewall Brigade, swearing to kill one Yankee for every year of his too-short life. Desperate to protect her grief-crazed sister, Josephine insists on joining her. Surrounded by flying bullets, deprivation, and illness, the sisters are found by other dangers: Libby is hurtling toward madness, haunted and urged on by her husband’s ghost; Josephine is falling in love with a fellow soldier. She lives in fear both of revealing their disguise and of losing her first love before she can make her heart known to him.

In her trademark “vibrant” (Washington Post Book World) and “luscious” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) prose, Kathy Hepinstall joins with her sister Becky to show us the hopes of love and war, the impossible-to-sever bonds of sisterhood, and how what matters most can both hurt us and heal us.

‘Twenty-one. The number of men who would pay for his death. As a woman she loved the poetry in that equation; as a man she loved the rage.’

Libby and Arden are newlyweds but a mere month into their lives together, the Civil War breaks out and Arden leaves to join the ranks of the Confederate army. When Libby hears that a massive battle took place nearby involving Arden’s unit she sets out to verify his survival. Her older sister Josephine travels with her and after they split up to search is the one that finds Arden with a massive hole in his stomach, dying slowly. By the time Libby finds them, Arden is still warm but long gone. Filled with a foreign rage, Libby cuts off her hair intent on joining the Confederates. She swears to take twenty-one Yankee lives for the twenty-one years that Arden was on this earth. Josephine, finding out her intentions, resolves herself to go with her if only to protect her from her dangerous plan.

The writing team for this novel is two sisters; one is a bestselling novelist and the other possesses a history degree. The result is a fluid story that is not just poignant but leaves you feeling well-informed of this time period. Sisters of Shiloh is written primarily from the point of view of Libby and Josephine who become Thomas and Joseph when they enlist. It reflects their struggles from being simple teenage girls to adapting to life as a soldier not only with the constant fear of dying but of keeping the secret of their gender safe. Josephine only joined the army to protect her sister and has no intentions of doing harm to anyone if she can help it. She’s a simple girl who has never been in love but slowly finds herself falling for Wesley Abeline (and he begins falling for “her” although his feelings remain conflicted as he’s not aware of her true gender). Libby’s mindset becomes darker as the book progresses with her hearing Arden’s voice in her head, urging her in the battle to kill again and again. She eventually begins to actually see him as well, with his stomach still bleeding and flies that cover the wound. At first, it was hard to differentiate the sister’s voices but by the end, they had developed their own separate identities so much that each section was clearly definable. Josephine remained sorrowful at her inability to save her sister from her own mind and Libby remained in conflict with her true nature and the impressionable effects of her husband even after death.

‘Arden, though, was more than a name. He was a presence, an exhortation, the heaving breaths of his spirit keeping up with her, his voice shouting that unearthly Rebel yell right along with her.’

Women that conceal themselves as men and join the war effort (typically in the Civil War) seems to be a new trend in literature these days as this is the second release I’ve read recently. I Shall Be Near to You was the previous one I read and is told from the point of view of a woman that joins the Union army, rather than the Confederates. Both books succeed in presenting a side of the war that was apparently quite common but vastly absent from the history books. Reading about these women that sacrificed their safety and voluntarily went into battle (even when they weren’t allowed to) was shocking and impressive even if it wasn’t exactly smart. Libby and Josephine went into the war not knowing how to shoot a gun yet they persevered and lasted a whole eight months in the war when some men didn’t last a few weeks. This may be considered an ‘unconventional’ side of wartime but it’s a side that is truly admirable that I’d love to see more of. Other related reads I intend on picking up include Neverhome by Laird Hunt, Liar, Temptress, Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott and This Side of the River by Jeffrey Stayton.

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna Freeman

February 18, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Waiting on Wednesday 1 Comment

Waiting on Wednesday – The Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna FreemanThe Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna Freeman
Published by Riverhead on April 14th 2015
Pages: 480
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: The Fair Fight: A Novel

The Crimson Petal and the White meets Fight Club: A page-turning novel set in the world of female pugilists and their patrons in late eighteenth-century England.

Moving from a filthy brothel to a fine manor house, from the world of street fighters to the world of champions, The Fair Fight is a vivid, propulsive historical novel announcing the arrival of a dynamic new talent.

Born in a brothel, Ruth doesn’t expect much for herself beyond abuse. While her sister’s beauty affords a certain degree of comfort, Ruth’s harsh looks set her on a path of drudgery. That is until she meets pugilist patron George Dryer and discovers her true calling—fighting bare knuckles in the prize rings of Bristol.

Manor-born Charlotte has a different cross to bear. Scarred by smallpox, stifled by her social and romantic options, and trapped in twisted power games with her wastrel brother, she is desperate for an escape.

After a disastrous, life-changing fight sidelines Ruth, the two women meet, and it alters the perspectives of both of them. When Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition, Ruth pushes dainty Charlotte to enter the ring herself and learn the power of her own strength.

A gripping, page-turning story about people struggling to transcend the circumstances into which they were born and fighting for their own places in society, The Fair Fight is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention, and fighting one’s way to the top.

About Anna Freeman

Anna is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, as well as a multiple slam-winning performance poet who has appeared at festivals and venues across Britain including Latitude, The Eden Project Festival, Shambala, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Bristol Poetry Festival and Glastonbury. She is also the author of a volume of poetry Gingering The World From The Inside (Burning Eye Books).

The Fair Fight is her first novel

Anna began writing The Fair Fight whilst completing her Creative Writing MA at Manchester Metropolitan University. It’s a historical novel set around the lives of bare-knuckle prize-fighters and their patrons, in Bristol in 1800. It won the Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize 2013.

A female fight club? Um, where has this been all my life?

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a link to your post and I’ll be sure to stop by!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Book Review – A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

February 17, 2015 Dani Dani's Reviews 1 Comment

I received this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony MarraA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Published by Hogarth on May 7th 2013
Pages: 416
Genres: Historical Fiction, Russian
Format: Paperback
Source: Blogging for Books
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four-stars

New York Times Notable Book of the Year * Washington PostTop Ten Book of the Year

In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content from the author.

“Each night he told her a new chapter, and so many nights had gone by, so many chapters had been told, that they referred to it as chapters rather than a story, because stories had endings and theirs had none.”

Before reading A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, I knew very little about Chechnya. Hell, I probably couldn’t even point to it on a map (if you’re curious, it’s here). I will admit, I was intimidated to read a book with a subject and a people so far removed from my wheelhouse. Fear not! There are snip-its of history woven in that provide enough detail to not feel like a noob, but not so much that it is like reading a text book.

I found strong similarities in theme and message to other books that deal with wars on ethnicity or identity (like Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Night by Elie Wiesel, and The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper). More than that, I discovered a profound connection to the characters simply as a human being who has experienced uncertainty and sorrow, joy and love.

“In the shoebox the identity cards were layered eight deep. She held a card to the light and set it back down. ‘He’s one of these,’ she said.”

Despite its moments of violence and terror, the core of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is about normal people trying to survive while their world disintegrates. It’s about a woman who can’t stop thinking about the last thing she said to her sister who has gone missing in the chaos of war. It’s about a father who obsesses over the mistakes he made with his son, and will do anything to make them right. And it’s about a man, who risks his freedom and his life, to save a little orphan girl.

“He had always tried to treat Havaa as a child and she always went along with it, as though childhood and innocence were fantastical creatures that had died long ago, resurrected only in games of make believe.”

Some of my favorite moments in this all-too-heavy book are the brief glimpses of humor and happiness – a little girl trying to teach a one-armed man to juggle, a man sharing his only food with stray dogs that roam his neighborhood, and discussions about how turtles evolved.

While A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is artfully crafted, I’m not certain I would recommend it to anyone. It is gut wrenching, heart breaking and emotionally exhausting. Should you choose to read this book, be sure you have something fluffy lined up for afterwards.

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Early Review – Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

January 31, 2015 Dani Dani's Reviews 2 Comments

I received this book free from First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Early Review – Funny Girl by Nick HornbyFunny Girl by Nick Hornby
Published by Riverhead on February 3rd 2015
Pages: 464
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read Program
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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From the bestselling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down comes a highly anticipated new novel.

Set in 1960's London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby's latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

Barbara, a newly crowned beauty queen, leaves her hometown of Blackpool for London, where she hopes to become the next Lucille Ball. She rebrands herself as Sophie Straw – only to be cast as “Barbara from Blackpool” on a new BBC sitcom. Her new show is met with wide appeal for being the first comedy to shed light on more realistic wedded bliss.

“She didn’t want to be a queen at all. She just wanted to go on television and make people laugh.”

Readers of classic Nick Hornby novels, like High Fidelity and About a Boy, will likely have high expectations when approaching this book, as I did. Funny Girl has several very hard acts to follow and with the precedent of such charming, complex characters, this novel simply did not measure up. Barbara/Sophie has the same funny yet flawed characterization common among Hornby’s creations, but instead of coming off as relatable or interesting, she’s more brash and seems to desperately seek attention – like the annoying girl you try to avoid at a party.

Funny Girl has in no way deterred me from (eagerly) getting my hands on Hornby’s next book. I am still hopeful to find a glimmer of those all-too-human characters I fell in love with a decade ago that propelled Hornby on my list of favorite authors.

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