historical fiction · Romantic

Highland Crown by May McGoldrick

Do you love Diana Galbadon’s Outlander Series? Or, like me, did you love books one through four but you just couldn’t take it anymore? I mean, Jamie is great but can Claire just stay out of trouble for two minutes?!? Sheesh. If, like me, you love a lot of things about Outlander but not the infinite never-ending drama, look no further then Highland Crown by May McGoldrick.

highlandcrownHighland Crown is going to be compared to Outlander. I don’t enjoy making comparisons like this but let’s just look at the facts.

Both set in historic Scotland? Check

Hot male character that is instantly admired? Check

Gorgeous medical female lead? Check

Instant love connection in the midst of turmoil? Check

Time travel? Nope, that is just Outlander.

So, I felt a duty to get this out into the open. Yes. I see the similarities. But, I want to focus on the differences and why it all worked so beautifully. Written by Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick under the pen name Mary McGoldrick, Highland Crown is a fast paced romance told in shifting narratives with loads of historic facts that brought the action to life. Alternating between the beautiful doctor and fugitive, Isabella Drummond, and the strikingly handsome ship captain, Cinead Mackintosh, the reader is literally tossed into the action from chapter one. And, since half of this writing duo has a PhD in sixteenth century Scottish and English literature, the historical aspect felt so true and alive it was hard to step back into the present.

I am an absolute sucker for romances where the male character falls deeply in love and has to either reassure the female character of his love or somehow earn her trust. This book gave me that romantic aspect in spades and I cannot wait for the next two books in the series!


Tell me, please!

What is your favorite kind of romance novel?


historical fiction · YA

My Plain Jane by Hand, Ashton and Meadows

I will freely admit that my hatred for Jane Eyre is as long as the endless night I was forced to read the entire novel. Of course, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more had I not procrastinated myself into an all-nighter but what is done is done. Since that horrible incident I have had a massive chip on my shoulder for all things Bronte. But, I am constantly shocked by how differently I feel about the books I hated being forced to read when I pick them voluntarily (hello Great Gastby). So, when I received My Plain Jane from my OwlCrate subscription (in July) I vowed to read it with a fresh unbiased mind. And then I promptly shelved it for more than six months. But, when I cracked into it this weekend I did so with an open mind!

MyplainjaneMy Plain Jane is written by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows and is their second collaboration. Their first, My Lady Jane received rave reviews everywhere but I had not yet read it. Typically I enjoy formulating my own synopsis of the book but this particular novel has me stumped on just how to do so. There is a lot of adventure squeezed into this story! Therefore, I give you the official blurb:

 

 

You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester—and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Bronte, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Alright, Jane doesn’t marry Rochester – color me intrigued! This has always been the worst part of Jane Eyre for me. Rochester is stupid. And the way My Plain Jane handles that gave me no end of joy. I also really loved both Charlotte Bronte and Alexander Blackwood and the cast of supporting characters that all came together to crate a fantastic collection of personalities.

I will admit that I had difficulty getting into the book which is most likely due to my previous experience reading Bronte. Also, there were times when I was slightly frustrated when the authors constantly broke the fourth wall and the ever present commentary about the corsets became a small annoyance. Typically I don’t mind a fourth wall peek-through but it was done a bit inconsistently and it threw me off. Still, I consumed this 450 page book in a little over two days and I just couldn’t put it down! There were enough twists and turns and those together with the lovely female friendships meant that I ended up having a great time reading this book.

I read Jane Eyre in high school and my memory of it contains only my disgust for Mr. Rochester. So, you do not need to have read Eyre to enjoy My Plain Jane at all, nor, does it seem do you need to check out My Lady Jane before picking up this book. But, if you are interested in a paranormal historical fiction this is an absolutely fun read!


Tell me, please!

Am I the only one that hated Rochester?


 

historical fiction · Middle Grade

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

I’ll admit, I didn’t know how Pakistan became a country until I saw the latest season of Dr. Who. When Yasmin went into the past to learn a family secret I was, truthfully, a little stunned that I had lived this long unaware of the partitioning of India. How strange it is then that I had The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani waiting for me on my own bookshelf.

nightdiaryThe Night Diary is the journal of twelve year old Nisha. She writes nightly to her Mama who died giving birth to Nisha and her twin brother, Amil. Her entries begin in July, 1947 and describe a childhood in India where Nisha’s daily life consists of going to school with the other girls, helping their cook, Kazi, make dinner, and playing with her brother. She lives a happy life with her physician Father and her Dadi. Nisha has as much trouble speaking her thoughts as her brother does reading his schoolwork. But her eloquent writing showcases a highly observant child who makes the perfect narrator for the dramatic changes to India during this time.

On midnight between the 14th and 15th of August 1947 India was partitioned into two countries, India for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslins. If you were living in certain sections of India and Hindu on August 14th you awoke on the 15th in Pakistan and a refugee. One of these refugee is writer Veera Hiranandani’s father who, along with his family, was forced to leave their home after partition.

“My childhood would always have a line drawn through it, the before and the after.”

In creating the character of Nisha and allowing us to see the upheaval of the world through her eyes, Ms. Hiranandani makes it clear that this history may be a half a world away but this experience is still relevant today at home. I thought it especially brilliant of the author to make Nisha’s father a physician with a critical job. Furthermore, her Father is Hindu and her Mother was Muslim. When you you have ties to everywhere how can you not belong? Why is just one part of you suddenly the only thing that matters? As her country redefines its identity, Nisha is struggling to figure out her own.

If you are trying to explain the refugee crisis and immigration issues of today to children, this book will help illuminate this historically complicated but still relevant problems. When a few people make decisions that affect so many others there will always be those who need our protection or our voices. Or, perhaps you just want to read a poignant, beautiful and eventually uplifting story. Either way I highly recommend The Night Diary.


Tell me, please!

Did you know the history of Pakistan?


fiction · historical fiction

Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

badlamstacksMy favorite book of 2018 was The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. For me, it was like eating my favorite meal complete with a perfectly sized (but decadent) desert. Ms. Pulley’s new book Bedlam Stacks was just as delicious although it lacked that certain little bit of sweet and depth that made Watchmaker such an ideal story. Like Watchmaker, Bedlam Stacks is a mixture of historical fiction, magical realism and mystery. Pulley’s careful and meticulous story building could be seen by some as boring but I consumed this story quickly even as I tried to slowly enjoy myself.

Bedlam Stacks features Merrick Tremayne. He is the second son of an impoverished family who finds himself living at home after an injury that nearly cost him his leg. It is the mid-1800’s and so Merrick nothing but a drag on his brother’s estate. When he is faced with taking a new job from the India Office to gather cinchona trees for quinine or be sent to a location of his brother’s choosing, he elects to travel to Peru. He is concerned that he is losing his mind and he expects to die during the expedition but that is preferable to the former Naval man over a slow death in the English countryside.

In Peru, Merrick meets Raphael. Raphael is the keeper of a small town with an enormous secret. There is also a character from Watchmaker that plays a tiny but instrumental role in this book. Figuring out what is happening in Bedlam Stacks consumes both Merrick and the reader as navigating the mystery may open a path to the life saving quinine supply.

I cannot decide exactly why I loved this book. I know that it is not as good as Watchmaker but, honestly, that is an epically high bar. But the characters that Ms. Pulley creates stay with you. The story, the expedition, even the mystery all faded to the background as these characters consumed my imagination. I find myself revising it again and again in my mind and desperate to discuss the subtle nuances of the book.

Some have complained that Merrick was flat and boring. I disagree. Instead, Merrick has grown up poor but privileged. As a former Navy man with a physical disability he continues to live between two worlds. Individuals that do so gain a perspective so many others cannot experience. He is, by nature, a man made for observation and I enjoyed the opportunity to watch him.

Natasha Pulley has written another fantastic book. I sincerely hope that she is planning a third and that she will continue to include reoccurring characters!


Tell me, please!

Have you read either book? What are your thoughts?


fiction · historical fiction

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Some books are so well written that I find myself transported to another place or another time. When I finish the story, I always close the book, hold it in both hands and look back to the cover. I smile because just a few days ago this book was a stranger to me and now it is a friend.

watchmakerThe Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley was a beautiful unknown stranger when I started reading it last week. I always say that a book should be given at least three chapters and by the end of chapter three this book had me mesmerized. I was transported to Victorian England and Japan through the eyes of Thaniel, Grace and Mori. Now that the story has ended I have been abruptly thrust back into the reality of today and find that these characters are not here. Thankfully, a good book is a friend that is always there for me so I can visit them again.

Thaniel, short for Nathaniel, is a clerk. One evening a bomb threat is telegraphed in to Home Office. That same evening he returns home to find a pocket watch in his solitary dwelling on his bed with no explanation. When the bomb eventually does go off, the watch saves his life. And so begins Thaniel’s investigation into the mysterious watch and its more deliciously curious maker, Kieta Mori. Grace Carrow is a reluctant socialite pulled into the story slowly at first until she is completely intertwined with Thaniel and the Watchmaker.

I loved this story. This book was like looking at a place on Google map. At first, everything was general and far away and I couldn’t quite make sense of it all. But, as I kept reading the picture zoomed in slowly until little details because so clear and inviting that I couldn’t stop and I wanted to live there forever. I want desperately to speak in more detail but I had the great joy of reading it without the damper of other’s opinions or any plot spoilers and I will not take this experience from anyone else.

I highly recommend The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. This novel’s complex, yet enjoyable characters and delightful story made for a thoroughly enjoyable adventure on this cold wet January week.


Tell me, please!

Have you read or are you interested in The Watchmaker?


all ages · historical fiction

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

trueconfessionsofcharlotteI picked up The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi from a used bookstore after I started seeing it everything. It was on display in bookstores, at the library and on required reading lists at the local schools. I must confess, while I hated required reading when I was in school I have grown almost fanatical in my desire to read everything on those lists in my adulthood. This might just be my “adult” reason for reading excellent children’s literature.

Charlotte is not a book I would have chosen without other encouragement. Frankly, I might still not have read it except for the lure of the used book store price. Even then it sat on my shelf for close to a year before I finally started the story. My reluctance stems directly from my fear of boats and more specifically being stuck on boats.  And the synopsis only added to my fear.

“An ocean voyage of unimaginable consequences.”

“Not every thirteen-year old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guiltygbv. But, I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however: If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as lived it.”

I was as terrified for Charlotte the whole story long as I was enchanted by the prior owner of this books use of sparkly pens to circle unknown vocabulary. Charlotte is stuck on a boat, friendless and at sea and we know someone will be murdered. I just kept thinking, “if sparkly pen can see this to the end so can I!” Otherwise, I may have stopped reading when the boat first left the shore.

And Charlotte is more than a historical fiction story about murder at sea. I was once a thirteen-year old girl myself. Charlotte’s voice and experiences may have happened nearly 200 years ago but all thirteen-year old girls struggle to emerge into womanhood the way Charlotte did. We want to be treated like adult women and admired in our society in one way or another but the illusions from our childhood and nativity can twist our understanding of our role. For most young women awkwardness is the paramount sensation. For Charlotte, her life was at stake.

This is an beautifully written story that I found terrifying and lovely all at once. I grew to adore Charlotte and the crew and I was elated to discover that the author has put Charlotte in other books. All in all, I am thrilled that it is my first book of 2018!


 

FrighteninglyGoodRead · historical fiction · Uncategorized

Frighteningly Good Read #12

Today’s FGR is another children’s novel that I really believe everyone should read. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan is a sweeping piece of historical fiction that covers all of the major events in American history through the eyes of children and linked them together through a magical harmonica.

EchoI wrote about Echo months ago and have recommended it to everyone for at least a year. Recently, a young reader told me they found the book “terrifying.” I was a little taken aback – I had not considered it scary at all.

But, that is the thing about fears. For me, the ocean is the most terrifying setting possible. So, a book set on a cruise ship is already terrifying. A submarine…..full shudder. For this child, this book reached into his deepest darkest psyche and kept him up reading until all hours. Thankfully, he found it thrilling!

Echo tells the story of three children struggling through some of the most difficult moments in modern history.  The rise of Hitler’s Germany, the Great Depression and segregation in America are all experienced through the eyes of these young and brave kids.  It is the harmonica – an immensely popular instrument in its own time – that provides a means of escape for the each of them.

But, the forces working against our little heroes provided enough tension and mystery to create fear in the younger reader. So, for today I recommend again the fabulous Echo.


Tell me, please!?

Have you ever read something that just terrified you (even though it wasn’t supposed to)?


 

Fantasy · FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017 · historical fiction · SeriousSeriesLove

Frighteningly Good Reads #10

For today, my Frighteningly Good Read recommendation is The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Beginning with A Discovery of Witches, adventuring through Shadow of Night and culminating in Book of Life, the adventures of Diana the Witch and her Vampire soul mate Matthew were thrilling and fascinating. And, since it is soon to be a BBC television series (*squeal!*) it is right at the front of my mind this Halloween season.

Much like Diana Galbadon’s sweeping historical fiction series Outlander, Deborah Harkness utilizes fascinating historical details to bring the story depth. This is not a surprise, really, since Ms. Harkness is a historian herself. I quite enjoy that she describes herself as, “A history profession who tumbled down the rabbit-hole and wrote the Internationally best selling All Souls Trilogy.

If you follow my blog then you know that, for me, it is often the supporting characters that take a book from enjoyable to obsess-able. And All Souls Trilogy has a cast of supporting characters that I adored. A tremendous time is spend on Diana and Matthew and their budding (forbidden!) romance. But, I loved the Demons in the books, the third category of non-humans who were incredibly and diversely talented. They reminded me of all the wonderfully productive adults I knew who were told to “slow down” as children.

I appreciated that there were several LGBTQA+ characters in the book including Diana’s adoring aunts. I also revealed in the rich addition of history and scenic details. To be in a library like the ones Diana visits is a dream of mine. Visiting them through this book is as close as I am going to get this year.

Several reviewers have called this Twilight for grownups. There may be some truth to this but I would add that it is a smarter, stronger and more grownup story. And I liked Twilight! I will say that there is a scene that involves all three magical species together practicing Yoga. I enjoyed the scene but it appears to be the Jar-Jar Binks of this book. If you can accept that Witches, Demons and Vampires might get together in a human-free environment and downward facing dog then the rest of the series will be magical.

matthew goode

So, the FGR for today is really this delightful trilogy. I don’t know when the BBC plans to give us the television version but it is going to be difficult to top these books! Well, Matthew Goode as Vampire Matthew might help.

 

 

 

 


Tell me, please!

How much would you love doing yoga with a bunch of supernatural beings?


 

all ages · Challenges · historical fiction · Uncategorized

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

thewarsaved

I have been seeing this book everywhere. It is on display at all of my favorite bookstores both major and minor. I didn’t pick it up because I was sure it was going to be bad-sad (that sadness that feels foisted upon you by authors). Finally, I requested it from my local library because I wanted to give it a chance. I am so glad I tried it.

This book is Ada’s story but it so much more. Ada is nine (maybe) and her brother Jamie is six in 1939 when Hitler has begun to threaten England. Children are being sent to the country for safety. We have all read this story haven’t we?

But, this is where author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley changes the tune. Ada is not just poor and unloved by her cruel Mother. She was born with a clubfoot. In 1939 having a clubfoot was treatable but Ada received no medical attention for her’s and has been kept in her one room apartment in London nearly her entire life.

Whenever I read stories of London’s children being sent to the country during World War II I am struck but the terrible decisions families made to keep their children safe. As a kid, I couldn’t dream of being away from my parents. As an adult, I cannot imagine handing a child over to a stranger on the other side of a train.

But, for Ada, could this separation might be her salvation? Since the book is called, The War that Saved My Life, it is a good guess that the answer is yes. But, what I think made this book really magical was the way being in the country affected Ada.

I loved this book so much I had to own it. I cannot wait to read the sequel The War I finally Won because all of these characters because very dear to me. So, if you enjoy historical fiction or are participating in the When Are you Reading Challenge like I am, this is a fantastic juvenile fiction novel.


 

all ages · historical fiction · Uncategorized

The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz

I picked this book up because the cover caught my eye. And the tag line on the front reads, “The Inquisitor’s Tale Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog.” I was sold. It took me a fair bit of time to get around to reading it but I just finished it and I must recommend it to all of you. It was a lovely story!

inquisitorstaleThe Inquisitor’s Tale is set in 1242 and features three unique children from different backgrounds and a dog. The dog, Gwenforte, is a white greyhound who has died (don’t stop reading! Remember, its a Holy dog!). The peasant, Jeanne, is fierce and honest and has visions that show her glimpses of the future. Jacob is a young Jewish boy and his story touched my heart the most. Then there is William, a young monk with tremendous strength. These children are “magical” or blessed with “powers” but their story really comes from the people who met them.

The combination of the setting, France in the Medieval Ages, and the way the story unfolds was quite reminiscent of Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales. Throughout the story someone is collecting the stories of these children. We hear about them through a Nun, a Brewster, a Librarian, and many other interesting people all of have gathered in a small French inn. The dog’s story and that of the children was woven together so well and so smoothly. But, I also enjoyed the peek into the mannerisms and lives of all the characters who told their tale.

Adam Gidwitz really captures the time period in this book. If you read the note at the end, the author’s explains the inspiration and background for the story. I didn’t need that to help me understand how much work had gone into this book. The whole thing really felt like I was in Medieval France.

This was a really enjoyable tale. I have a difficult time finding well written Children’s Historical Fiction and this is one of the best I have read yet. The fact that it checks the box in my pre-1500’s When Are You Reading Challenge is just the halo on my holy dog.


Tell me, please!

Children’s Historical Fiction – Does it interest you?