Posts Categorized: Historical Fiction

Sep 11

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Audio Books, Historical Fiction 11

Hello Bookworms,

Today I’m combining two of my favorite things, historical fiction and audio books! Are you tired of me raving about audio books yet? TOO BAD! I am loooving them! I am always thrilled by the fact that my library’s audio book selection isn’t as picked over as the regular digital books and I was able to snag Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks with ZERO wait. I know, right? Exciting stuff, kiddos!

calebscrossingCaleb’s Crossing takes place waaaaaaaaay back in the day. It focuses on the exploits young Bethia Mayfield, a girl living in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor in the 1600s. Her tiny band of Puritan pioneers has found a way to live (more or less) peacefully with the indigenous population. Bethia is frustrated that though she shows more of an aptitude for learning, she is restricted and not allowed tutoring the way her brother is. In a small act of rebellion, Bethia strikes up a friendship with Caleb, one of the island’s native inhabitants. An unusual series of events bring a group of students from the island to Harvard to study, and Bethia goes along to work as a housekeeper. Because, you know, teaching a girl would have been horrible. (Dramatic eye roll. Shaking fist at history!)

This is some heady historical fiction, you guys. For me, so much of the “American History” that we covered in school left out Native Americans. I mean, they were mentioned, obviously, but all the good juicy detail was left out. History is written by the “winners” as you know. I really liked getting the Native American perspective through Caleb- it made for a nice alternative viewpoint. Aside from that, two things struck me about this book.

First, it suuuucked to be a woman in the 1600s. Maybe not as much as it sucked to be a Native American, though I can’t say that for sure, but egads. I get SO MAD when I read stories in which women are discouraged from traditional learning. Shoot, if a girl wants to learn Latin and Greek, let her, for heaven’s sake! Some girls are going to be smarter than some boys, and the fact that Bethia’s intellect was continually quashed had me all riled up.

Second, Harvard, the fantastic fabulous Harvard started out laaaaame. They were literally on the brink of starvation all the time. Being out in the wilderness was a major quality of life advantage back in the day, because do you even KNOW what a city would be like without sewers and running water? Holy olfactory overload, Batman! I’m sure Harvard puts their humble beginnings in all their pamphlets and whatnot. Maybe I’m just bitter than I don’t have an Ivy League education. But seriously. From here on out, I’m going to see “Harvard” and think “stinky starvation swamp!”

Talk to me, Bookworms. I know that the majority of y’all are ladies (though I do appreciate the fellows who frequent this site!) Do you get upset when you read about women being denied the opportunity to learn? In historical settings or (incredibly sadly) current times? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Divider

Aug 07

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

Historical Fiction 4

Tally Ho, Bookworms!

I’m not really sure if “tally ho” is actually something associated with fox hunting, but in my mind it is, and is therefore completely appropriate to start off today’s discussion of Daisy Goodwin’s new novel, The Fortune Hunter. (Actually, I just googled it, and I am indeed a genius with an ear for British lingo. Obviously.) *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.*

fortune hunterSet in Victorian England (where the actual Queen Victoria makes appearances), The Fortune Hunter focuses on the lives and exploits of an unlikely trio of characters. First is the Austrian Empress, Elizabeth (aka Sisi). The aging “most beautiful woman in Europe” has crazy long hair and the tortured demeanor of a woman denied her passions in life by duty. She’s convinced her emperor husband to allow her to spend the winter fox hunting in England to escape her mundane existence.

Bay Middleton is a man with no fortune or titles, but he’s got a handsome face, dashing mustache, and makes an impressive figure on horseback. He’s fond of hunting, flirting, and the occasional tryst with a married woman. He’s quite the cad, actually, until he meets Charlotte Baird, the only woman he can fancy himself marrying. Bay’s life amps up a bit in complexity when he is tapped to be the empress’s pilot for the upcoming hunting season. Sisi may not be as young as she once was, but she’s still pretty hot.

Charlotte Baird is the heiress to the vast Lennox fortune, but rather than be concerned with balls (giggle-snort) and the latest fashions, she spends her time fiddling around with the new-fangled science of photography. Her well-meaning brother and his snooty fiance have Charlotte’s (and their own) best interests at heart, but leave Charlotte craving freedom and a chance at true love.

Anybody smell a love triangle?! The ambiance of Victorian England is beautifully drawn, and Goodwin does a fabulous job of displaying the lives and social conventions of the upper-crust. It was incredibly frustrating, actually, to experience just how stifling the lives of these characters could be, and all for different reasons. I will admit that I’m terribly conflicted in my feelings about Bay. He’s a bit of a scoundrel. A scoundrel with a conscience maybe, but he certainly displays some ungentlemanly behavior. I wasn’t sure if I should root for him or not! If you dig historical fiction, the Victorian era, and/or fancy folk fox hunting, you should definitely give The Fortune Hunter a go.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Do you ever feel conflicted about rooting for a character who is meant to be the hero?

Check out Daisy Goodwin on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site I will receive a small commission.*

Divider

Aug 05

Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes: A TLC Book Tour & GIVEAWAY

Giveaways, Historical Fiction 15

Good Morrow Bookworms,

Today we’re heading back to a time before indoor plumbing, personal hygiene, and standardized spelling. The Mydle Ayges! (That’s probably how Chaucer would have spelled it. Dude was fond of random “y”s.) *I received a complimentary copy of Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes for review consideration from TLC Book Tours. May I be struck down with bubonic plague if the following review contains anything but my honest opinion.*

tlcsinfulfolkSinful Folk starts on a somber note. It’s 1377 in a small village in England when one night four children are burned to death in a fire under some rather suspicious circumstances. One of the children belongs to Mear, the village mute who works for the blacksmith. Everyone in the village things Mear is a man, because, well, when everybody is filthy and wearing robes, it’s easy to hide your lady-ness. She’s not mute either, but it’s easier to pretend that she is than risk revealing her life story (which is really quite juicy and scandalous.)

Mear sets out with a delegation from the village including the fathers of the other fallen boys. They’re on a quest to take their poor children’s bodies to London in order to receive the King’s justice for their loss. Lemme take a minute to school you on the whole serf situation, k? It’s illegal for these normal everyday folks to take to the road without permission (and, apparently, a tunic) from their liege lord. It’s also crazy dangerous. There are bandits all up in those forests and there’s always the PLAGUE to contend with. Oh, and you better not be Jewish, because you might get burned at the stake. Makes you want to load a cart full of charred child corpses and take a hike, right? Bring out your dead!

I really dug this book, guys. I love when historical fiction doesn’t shy away from dirty details, and the Middle Ages were so friggin grim. To add to the intrigue, this book is loosely based in historical FACT. The charred child corpses traipsing through the snow TOTALLY HAPPENED. Plus, there were Chaucer references all over the place, and it was the first time I found it useful to have read The Canterbury Tales in Middle English. (Thanks, college!) If you enjoy books like The Pillars of the Earth (review), its sequel World Without End, or the phenomenal Pope Joan (review), you need to pick up Sinful Folk. Trust me on this one.  If you still don’t believe me (even under penalty of plague) feel free to check out the other stops on the tour.

Tell me something, Bookworms. How far would you go to seek justice? 

****UPDATE*****

I just found out I get to give y’all a free AUTOGRAPHED copy of this book! Enter! (US Only, please. Sorry internationals, you know I still love you!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Divider

Jul 28

The Major’s Daughter by JP Francis

Historical Fiction, World War II 20

Greetings Bookworms,

I don’t know what’s going on with me lately, but I feel like Grumpy Pants McGee. I’m not sure if it’s just a bit of a summer slump or if I’m slowly morphing into an old man who yells at kids to get off his lawn. Probably the latter, if only I had a cane…. In any case, I kind of feel bad for the books I’m reading right now. I can’t say for sure my feelings aren’t tainted by my inner curmudgeon. I would like y’all to keep that in mind with today’s review. *I received a complimentary copy of The Major’s Daughter by JP Francis from the publisher for review consideration.*

themajorsdaughter

The Major’s Daughter takes place during WWII. A group of German prisoners of war were brought to New Hampshire to work in the logging industry for the duration of the war. Heck, young men were a premium commodity, with all the able bodied fellows putting on uniforms and heading to the front. Collie’s father is the Major in charge of the logging POW camp. She’s using her school girl German to help facilitate communication between the prisoners and the guards.

OF COURSE, there’s a super studly German POW who catches her eye. August is a gentle soul, exhausted and mortified by the Nazi cause, but bound by circumstance to serve his country. He’s young and handsome. Collie is young and beautiful. They can speak to each other in two languages. Anybody have a guess as to where this is going???

I had a heck of a time getting into this book. It must be my jaded cranky inner old person coming out, but I’ve lost my taste for star crossed lovers. It wasn’t just Collie and August. Collie’s BFF Estelle finds herself in a similar situation, though her forbidden love is of Indian descent. He’s actually a perfectly respectable citizen, he just lacks the right connections and complexion to be accepted into Estelle’s world.

The situations presented in the book were compelling enough, despite my reticence to give creedence to insta-love. What I really struggled with is the book’s outcome… And I can’t even tell you about that because SPOILERS. Still. If you like historical fiction, novels set during WWII, and/or tales of star crossed lovers, you might really enjoy The Major’s Daughter

Tell me something, Bookworms. Do you ever feel like love is a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” proposition? Let’s discuss.

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

 

Divider

Jul 14

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Classics, Historical Fiction 32

Hello Bookworms!

I am SO EXCITED today! I’m going to my very first author event tonight to meet Jo Baker at my local library. I’d had Longbourn on my shelves for a while when I saw the announcement for her visit and bumped it up my reading list. I have to send a big thanks out to Kelly from Read Lately for sending me her ARC of Longbourn just because I commented that I was excited to read it. Book bloggers can be super nice, in case you didn’t already know that.

longbournLongbourn follows the events of Jane Austen’s fabulous and much loved Pride and Prejudice, but this time it’s from the perspective of the servants. The only reason the five lovely Bennet sisters were able to spend their days playing piano, working on needlepoint, and worrying about attracting husbands is because they had people doing their cooking, cleaning, and laundry for them.

Sarah is the main protagonist and a servant at Longbourn, the Bennet homestead. Sarah was orphaned as a child and eventually landed a place in service at Longbourn. While it’s a good deal better than a workhouse, it’s not a glamorous position. I mean, it’s the early 1800s. There are chamber pots to empty, fires to light, and (GAG) menstrual rags to launder.

You guys, I LOVED this book. One of my favorite things about reading historical fiction is the dirty gritty stuff. I like to know what MY life would have been like if I lived back in the day. It de-romanticizes things for me and makes me super grateful for indoor plumbing and electricity. I certainly wasn’t raised a destitute orphan, but I wasn’t born into an outrageously wealthy family either. I don’t know that I’d be in service, but I probably would have to get my hands dirty from time to time.

If you enjoy historical fiction, Jane Austen, or classic story re-tellings, Longbourn is fabulous. Oh, and never fear, Bookworms, I’ll be sure to inform you of all the different ways I manage to embarrass myself in front of Jo Baker.

Tell me something, Bookworms. Does historical fiction ever make you grateful for living in the here and now? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Divider

Jun 30

Written in my Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon

Historical Fiction, Romance 29

Salutations Bookworms,

If you’ve been hanging around here for any length of time, it would be impossible to miss the fact that I’m a little bit obsessed with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series. Funnily enough, this is the first time I’ve “reviewed” one of the major books in the series because since becoming hooked on the novels, I’ve read every new major installment the minute it was released. An Echo in the Bone was released waaaay back in 2009. That’s three years before I started this blog, if you are interested in the math. I’ve been pining for the next book for FIVE YEARS. The waiting was made all the worse because of an accursed cliffhanger. But now? I HAVE IT! Muahahahahaha!

writteninmyownheartsbloodWritten in My Own Heart’s Blood was released on June 14th. It was auto-delivered to my Kindle because OF COURSE I pre-ordered it. I spent the next week staying up too late and drinking in all the Gabaldon goodness. What can I say? This is the eighth book in the epic series and it did not disappoint!

Seeing as it was indeed the eighth book, it seems a bit silly to write a review. I mean, how can I do that without giving all sorts of spoilers for the preceding seven books? Instead, I’m just going to launch into a long, weird, fangirl rant about why you need to be reading these books. Cool?

OMG, what are you waiting for?! Gabaldon’s amazing series includes something for everyone. You like sci-fi? We’ve got time travel. You like history? Adventures in the highlands start in the 1740s. You like romance? I challenge you to find another literary love like that of Jamie and Claire. (Or Bree and Roger. Or Jenny and Ian. Or, or, or…) Interested in the medical ministrations of the past? You’ll be up to your elbows in poultices and leeches. Political maneuvering? Battle? Seafaring? For heaven’s sake, it’s all here!

You will laugh, you will cry, and you will simply fly through these chunky tomes! So go, please. Read them. Love them. Come back and talk to me about them. Oh! I almost forgot. Anybody who has finished reading Written in My Own Heart’s Blood and wants a safe place to chat about all the spoilers, I made a little Facebook group dedicated to the cause.

Tell me something good, Bookworms. How many of y’all read and love Diana Gabaldon?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Divider

Jun 23

Let’s Get Lewd: Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue

Historical Fiction, Women's Studies 38

Greetings Bookworms!

You’re in for a treat today, because we’re talking about Emma Donoghue. Again. She’s awesome, what can I say? After reading and loving Frog Music a while back (review) I decided I needed MORE of Emma Donoghue’s historical fiction, and if prostitutes were involved, all the better. Luckily, Emma Donoghue’s back list offered me Slammerkinand oh my stars, I’m glad of it!

slammerkinSlammerkin tells the sordid tale of Mary Saunders. Born into the working class of 18th Century London, Mary’s prospects are limited. Though she is afforded the advantage of attending school, she is prepared only to work in domestic service or follow in her seamstress mother’s footsteps. Disheartened by her lack of opportunity, Mary soon chases a fancy into dire circumstances and is forced to take up prostitution as a means to support herself. Oh yeah. I should probably mention that she’s all of 14 at the time. 14!

Selling your body isn’t glamorous work by any means, but Mary finds it offers her a sense liberty she wouldn’t have enjoyed in a “virtuous” occupation. She becomes obsessed with clothing- the flashier the better. It was her lust for a red ribbon that started her down her path to depravity, after all.

THIS BOOK, you guys! Holy cow, I loved it so hard! Mary’s story was so captivating. And!!! I didn’t realize until the end that it was based on a true story! Donoghue did a glorious job of capturing 18th Century London’s underworld, and didn’t sugar coat the grimy details (STDs are no joke, y’all, especially before antibiotics. Yowza.) I am endlessly fascinated by the plight of women throughout the ages. Even though the current world is far from perfect, I’m SO GRATEFUL to have opportunities beyond becoming a servant or a prostitute. Sheesh.

My love for hooker books has been very well documented. I feel a little creepy about it, to be honest, but I suppose everyone has their fixations. Is there a controversial/tragic/less than savory topic that you simply can’t get enough of, Bookworms? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site I will receive a small commission.*

Divider

Jun 16

Hannibal: Enemy of Rome by Ben Kane

Historical Fiction 12

BOOKWORMS! THIS. IS. SPARTA CARTHAGE!

Why yes, I have seen 300. And Gladiator. And you know? Despite the gore, I rather enjoyed both films. Thanks to these movies, when I was offered a copy of Hannibal: Enemy of Rome by Ben Kane, I thought I’d give it a shot. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

hannibalHannibal: Enemy of Rome is set during the second Punic War. Don’t know what that is? Well. Rome was around, doing its Roman thing (conquering territory, enslaving the natives, all that good stuff.) Carthage was located in North Africa, near modern day Tunisia. They weren’t big fans of Rome, but they were big fans of war. E’erybody liked a war back then, it seems.

Anyhow, Hannibal Barca, Carthaginian general and elephant enthusiast (not to be confused with Hannibal Lecter, fictional serial killer and genius) is making a name for himself and plotting revenge on Rome for a past war. On the eve of this military expedition, a young teen named Hanno and his best friend Suni go out fishing, get drunk, and are swept out to sea. They are (of course) captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Because that was a thing. ANYBODY could be kidnapped and sold into slavery. Spoils of war… Or piracy. Hanno winds up as a slave in a Roman household (ROMAN?! Ptooey!) and rather unexpectedly becomes friends with the son of the household, Quintus.

Hanno and Quintus, Carthaginian and Roman, friends? You remember that song from South Pacific? That you have to be carefully taught who to hate? These guys are teenagers, they’ve been raised to hate one another, but they’re still young enough and honorable enough to accept that there are exceptions to every rule.

Aside from that whole star-crossed friendship thing, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome is a lot of war with a lot of detail. Military strategy, battle tactics, and graphic gore abound. There’s also quite a bit of colorful language. Apparently calling someone a “whoreson” was the ancient equivalent of a “yo mama” joke. You know. If “yo mama” was a whore.

Who would like this book? Despite the heavy military emphasis (which isn’t usually something I enjoy), it is well-written historical fiction. If you enjoyed Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth (review) or John Jakes’s North and South series (review), this might be the book for you. I will warn you that it’s the first in a series, a fact I didn’t realize until I hit the end and the war wasn’t over yet. I can only hope the forthcoming books include more about the elephants!

Alright Bookworms. Fun question for you today. Although Hannibal didn’t technically ride an elephant into battle, it’s a pretty sweet steed. What animal would YOU ride into battle? (Fictional creatures are allowed. No judgement if you choose a unicorn.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will use that commission to beef up my battle steed fund.*

Divider

May 15

The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini: A TLC Book Tour

Civil War, Historical Fiction 29

Greetings Bookworms!

I don’t know what is is about the American Civil War, but I cannot get enough historical fiction based on the time period. From Gone with the Wind to North and South, I am compelled to read about this fascinating era. When the lovely crew at TLC Book Tours sent me a synopsis of  The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini, I couldn’t resist. *I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I’m from Illinois and this is Honest Abe’s regime we’re talking about: it would be extremely bad form for me to lie. *

TLC SpymistressElizabeth Van Lew was born into a prominent slave-holding family in Richmond, Virginia. Having been raised by a socially progressive mother and educated in the North, Lizzie held some unusual sentiments for a woman of her stature in Richmond at the time. Specifically, Elizabeth Van Lew was of the opinion that slavery was a big steaming pile o’ horse manure. After her father’s death, Lizzie and her mother freed as many of their slaves as they could, and when prevented from doing so by her father’s will, they unofficially freed their slaves by allowing them to live wherever they liked in the city and paid them for their labor.

When the Civil War broke out, the Van Lew family’s stance on slavery was not popular. Even less popular was their suspected sympathy for the Union. Desperate to help the Union cause, Lizzie begins her quest by attempting to offer aid and comfort to the Union prisoners living in deplorable conditions. Her dogged determination serves her well as she moves from bringing food to injured soldiers to smuggling information to the Union from behind enemy lines. Though she takes the utmost care to keep her activities a secret, Lizzie’s activities place her in an extremely dangerous position.

Y’all, this book was great! Elizabeth Van Lew was a REAL woman in Richmond (only the capitol of the Confederacy where she might accidentally run into Jefferson Davis) who led a frigging spy ring for the Union. She was rumored to have Unionist leanings, but without any proof, she was written off as just another eccentric, wealthy spinster. THAT is what you get for underestimating a lady with chutzpah, Confederacy! (Yes, I just smack talked a government that ceased to exist 150 years ago. I’m nothing if not timely.)

I’ve read a bit about the Civil War, and being a lady of the North, I’ve always found the Southern perspective interesting. I think the entire modern-day universe would agree that slavery is/was THE WORST THING EVER, so it fascinates me the way Southern society was able to rationalize it. Judging people outside the context of their time is an easy trap to fall into while reading historical fiction, particularly when it comes to such a horrifying institution. That said, when your way of life is being threatened, it’s natural to get defensive. Before tackling The Spymistress I felt like a had a pretty good grasp the Southern female response to the war. I simply hadn’t considered that there would be an element of Southern society loyal to the Union, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever since I can name half a dozen other major wars and their resistance movements. I think I might be guilty of some Northern snobbery and sore winner’s syndrome…

In any case, I found The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini to be an enlightening and entertaining read. I would recommend it to any historical fiction buff, but especially to those with a fondness for Civil War novels.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Have you ever found yourself judging a historical figure or character’s actions by modern standards? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Divider

Apr 28

I Am Livia (A TLC Book Tour and GIVEAWAY!)

Historical Fiction 25

Friends, Romans, Bookworms, lend me your ears!

If you’re been around this little corner of the internet a while, you’ll know that I”m a huge fan of historical fiction. Unfortunately, sometimes I find myself in a bit of a rut as far as the historical periods I travel to… The Tudors and I are perhaps a bit too well-acquainted. I was recently contacted by TLC Book Tours with a request to review Phyllis T. Smith’s new novel, I Am Livia and I jumped at the chance. We’re going to ancient Rome, y’all! *I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

i am livia tlc This book opens on the eve of Julius Caesar’s assassination. 14 year old Livia overhears her father and some of his political companions discussing the plot. Livia possesses a keen political mind, despite her age and the fact that Roman women were discouraged from participating in the public sphere… Overtly, at least. She knows that this plot is fraught with danger and that it could threaten her family’s existence as they know it.

Et tu, Brut? And all that comes to pass, and Rome is plunged into political upheaval. Livia is hastily married off to one of her father’s political connections. She isn’t excited about the proposition, but after her father implores to her patriotism and she goes through with the wedding.

One day at the chariot races seated next to her new husband, Livia meets Julius Caesar’s heir, Octavianus. She’s a teenager. He’s a teenager. And he’s hot. A bit of witty repartee and some flirtatious banter follow, but as the wife of a politically active senator, everybody keeps their togas on. What Livia doesn’t know is what a huge impact she and Octavianus will have on one another’s lives…

YOU GUYS! I loved this book! It was so refreshing to read about ancient Rome. I’ve never read any Roman historical fiction, so I learned a TON of stuff. I’m not silly enough to think that reading historical fiction is the same as doing a super scholarly study or anything, but this book painted a fabulous picture of Roman life. I mean, they ate lounging on couches. There were DASTARDLY doings in the political sphere. There were honor suicides and gladiator battles and scandals galore. I couldn’t put this book down, I just HAD TO KNOW. I am super excited to be able to share it with you, because the awesome folks at TLC Book Tours have offered to let me give away a copy of I Am Livia to one of you, my fabulous bookworms… Or at least the ones in the US and Canada (sorry international folks!) Enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Divider