Tag: historical

Book Review:  The Storyteller, by Kathryn Williams

Image belongs to HarperCollins/HarperTeen.

Title:   The Storyteller
Author:   Kathryn Williams
Genre:   Historical fiction, YA, mystery/thriller
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

It’s not every day you discover you might be related to Anastasia…or that the tragic princess actually survived her assassination attempt and has been living as the woman you know as Aunt Anna.

 For Jess Morgan, who is growing tired of living her life to please everyone else, discovering her late aunt’s diaries shows her she’s not the only one struggling to hide who she really is. But was her aunt truly a Romanov princess? Or is this some elaborate hoax?

 With the help of a supremely dorky, but undeniably cute, local college student named Evan, Jess digs into the century-old mystery.

 But soon Jess realizes there’s another, bigger truth waiting to be revealed: Jess Morgan. Because if she’s learned anything from Aunt Anna, it’s that only you can write your own story.

I enjoyed this read! It was sweet and fun and I was completely engrossed in the mystery—and both Jess’s story and Aunt Anna’s kept me intrigued. I liked Jess’s friends…but I couldn’t stand her boyfriend. Evan was a lot more relatable and fun. This makes a good weekend binge-read.

Kathryn Williams lives in Maine. The Storyteller is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Last House on the Street, by Diane Chamberlain

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   The Last House on the Street
Author:   Diane Chamberlain
Genre:   Mystery/thriller
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

When Kayla Carter’s husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It’s clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area…and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla’s elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it’s clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key?

This book….almost broke me. When I finished reading it, I felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart. It’s told in multiple timelines:  the present with Kayla and fifty years ago, with Ellie. I enjoyed both, but Ellie’s story was by far my favorite.

Reading about Ellie’s struggles during the civil rights movement and the things she experienced was hard but compelling. I loved how it was all tied in to what Kayla was facing at her new house, and I was unprepared for the real story that came out at last. I highly recommend this read! It’s a mystery/thriller wrapped with historical fiction, and I was unable to put it down.

Diane Chamberlain is a bestselling author. The Last House on the Street is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Last Dance of the Debutante, by Julia Kelly

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:   The Last Dance of the Debutante
Author:   Julia Kelly
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

When it’s announced that 1958 will be the last year debutantes are to be presented at court, thousands of eager mothers and hopeful daughters flood the palace with letters seeking the year’s most coveted invitation: a chance for their daughters to curtsey to the young Queen Elizabeth and officially come out into society.

 In an effort to appease her traditional mother, aspiring university student Lily Nichols agrees to become a debutante and do the Season, a glittering and grueling string of countless balls and cocktail parties. In doing so, she befriends two very different women: the cool and aloof Leana Hartford whose apparent perfection hides a darker side and the ambitious Katherine Norman who dreams of a career once she helps her parents find their place among the elite.

 But the glorious effervescence of the Season evaporates once Lily learns a devastating secret that threatens to destroy her entire family. Faced with a dark past, she’s forced to ask herself what really matters: her family legacy or her own happiness.

This was such a good read! I loved reading about the debutantes, but all the pageantry sounded awful, frankly. Lily was a wonderful character. I enjoyed seeing how she went from a student to a society girl before realizing who she truly wanted to be. The glamor of being a deb didn’t enthrall her for long, and she learned to stand on her own feet and make her own decisions—and friends—as she learned the truth about her past.

Julia Kelly lives in London. The Last Dance of the Debutante is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  City of Time and Magic, by Paula Brackston

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  City of Time and Magic
Author:   Paula Brackston
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

City of Time and Magic sees Xanthe face her greatest challenges yet. She must choose from three treasures that sing to her; a beautiful writing slope, a mourning brooch of heartbreaking detail, and a gorgeous gem-set hat pin. All call her, but the wrong one could take her on a mission other than that which she must address first, and the stakes could not be higher. While her earlier mission to Regency England had been a success, the journey home resulted in Liam being taken from her, spirited away to another time and place. Xanthe must follow the treasure that will take her to him if he is not to be lost forever.

 Xanthe is certain that Mistress Flyte has Liam and determined to find them both. But when she discovers Lydia Flyte has been tracking the actions of the Visionary Society, a group of ruthless and unscrupulous Spinners who have been selling their talents to a club of wealthy clients, Xanthe realizes her work as a Spinner must come before her personal wishes. The Visionary Society is highly dangerous and directly opposed to the creed of the Spinners. Their actions could have disastrous consequences as they alter the authentic order of things and change the future. Xanthe knows she must take on the Society. It will require the skills of all her friends, old and new, to attempt such a thing, and not all of them will survive the confrontation that follows.

I love this series! This is a time travel novel that doesn’t gloss over the likely challenges of everyday life in the past (At least, they’d definitely be challenges for someone from the present.). I wouldn’t even be able to dress myself!

I thoroughly enjoy the writing and worldbuilding, but the characters are my favorite part of this series. Xanthe herself is flawed yet determined, and the supporting characters are just as likable. The conflicts, challenges, and choices she faces had me completely enthralled.

Paula Brackston lives in Wales. City of Time and Magic is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  The Alchemy Thief, by R.A Denny

Image belongs to the author.

Title The Alchemy Thief
Author R.A Denny
Genre:   fantasy, history
Rating:  4 out of 5

When the secrets of the past threaten to destroy the future… 

A tale of hope, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of a woman, this sweeping epic spans the Atlantic from New England to Morocco during the Age of Exploration. 

2019: A young woman finds a relic engraved with a mysterious symbol off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Terrorists in Morocco steal a 17th-century book engraved with the same symbol. As the woman struggles to unravel the secrets behind the symbol, her life changes in ways she could never have imagined. 

1657: Transported back in time, she meets the alchemist, John Winthrop, Jr. who is plotting to lure the greatest scientific minds to the New World. But the more she learns, the more she fears for the lives of the loved ones she left behind. 

In a stunning twist of fate, a modern terrorist has traveled into the past, where he has become a Barbary Corsair. He has plans of his own. And he will stop at nothing to succeed.

This was quite an interesting read. I haven’t read any time travel novels set in Puritan New England (Well, before it was actually New England.), so that kept me interested. Peri was just an innocent in 2019, so she fit right in in the past—in a manner of speaking.

The writing here is solid, and the characters, even the Corsair from the future, were intriguing enough to keep me engrossed in the novel. There’s a lot going on, but it blends together to make for an entertaining read.

R.A Denny has a law degree from Duke University but chooses to do just what she loves:  write. The Alchemy Thief is her newest novel, the first in the Pirates and Puritans series.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Three Sisters, by Heather Morris

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Three Sisters
Author:   Heather Morris
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

When they are girls, Cibi, Magda and Livia make a promise to their father – that they will stay together, no matter what.

 Years later, at just 15 years old, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Cibi, only 19 herself, remembers their promise and follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her.

 In their hometown in Slovakia, 17-year-old Magda hides, desperate to evade the barbaric Nazi forces. But it is not long before she is captured and condemned to Auschwitz.

 In the horror of the death camp, these three beautiful sisters are reunited. Though traumatised by their experiences, they are together. 

They make another promise: that they will live. Their fight for survival takes them from the hell of Auschwitz, to a death march across war-torn Europe and eventually home to Slovakia, now under iron Communist rule. Determined to begin again, they embark on a voyage of renewal, to the new Jewish homeland, Israel.

This was an incredible read! I haven’t read any of the other books, but that isn’t necessary to enjoy this one. This story. It’s so unbelievable—and it’s true! The strength of these sisters is amazing and inspiring, and I was completely enthralled with what was happening to them. This is a powerful, moving story that showcases strength and determination, love and family.

Heather Morris is from New Zealand. Three Sisters is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Bright Young Thing, by Brianne Moore

Image belongs to Alcove Press.

In 1931 England, Astra Davies defies all the conventions. Clever, witty, and determined, Astra smokes, drinks, plays a mean piano, and gallivants around London with her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. But Astra finds herself in a tight spot when her parents die suddenly, leaving her with a raft of debts. With few marketable skills and a closet full of family secrets, Astra has two choices: find a rich husband or make her own way.

A fiercely driven woman like Astra is not about to cast her lot in with a man, especially out of desperation. And since the only man she fancies–Jeremy Harris, the Earl of Dunreaven–is as hard up as she is, her way forward is clear. But the path to independence is a bumpy one fraught with hazards and heartbreaking choices. A blackmailing socialite threatens to derail Astra’s reputation. A brainless business partner just might drive her even further into debt. And a series of bruising scandals dogs her every step of the way.

From the bustle of London to the country estates of the aristocracy, Astra embarks on a journey that tests her brains, wit, and mettle as never before. But one way or another, Astra Davies is dead set on proving she’s no ordinary Bright Young Thing.

I really enjoyed this read! Astra’s character growth was fantastic to watch. Her friend’s sister, however, was evil and vindictive, and I just couldn’t stand her at all. It seemed like Astra just keep getting slammed with more and more obstacles, but she persevered and learned from them, letting them make her stronger instead of destroying her.

Brianne Moore is from Pennsylvania but now lives in Scotland. A Bright Young Thing is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Alcove Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Inheritance, by JoAnn Ross

Image belongs to Harlequin.

 

When conflict photographer Jackson Swann dies, he leaves behind a conflict of his own making when his three daughters, each born to a different mother, discover that they’re now responsible for the family’s Oregon vineyard—and for a family they didn’t ask for.

After a successful career as a child TV star, Tess is, for the first time in her life, suffering from a serious identity crisis, and renewed resentment around losing her father all over again.

Charlotte, brought up to be a proper Southern wife, gave up her own career to support her husband’s political ambitions. On the worst day of her life, she discovers her beloved father has died, she has two sisters she never knew about, and her husband has fallen in love with another woman.

Natalie, daughter of Jack’s longtime mistress, has always known about her half sisters. And she can’t help feeling that when Tess and Charlotte find out, they’ll resent her for being the daughter their father kept.

As the sisters reluctantly gather at the Maison de Madeleine to deal with their father’s final wishes, they become enchanted by the legacy they’ve inherited, and by their grandmother’s rich stories of life in WWII France and the wounded American soldier who would ultimately influence all their lives.

I actually really enjoyed this read! Tess was kind of unlikable at first, but she grew on me as she mellowed out a bit. As did Charlotte, who actually grew a pair and stood up for herself with her horrid, cheating husband. I would have enjoyed seeing more from Natalie’s viewpoint, as I liked her the best.

The stories of the three sisters, interspersed with tales from their grandmother’s time in the French Resistance, made for a compelling read, fraught with family tensions and truths waiting to be discovered.

JoAnn Ross is a bestselling author. The Inheritance is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Velvet Was the Night, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Image belongs to Random House/Del Rey.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Maite and Elvis interested me enough to finish reading this, which is truly a testament to the author’s skill—because Maite was pretty boring, and Elvis, well, there wasn’t a whole lot about him that I could relate to. I ended up liking this read, despite not really caring for the characters.

Maite is a chronic liar, inflating her sad life with falsehoods, obsessing about comic book romances—and let’s not forget her kleptomaniac tendencies. She wants more out of life, she’s just too afraid of everything to actually go after more. I liked Elvis a bit more, with his sad history and determination to do the right thing—ironic, considering his line of work, but he was sadly blind to reality.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an award-winning author. Velvet Was the Night is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Bookseller’s Secret, by Michelle Gable

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…

Nancy and her family were a bit of a dumpster fire. I really didn’t care for them. Nancy was very wishy-washy and I frankly just wanted her to grow a pair, make a decision, and follow through. I actually enjoyed Katie’s story in the present-day far, far more than Nancy’s, although she had her own set of issues (more of a campfire than a dumpster fire).

There were some parallels between the two women, with their writer’s block and indecisiveness, but it was fun to see Katie’s journey. The blurb makes this seem like everyone in London is talking about the possibility of a lost Mitford manuscript, but in reality it was basically three people, so there’s that.

Michelle Gable is a bestselling author. The Bookseller’s Secret is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Graydon House in exchange for an honest review.)