Tag: historical

Book Review: The Deep, by Alma Katsu

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Image belongs to Penguin Group/Putnam.

Title:  The Deep
AuthorAlma Katsu
Genre:  Historical, psychological thriller
Rating:  4 out of 5

The Titanic is haunted. Sudden deaths, mysterious disappearances, objects that aren’t where they’re supposed to be, and visions…something is plaguing the ship. Annie Hebley serves on the maiden voyage of the celebrated ship, assigned to care for Mark Fletcher and his family. Early in the voyage, Annie realizes something strange is going on with the Fletchers—but then disaster strikes.

Years later, Annie, having miraculously survived the Titanic’s sinking, finds herself working on its sister ship, The Britannic, a hospital ship during the war. Memories of that other fateful voyage haunt her, then she sees a wounded soldier on the verge of death—Mark Fletcher, whom she thought died years ago in the frigid waters around Titanic. Annie doesn’t know how he survived, and soon comes to believe he didn’t.

Whatever haunted The Titanic is now on board The Britannic. And it wants what it lost.

I found The Deep a little hard to follow, as there was so much disjointedness in both time periods. Annie was an unreliable narrator—but so was everyone else—so knowing what was really going on wasn’t easy. I’ve always been fascinated and saddened by stories of The Titanic, so that was part was wonderful, but some of the secondary characters here—the boxers—seemed…kind of pointless to the storyline.

Alma Katsu lives outside Washington, D.C. The Deep is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Penguin Group/Putnam in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Grace Kelly Dress, by Brenda Janowitz

the grace kelly dress
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:  The Grace Kelly Dress
AuthorBrenda Janowitz
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Two years after Grace Kelly’s royal wedding, her iconic dress is still all the rage in Paris—and one replica, and the secrets it carries, will inspire three generations of women to forge their own paths in life and in love.

Paris, 1958: Rose, a seamstress at a fashionable atelier, has been entrusted with sewing a Grace Kelly—look-alike gown for a wealthy bride-to-be. But when, against better judgment, she finds herself falling in love with the bride’s handsome brother, Rose must make an impossible choice, one that could put all she’s worked for at risk: love, security and of course, the dress.

Sixty years later, tech CEO Rachel, who goes by the childhood nickname “Rocky,” has inherited the dress for her upcoming wedding in New York City. But there’s just one problem: Rocky doesn’t want to wear it. A family heirloom dating back to the 1950s, the dress just isn’t her. Rocky knows this admission will break her mother Joan’s heart. But what she doesn’t know is why Joan insists on the dress—or the heartbreaking secret that changed her mother’s life decades before, as she herself prepared to wear it.

As the lives of these three women come together in surprising ways, the revelation of the dress’s history collides with long-buried family heartaches. And in the lead-up to Rocky’s wedding, they’ll have to confront the past before they can embrace the beautiful possibilities of the future.

I enjoyed every page of this novel! Usually, when reading a book with alternating points-of-view like this, I have a favorite viewpoint character, but not this time. Rose’s story was absolutely fascinating, and I loved her strength and determination to do the right thing, no matter how painful. Joan’s story was also interesting, set amidst the contrasting worlds of doing what everyone expects you to do and doing what you want to do. And Rocky was an awesome character! She’s so sure of herself and who she is—until faced with planning a wedding and the dress. I loved how these three women grew in the course of the novel, and their stories laced together to form the history of the dress and their family.

Brenda Janowitz is an author and the Books Correspondent for PopSugar. The Grace Kelly Dress is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Children of the Stars, by Mario Escobar

children of the stars
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Children of the Stars
AuthorMario Escobar
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Paris, 1942.

Jacob and Moses Stein are staying with their aunt amidst the Nazi occupation, while their parents search for a safe place for the family to be reunited. Before they can, the French gendarmes round up the Jews and detain them in the massive Vélodrome d’Hiver. Jacob and Moses are determined to escape and find their parents, but all they have is a handful of letters to lead them across the Nazi-filled countryside. Along the way they cross paths with many people who are determined to help them find their parents—no matter the cost.

Children of the Stars was a good historical read, but it was a little too…nice to be believable for me. Despite the harrowing time period, I never felt the boys were truly in danger, and I always knew they would find their parents in the end. Don’t get me wrong, I like happy endings, but this tone felt wrong for the story. These boys are alone in the midst of atrocities and horror, but those stakes never seemed to touch them, making this much less believable for me, although I enjoyed the characters themselves. This felt like a book aimed at a younger audience, with its characters who were never truly in danger.

Mario Escobar loves history. Children of the Stars is his new novel.

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

Book Review: Isaiah’s Legacy, by Mesu Andrews

isaiah's legacy
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title:  Isaiah’s Legacy
AuthorMesu Andrews  
Genre:  Biblical fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Eight-year-old Shulle only knows a simple life in her small village, caring for her father, who’s different from everyone else. He may be different, but Shulle loves him deeply, and does her best to help him every day. Then her uncle, Shebna, arrives, and asks her to return to Jerusalem to help him teach young Prince Manasseh, who shares many of her father’s oddities, and Shulle agrees to help the prince.

Once in Jerusalem, she befriends Manasseh, who soon grows dependent on her. But Shebna teaches her about the starry hosts, whose power she admires and yearns for, while her father reveres Yahweh, the god of the Hebrews. Shulle tempts Manasseh with powers of the starry hosts, turning the prince away from the god of his fathers.

When Manasseh becomes king at a young age, he insists on marrying Shulle and whisking her away on an extended trip. Assyria’s crown prince turns Manasseh to cruelty—and far from Yahweh’s love. When Manasseh’s cruelty grows, Shulle must turn to the god she never knew as the only one who can comfort her—and save her family.

I loved this story! Mesu Andrew’s writing brings this biblical story to life in heartrending detail and entranced me from the very beginning. She’s a wonderful writer, and I love how she brings biblical stories off the pages and makes the characters living, breathing people. This story is sad in places, horrifying in others, but every word feels truthful.

Mesu Andrews lives in the Appalachian Mountains. Isaiah’s Legacy is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Borgia Confessions, by Alyssa Palombo

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Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  The Borgia Confessions
Author:  Alyssa Palombo
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Rome, 1492.

Rodrigo Borgia has risen to pope and is intent on bringing his family with him on his rise in power. His goal is a papal dynasty. His oldest son, Cesare, doesn’t want to enter the church—he wants to be in the military—but he abides by his father’s plans—as his foolish brother is chosen for military greatness. So Cesare learns to keep his thoughts and his emotions a secret.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside. She’s thrilled to have found a place working in the pope’s household and ecstatic to be working for such a holy man. Until Maddalena realizes the Borgia family have feet of clay, and her faith starts to crumble. Soon she finds herself involved in a secret relationship with Cesare and knowing all the Borgia secrets—enough to put her life in danger.

Fantastic writing in this novel. The setting, characters, and cultures all came to vibrant life. But…I didn’t like any of them. The Borgia family is selfish and self-absorbed—at best—caring only for their own ambitions and desires and ignoring those they hurt on the way. I had some sympathy for Maddalena, but she embraced her weakness for Cesare and made excuses for it, and that’s something I cannot fathom. These people were horrible to each other—but the writing was spectacular enough that I was engrossed in a book about people I avidly disliked.

Alyssa Palombo lives and works in Buffalo, New York. The Borgia Confessions is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Light Changes Everything, by Nancy E. Turner

light changes everything
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Light Changes Everything
Author:  Nancy  E. Turner
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In the summer of 1907, Mary Pearl enjoys her life in the Arizona Territory, but she longs for something more. Her parents agreed to her studying art at Wheaton College—but when handsome and rich Aubrey Hanna starts courting her, Mary Pearl wonders if college is what she really wants.  Soon enough, she’s learning about life in an eastern town, studying, and writing letters to Aubrey—who soon shows his true colors.

Mary Pearl is learning about more than art. She’s also learning how to act and look like a lady. She’s happy with her new skills, but a trip back to Arizona Territory will change her life—and her family—forever.

I haven’t read any of the author’s other books, but I enjoyed the setting and Mary Pearl’s story immensely. The setting is vibrantly alive, and Mary Pearl and her family are all colorful characters. What happened to Mary Pearl was no surprise, but how she dealt with it was handled with deft hands that showed her strength, and I found this to be an enjoyable historical fiction read.

Nancy E. Turner was born in Texas but now lives in Arizona. Light Changes  Everything is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Westering Women, by Sandra Dallas

westering women
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Westering Women
AuthorSandra Dallas
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

In 1852, Maggie has a young daughter who’s been abused and an abusive husband who will kill her if he can find her, so she signs up to join a wagon train to California with 43 other women eager to find husbands. Maggie doesn’t care about the husband part; she just wants to keep her daughter safe. She’s not even sure her own husband is alive—if he’s not, she’s sure to be accused of his murder.

She soon learns she’s not the only woman in the group with secrets:  Mary, whose family treated her like a slave, just wants freedom, and on the trail her large size is  good thing. One of the women used to be a prostitute. One is also running from an abusive man. One is hiding a secret in plain sight. Throughout the journey the women—and the two minsters accompanying them—must learn how to fend for themselves and become more than who they were.

I loved the premise of Westering Women. I was a bit disappointed in the execution, though. The women’s stories are amazing, but their presence on the page was scattered and fuzzy at best. Even Maggie, supposedly the main character, seemed more like a bit player most of the time. Some of the transitions were very abrupt and came out of nowhere, too (when the men one of the girls was running from showed up randomly). A great historical jaunt, but the writing didn’t do it justice. Judging from other reviews I’ve seen, this is clearly a case of the book just not being a good fit for me.

Sandra Dallas is a New York Times-bestselling author. Westering Women is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Heart of the Rebellion, by Sian Ann Bessey

the heart of the rebellion
Image belongs to Covenant Communications.

Title:  The Heart of the Rebellion
AuthorSian Ann Bessey   
Genre:  Historical, romance
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

With the English King Richard II dead, Rhys ap Tudor and his brother Gwilym are free to return home after three years’ service to the king. Home to North Wales, where their younger brother has been taking care of their family and lands in their absence. But the new king, Henry IV, is demanding more taxes from people already beset by poverty, and the land is ripe for rebellion.

Lady Catrin Buckley is daughter of an English lord and a Welsh mother. Catrin misses her mother so much, it’s hard for her to embrace her mother’s heritage, but when she is betrothed to a man she’s never met, a man intent on erasing every bit of the Welsh from Catrin herself, she is drawn to the Welsh people—and Rhys ap Tudor—at the heart of the rebellion against English rule.

I enjoyed The Heart of the Rebellion. It’s set against the backdrop of a larger conflict, but the close involvement with a handful of characters makes the struggle personal. Catrin’s growth from a girl occupied by her own sorrows to a woman immersed in the lives and cares of those around her is wonderful to read, and I enjoyed every page.

Sian Ann Bessey was born in England, grew up in Wales, and attended college in the U.S. The Heart of the Rebellion is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Covenant Communications via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Silken Thread, by Kim Vogel Sawyer

A Silken Thread
Image courtesy of WaterBrook.

Title:  A Silken Thread
Author:    Kim Vogel Sawyer
Genre:  Historical, romance, Christian
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Just a few short years after the Civil War, Atlanta is set to host the Atlanta Exposition, which will draw visitors to the city from far and wide. Eighteen-year-old Laurel, the youngest of seven, is expected by her siblings to stay home and take care of their mother. But Laurel dreams of a family of her own and hopes that operating a silk loom at the Exposition will give her the opportunity to meet a man wealthy enough to care for her mother as well.

Brendan Rochester, only son of a very wealthy family, wants to continue his drinking and carousing, but his father has given him an ultimatum:  settle down and get married or lose everything. Brendan doesn’t want that. He likes Laurel well enough and her beauty would complement his reputation, so he chooses to pursue her and decides nothing will stand in the way of getting what he wants.

Willie Sharp is poor and caring for his ailing father, so he takes a job as security guard at the Exposition. Willie’s friendship with his best friend—a black man—is normal to him, but results in hatred from others, and when a break-in at the Women’s Building at the Exposition happens, Willie is chosen to be guard there, to keep him away from the others. As he and Laurel become friends, his feelings for her change—but he has nothing to offer her.

I really enjoyed this novel. Although it dealt with subjects that I don’t like—racism, sexism—I think it’s probably an accurate portrayal of life in the late 1800s. I loved how all the characters seemed to learn and grow during the course of the novel, and I found the scenes from the Exposition and the Silk Room to be fascinating. If you’re looking for a sweet, clean read, this one is an excellent choice.

Kim Vogel Sawyer has published over fifty books. A Silken Thread is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of WaterBrook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Mercy Road, by Ann Howard Creel

mercy road
Image belongs to Lake Union Publishing.

Title:  Mercy Road
AuthorAnn Howard Creel
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In 1917, Arlene Favier’s home burns to the ground one night. Her father dies in the fire, leaving Arlene to care for her mother and brother and try to rebuild the family’s horse-breeding business. Arlene is determined, but jobs are scarce, especially for women. Until she gets the opportunity to join the American Women’s Hospital as an ambulance driver.

Soon Arlene is part of a trailblazing all-women team of doctors, nurses, and drivers headed to war-torn France. Arlene must work day and night dodging bombs and shells to help civilians and soldiers escape the horrors of war. Somehow, she has caught the attention of Felix Brohammer, a captain who charms everyone he meets—except Arlene, who sees darkness in the man’s eyes.

Arlene also finds Jimmy, a childhood friend who makes her feel things she never imagined. But she’ll have to risk everything—and everyone she loves—to find out the truth about Felix.

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical tale. The courage and bravery of this team of women stuns me. I cannot imagine how much strength it would take to not only work on the front lines of war, but to do so while fighting centuries of tradition and rules preventing women from doing so. Arlene’ strength and determination shine through on every page, and her love for those around her motivates everything she does. Definitely worth reading.

Ann Howard Creel is an award-winning author. Mercy Road is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)