Tag: historical

Book Review: Bonavere Howl, by Caitlin Galway

bonavere howl
Image belongs to Guernica Editions.

Title:  Bonavere Howl
Author:  Caitlin Galway
Genre:  Historical fiction, middle grade
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

In New Orleans in 1955, the languid heat presses down on everything. Thirteen-year-old Bonavere, the youngest of the Bonavere sisters, has her best friend Saul to turn to and her two older sisters. Her parents pay the sisters no mind, even when middle sister Constance goes missing.

Some of the blame falls on Saul and his family because of their race, but Bonavere knows that isn’t true, so she sets out to find what really happened to Constance. Her questions lead her to the wealthy Lasalle family, and stories of girls found half-mad in the nearby swamps. Bonavere has no idea what secrets she’ll stir up when she starts asking questions. She just wants her sister back.

I’ll read just about anything set in New Orleans, and this novel captures the feel of the city very well:  the heat, the cobbled streets, the craziness…However, most of the story itself is a bit inexplicable to me. Things happened, but I couldn’t always see the connection to them and anything else, and I’m still not sure exactly what was going on.

Caitlin Galway’s newest novel is Bonavere Howl.

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

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Book Review: How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee

how we disappeared
Image belongs to Hanover Square Press.

Title:  How We Disappeared
Author:  Jing-Jing Lee
Genre:  Fiction/historical fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

In 1942 Singapore, the world is at war, but it becomes personal when soldiers ransack a village and murder everyone, leaving only two survivors. In a nearby village, girls are taken captive and forced to become “comfort women”—prostitutes—earning them the shame and disdain of their families—if they are fortunate enough to survive and escape. Wang Di was one of these women, and after sixty years of silence, she is finally ready to talk about the horrors she experienced.

In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is going blind, so he records everything he hears. Including the dying confession of his beloved grandmother…who isn’t really his grandmother at all. Kevin knows this secret is bigger than he is, but he’s determined to find out the truth—and share it.

How We Disappeared isn’t an easy book to read. It’s full of the sometimes-horrific experiences of these characters, but there are glimpses of hope as well. The settings are realistic—good and bad—and, though the book gets off to a slow start, it is well-worth reading.

Jing-Jing Lee is an author and a poet. How We Disappeared is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/Hanover Square Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Romanov, by Nadine Brandes

Romanov
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Romanov
Author:  Nadine Brandes
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

With Russia in revolution, the Romanov family are held as hostages by the Bolsheviks. For Nastya—Princess Anastasia—this new world is bewildering and frustrating. Her loving family is intact and together, but they are constantly guarded by soldiers. They are barely allowed to go outside. They are constantly under watch. She doesn’t understand why the world is so bloody and dangerous, she just knows it is.

There is an element of truth in what the people say about the Romanovs, but Nastya is not a spellcaster. If she was, she could heal her brother’s hemophilia and her mother’s illness. She could stop herself from falling in love and mend her sister’s broken heart. And she could keep her family from being executed.

But this isn’t the lies spoken about her family by the Bolsheviks. This is her life. And the truth is far stranger than the history books say.

I’ve probably seen the Disney movie Anastasia at some point, but I don’t remember it, and I’ve certainly read bits and pieces about the Romanovs, none of which I remembered before picking this book up. I had no problems understanding what was going on or starting the story after the Romanovs are taken hostage. The love in this family is remarkable and portrayed so well. All the characters are well-done, but Nastya herself is both struggling and strong, and her determination to help her family is something to behold. I enjoyed this read immensely.

Nadine Brandes is the author of the Out of Time series. Romanov is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Things We Cannot Say, by Kelly Rimmer

the things we cannot say
Image belongs to Graydon House.

Title:  The Things We Cannot Say
Author:  Kelly Rimmer
Genre:  Fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Alice never expected to be a stay-at-home mom, but 7-year-old Eddie is on the autism spectrum and nonverbal, and needs all the care Alice can give him, while 10-year-old Callie is smart enough to cause herself problems. So, Alice’s world revolves around her kids and her husband, until her beloved grandmother falls ill, and asks Alice to find those she left behind in Poland during WWII. Her only clues are a faded photo of a young man, a tiny leather shoe, and a letter.

In 1940s Poland, Alina is young and in love, and gets engaged to Tomasz just before he goes away to college. She can’t wait to start their future together. Then the Nazis arrive, and her whole world changes to hunger, fear, and a desperate longing for Tomasz. She knows he’ll keep his promise to return to her, but so many obstacles stand in the way, and the darkness around them may sweep them under if anyone finds out their secrets.

This book. This book. Fantastically well-written, I found myself drawn into both timelines effortlessly, caring about both Alice and Alina and their happiness. The horrors of war are captured in small bits, enough to paint the picture, but not so much that the reader can’t move past it. I cried at the end, but this story is filled with so much hope and love. A wonderful read!

Kelly Rimmer is a USA Today bestselling author. The Things We Cannot Say is her newest book.

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

Book Review: American Princess, by Stephanie Thornton

american princess
Image belongs to Berkely.

Title:  American Princess
Author:  Stephanie Thornton
Genre:  Historical
Rating:  4 out of 5

Alice Roosevelt is the oldest daughter of Teddy Roosevelt, who becomes president unexpectedly. Life in the White House isn’t what Alice expected, and she chafes at the restrictions and rules she’s expected to follow, until she decides that doing her own thing is the way to be and becomes the darling of the press.

But Washington is not for the faint of heart, and Alice will be pushed to her limits to survive, love, marriage, and raising a family—all while keeping her political hat in the ring. Through two world wars and more loss than anyone should have to endure, Alice remains America’s princess.

Honestly, I wasn’t even aware that Teddy Roosevelt had a daughter (two, actually). I know basically nothing about his presidency or his family, but Alice is a fascinating character. It’s interesting watching her grow up in the public eye—as if growing up and navigating love isn’t hard enough by itself—but watching her adroit political maneuvering was even more fascinating. This is a solid historical read.

Stephanie Thornton is a writer and a history teacher. American Princess is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Woman 99, by Greer Macallister

woman 99
Image belongs to SOURCEBOOKS Landmark.

Title:  Woman 99
Author:  Greer Macallister
Genre:  historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Charlotte Smith’s family is wealthy, and she is expected to marry well and improve the family’s fortunes. She and her sister are to never do anything to embarrass the family. So, when Charlotte’ sister, Phoebe does embarrass the family with her behavior, she’s sent to the notorious Goldengrove Asylum.

Charlotte knows it’s her fault Phoebe was sent away, but she’s determined to make it right, so she disguises herself as a destitute woman with mental health issues and becomes Woman 99 at the asylum.

It’s not what she expected. Some of the women desperately need the help the asylum could provide—if it weren’t twisted by greed and power—but some of the women are there because they are merely inconvenient to their families. As Charlotte searches for Phoebe in the asylum, she realizes there are deeper wrongs to be righted.

I found Woman 99 engrossing from the first page. I love a good historical, and I thought this one was extremely well-done. Charlotte’s growth through the book is wonderful to see:  from a compliant, agreeable young woman to a strong and forthright woman who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. Definitely worth reading!

Greer Macallister is a USA Today-bestselling author. Woman 99 is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Of Fire and Lions, by Mesu Andrews

of fire and lions
Image belongs to WaterBrook.

Title:  Of Fire and Lions
Author:  Mesu Andrews
Genre:  Christian fiction, historical
Rating:  5 out of 5

Abigail is just a girl when the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem—and the temple. Abigail is taken captive and finds herself serving four Hebrew boys destined to become powerful princes in Babylon, including the kind and caring Daniel. Abigail falls in love with Daniel, but the king’s machinations keep them apart, and soon Abigail finds herself lost in another city, with nowhere to turn.

Seventy years later, Daniel and Abigail have been married for years and have children and grandchildren when Daniel is once again called to serve the new king. Abigail’s family is full of anger and malice, but she’s kept secrets about her early years, secrets that might tear Daniel from her for good, and secrets that might have a chance of mending the rift in her family. But she will have to overcome her fear with faith if she’s ever to know true fulfillment.

Of Fire and Lions is a richly imagined tale that brings Biblical stories to life. Daniel and the lions’ dent. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. The exile of the Hebrews. These things come to mesmerizing life on the page. And Abigail—Belili—and Daniel come to life as well:  their struggles, their trials, and their faith drawing the reader in. This is an exceptionally detailed and vivid re-telling of some familiar Bible tales, but with so much life added to the story.

Mesu Andrews writes biblical fiction. Of Fire and Lions is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Boys Who Woke Up Early, by A.D. Hopkins

the boys who woke up early
Image belongs to Imbrifex Books.

Title:  The Boys Who Woke Up Early
Author:  A.D. Hopkins
Genre:  Fiction, historical
Rating:  4 out of 5

Western Virginia in the days of the Ku Klux Klan is where Stony starts his junior year of high school. The town is poor, and those who live in town don’t associate with the hillbillies in the woods and hollers. But Stony has a crush on Mary Lou Martin, one of the country girls, and he can’t figure out how to cross the divide.

Then Jack moves to town. Jack dresses like TV detective Peter Gunn and plays jazz clarinet, and soon he and Stony are good friends. Jack convinces Stony they’ll be detectives, and soon the boys are spending more time at the sheriff’s department than at home. If only Stony didn’t have a history as a juvenile delinquent.

Soon the boys run up against the district attorney and find themselves involved in a raid on an illegal speakeasy…just before they face off with the Klan in their attempts to keep their town safe.

I kept telling myself I’d put this book down because the writing wasn’t quite up to par, but I enjoyed the story so much that I finished reading it. This book is decidedly not in favor of the Klan. It’s set just when the fight for equal rights begins, when discrimination is the norm, and only a few people are waking up to the awareness that the way things have always been isn’t the way they should be. I enjoyed the story of Stony’s realization that his small mountain hometown needs to make some changes.

A.D. Hopkins is a former journalist. The Boys Who Woke Up Early is his new novel.

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

Book Review: Spectacle, by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

spectacle-red-final
Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:  Spectacle
Author:  Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Genre:  YA, fantasy, historical
Rating:  3.7 out of 5

Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column in 1887 Paris. It’s her job to tell about each day’s new arrivals to the morgue, which the citizens of Paris are fascinated with. It’s morbid, but it’s just a job, until the day Nathalie sees a vision of the murder of the body before her…from the perspective of the murderer.

When the body of another woman is found a few days later, all of Paris is talking about it—and speculating it won’t be the last. Nathalie’s visions may be the only way to help find the killer, but can she figure out who the murderer is before her own life is forfeit?

This wasn’t a bad read. The premise is unique, but I found it a little erratic. Sometimes, Nathalie seemed very childish and naïve—who wanders around a busy city alone when they are the target of a serial killer? And who would go into the Parisian Catacombs like that, especially? I liked the concept, but the execution could use a little bit of polishing.

Jodie Lynn Zdrok holds two MA degrees in European History, and an MBA. Spectacle is her newest novel.

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

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Book Review: Castle on the Rise, by Kristy Cambron

castle on the rise
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  Castle on the Rise
Author:  Kristy Cambron
Genre:  Historical fiction.
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Laine Forrester is in France for her best friend’s fairytale wedding—and to forget about her own failed marriage. But her friend’s devastating diagnosis takes Laine’s mind off her own problems, and she agrees to return to Ireland with her friend and new family. There, she finds an empty castle filled with treasures and a family who won’t even speak to each other, but everything she needs may just be in Ireland.

This story is actually three different stories in three separate timelines, and I loved all three of them! The troubles in Ireland are a sad subject, but the author does a good job capturing the emotions in the situations—as well as the hope. This is well-written and full of vibrant characters and settings I’d love to see!

Kristy Cambron is an award-winning author. Castle on the Rise is her newest novel.

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