Tag Archives: historical

Court of Lions — Jane Johnson

15 Jan

 

Publisher: Double Day
Released: May 30th 2017
Genre: Historical
Source: Finished copy from publisher

 

Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, the ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping by with an unfulfilling job in a busy bar. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbols, has been inscribed a message from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate’s life forever.

An epic saga of romance and redemption, Court of Lions brings one of the great hinge-points in human history to life, telling the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada, as they both move towards their cataclysmic destinies.

From Goodreads

This was an interesting read. I think it’s the first historical novel I’ve read that also has a current timeline plot connected with it. And while I found the transition back and forth between time periods smooth, I have to admit that I enjoyed the historical plot line more than the contemp plot line. It may be because I don’t read a lot of novels based on historical events that I found that plot so engaging.

The writing is so rich in detail that it made the location just pop to life. In fact, to me the location was a character in the book. It was almost like I was there. The description of the places made me want to go there, which is neat, because travel isn’t really my thing.

I’m normally not a huge fan of romance, but as I’ve said before if it’s done as part of the story and is done well, then I actually enjoy it. The romance and love in this story was beautifully written, especially in the historical parts of the book. I don’t want to give anything away, but it was quite lovely to read.

I really enjoyed Court of Lions and look forward to reading more from this author.

 

 

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Innocent — Eric Walters

15 Mar

innocent

 

Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

Sometimes you have to look back in order to move forward.

After the orphanage she lives in is destroyed by fire, Betty, an innocent and trusting teen, takes a job as a maid in Kingston, Ontario. Welcomed into the household of the wealthy Remington clan, Betty makes friends with the staff at the house and soon discovers that her mother had also been a maid there—and that her father is in a nearby jail, convicted of murdering her mother. When she meets her father, she is taken aback by his claims of innocence, and she decides to try to uncover the truth about her mother’s murder and her father’s conviction. A friendly young policeman assists her in her investigation (and shows an interest in Betty that is more romantic than professional). But all is not well in the Remington household, and someone doesn’t want Betty to learn the truth.

From Goodreads

Although this book is set in 1964, it has a bit of a gothic feel to it, which I love. The whole young-girl-goes-to-work-at-a-mansion-while-working-to-uncover-a-mystery thing, and it works quite well. Betty is an outsider who is welcomed into the Remington household but almost straight off the bat you get the feeling that things are a bit wonky.

While the other girls are all searching to discover who their parents are, Betty finds out during the course of the book and then her focus switches to finding out what really happened to her mother. As with all the best mysteries, her search is anything but easy and it isn’t always clear who’s on her side. That’s what I love about a well-told mystery: like the protagonist, you aren’t always sure who is good and who is bad.

The mystery is also very well-crafted, which isn’t always a given with the genre. The plot wasn’t convuluted and the ending wasn’t easy to figure out, although there were some well placed hints along the way.

This was one of my favourite plots of all the Secrets books and I highly recommend it.

The Unquiet Past — Kelley Armstrong

14 Mar

unquiet past

 

Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

You can only hide from the truth for so long.

Tess has always been tormented by waking visions that make her question her sanity. When the orphanage she lives in burns down, she decides to face her fears and find out once and for all what is wrong with her. She believes the truth must lie with her parents, and so, armed with only an address and phone number, Tess travels to a crumbling mansion in rural Quebec, where she discovers evidence of mistreatment of mental patients. She also makes an unlikely ally and gradually unearths her family’s sad history—and finally accepts the truth about her paranormal powers.

From Goodreads

When I agreed to read and review all of the books in the Secrets series, I had no idea my fave author had written a volume. So you can imagine my excitement. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I really like that even though this is a bit of a different series for her, Kelley still added some paranormal stuff. Her own flair, if you will. I love when authors write outside of their preferred genre, but still make sure that they are including something that makes them them, you know? And that’s the case here.

As with the other books in the series, The Unquiet Past tackles a social issue — the prejudice against Native Canadians. I think for younger readers this aspect of the book will be a real eye opener.

This was one of the darker books of the series (perhaps even the darkest) and that definitely has to do with the subject matter. Questionable mental hospitals and mistreatment of their patients is right up there with creepy clowns in my fear book, as I’m sure it is for a lot of people. This part of the story made for a very suspenseful read and made the book a strong page turner.

The Unquiet Past is a welcome addition to both the Secrets series and also Kelley’s books. I highly recommend it.

Stones on a Grave — Kathy Kacer

10 Mar

stonesgrave

 

Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

There is no failure, just discovery.

Sara has never been out of the tiny town of Hope, Ontario, where she has been in an orphanage all her life. After a fire destroys the orphanage, clues about her parentage—a medical certificate and a Star of David—lead her to Germany. Despite her fears—she doesn’t speak the language, she knows no one in Germany, and she’s never been on an airplane—Sara arrives in Germany determined to explore her newly discovered Jewish heritage and solve the mystery of her parentage. What she encounters is a country still dealing with the aftermath of the Holocaust. With the help of a handsome, English-speaking German boy, she discovers the sad facts of her mother’s brief existence and faces the horrible truth about her father. Ultimately, the knowledge she gains opens up her world and leads her to a deeper understanding of herself.

From Goodreads

The thing I really really liked about this book is that while Sara had heard of the Holocaust, she really didn’t know a whole lot about it, and I think a lot of young readers are in the same position. So it’s awesome that not only are young readers getting an addictive story centred around the mystery of who Sara’s parents were, but they are learning an important piece of world history.

I found Sara to be a bit of a wishy-washy, weak character at the beginning and it was cool to watch her really come into her own as the story progressed. As she worked through the mystery of her heritage she really came into her own and started to realize what’s important to her and stand up for it.

As with all of the books in this series, there was an element of romance to Stones on the Grave. I’m honestly still trying to decide how I feel about it. I think, given Sara’s journey, I would have preferred the book without it, but it in no way was overdone and it definitely didn’t distract from the main story. I’m just curious about how Sara would have handled her situation without his help.

I really enjoyed this book and the details of Sara’s heritage definitely caught me by surprise. Which is perfect for a mystery.

A Big Dose of Lucky — Marthe Jocelyn

9 Mar

doseLucky

 

Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

 

 

Moving forward doesn’t always happen in a straight line.

Malou has just turned sixteen—hardly old enough to be out in the world on her own—and all she knows for sure is that she’s mixed-race and that she was left at an orphanage as a newborn. Beyond that, it’s a mystery—a mystery that takes her to the little town of Parry Sound, where she finds lots of young brown faces like hers. Are these her relatives, and why doesn’t anyone want to talk about it?

From Goodreads

I’ve said this before in other reviews, but I find it really, really hard to review mysteries. I don’t want to give anything key away so trying to decide what to write and what not to write can be a bit of a struggle. All I’m going to say about the mystery in A Big Dose of Lucky is that it was really well done and multi-layered. It involved several different elements that all fit together but wasn’t easy to figure out.

I think the thing that I loved the most about this book was watching Dot form friendships with Pete and Lucy. It was heartbreaking that this was a new thing to her and there’s one scene where she’s at their house for super that really brings that home in a way that isn’t overly sentimental.

The other aspect of the story that I didn’t necessarily love (because who loves racism?) but thought was well done and will really give young readers a strong perspective on race relations today is how she is treated because of her skin colour. It was hard to read about her treatment by certain people, but it’s an important and essential part of her story. And while I think there are lessons to learn from the book, they never present themselves as hit-you-over-the-head moment.

This was an intriguing read and anyone who enjoys a good mystery will enjoy it.

Review: No Moon by Irene N. Watts

25 Jun

Tundra Books, 2010

A story of reliance and resilience. Did you call out to us, Johnny, before your small body was dragged down under the water? Why didn’t we hear you? I am sorry! I’ll never forget.

Louisa Gardener is the fourteen-year-old nursemaid to the young daughters of a wealthy, titled family living in London, England, in 1912.

Despite the bullying Nanny Mackintosh, for whom she is an extra pair of hands, she loves her work and her young charges. Then everything changes. The family decides to sail to New York aboard the Titanic. An accident to the children’s nanny, only days prior to the sailing, means that Louisa must go in her stead. She cannot refuse, although she dreads even the mention of the ocean. Memories she has suppressed, except in nightmares, come crowding back.

When Louisa was five and her sister seven years old, their two-year-old brother died on an outing to the seaside. Since that time, Louisa has had a fear of the ocean. She blames herself for the accident, though she has been told it wasn’t her fault.

If Louisa refuses to go on the voyage, she will be dismissed, and she will never get beyond the working-class life she has escaped from.

From Tundra Books website.

I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction in the past. It isn’t because I hate the genre, but more because I just didn’t have a strong interest in it. But in the last year I’ve read a couple of great adult historical fiction novels, including The Day the Falls Stood Still. I recently decided to give YA historical fiction a go, and to my delight it’s fast becoming one of my favorite genres.

No Moon definitely qualifies as historical fiction. And even though it’s story line is somewhat centered around the ill-fated Titanic, the Titanic plot line was secondary to Louisa’s story. So, even though most of us know what happened to the Titanic, this retelling never appeared stale. Nor was that part of the novel over-dramatic and heavy, which I appreciated.

Watts’ created such a wonderful character in Louisa that her decision of whether or not  to go on the Titanic weighed on me. I felt vested in what happened to her and the family she was working for so much that at times I wanted to yell “Don’t go!”. The will she or won’t she element of the book presented some nice moments of tension for both the character and the reader.

This was a short read (232 pages) but very meaty in detail and character development.  I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA historical fiction.

A big curtsy to Tundra Books for the review copy.

Review: Folly by Marthe Jocelyn

13 May

Tundra Books, 2010

A love story, a social history, and an act that echoes through generations.Set in the late 1800’s, Marthe Jocelyn’s stunning new novel is told in the voices of four people whose lives and destinies intertwine. There’s Mary, who begins “exceeding ignorant” (apart from what a girl can learn from family mayhem, a dead mother, and a grim stepmother) and winds up encountering lust and betrayal when she becomes a servant in a fine house in London. Mary’s nemesis is another maid in the household, Eliza. Eliza also knows lust and betrayal, but she doesn’t know who is betraying who.

Mary’s and Eliza’s actions will intersect with a foundling home in London, where Oliver is a teacher who tries to avoid feeling anything that will perhaps make him live a real life. And then there’s the foundling boy, James. Who will he grow up to be if he doesn’t know where he comes from?

From Tundra Books website

 

Oh, my!  This was a delicious read. And I mean it.  Delicious.  I don’t normally read historical or romance novels, but the cover of Folly caught my attention and I thought I’d give it a whirl. I was sucked in my Mary’s voice from the first page and I stayed entranced with her story. Love, lust, longing, deceit, envy. This book has it all.

I love stories where strangers end up being interconected, and that is definitely the case with Folly. The story is told by the four main characters (Mary, Eliza, Oliver and James) during two different time periods.  At first I thought that I would find this a bit confusing, but nope, not at all. Jpocelyn writes it in such a way that it is both rich in detail and easy to follow.

This was a fun read. It had me cringing, shaking my head and my fist, laughing and crying. If you are looking for a great summer read, then Folly should definitely go on your list.