Review: Lovely War by Julie Berry

Lovely War by Julie Berry

Categories: Historical Fiction, Romance, Mythology

First Publication Date: 4 February 2020


Synopsis: They are Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette. A classical pianist from London, a British would-be architect turned soldier, a Harlem-born ragtime genius in the U.S. Army, and a Belgian orphan with a gorgeous voice and a devastating past. Their story, as told by the goddess Aphrodite, who must spin the tale or face judgment on Mount Olympus, is filled with hope and heartbreak, prejudice and passion, and reveals that, though War is a formidable force, it’s no match for the transcendent power of Love.

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Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

hamnet maggie ofarrell

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Historical Fiction

A young Latin tutor—penniless and bullied by a violent father—falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman. Agnes is a wild creature who walks her family’s land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer, understanding plants and potions better than she does people. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever.

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eARC Review: My Heart’s in the Highlands by Amy Hoff

My Heart's in the Highlands amy hoff

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Historical Romance, F/F

I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Lady Jane Crichton is a scientist, one of the seven women to have gone to the Edinburgh University, even if they weren’t given diplomas for their graduations. She is smart and beautiful, happy in a marriage of convenience with David, who gives her the means and the support to pursue her career, and for whom she guards a secret. When Jane creates a time machine and travels to the 13th century, the last thing she expects is that the people she thought of as “savages” may be, in many ways, far more civilized than 1888 Edinburgh. She meets Ainslie, the daughter of the clean chief, and slowly finds herself realizing she might be falling in love for the first time in her life. Continue reading

Review: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

in the time of the butterflies julia alvarezRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Historical Fiction

Set during the waning days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960, this extraordinary novel tells the story of the Mirabal sisters, three young wives and mothers who are assassinated after visiting their jailed husbands.

I picked up this book after recommendation from Michelle’s Custom-Made TBR (thank you, Chelle!). And it was such a great recommendation, this is an incredible book that I think deserves to be talked about a lot more. The Mirabal sisters are three incredible women, each one very different from another but bound by a beautiful friendship and unshakable loyalty to one another. Each one of them starts seeing the wrongness of the dictatorship (which they grew up with and were taught was perfect and good) and joining the revolutions, eventually becoming symbols of courage and defiance. Continue reading

Review: The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld

the bass rock evie wyld

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Goodreads

The Bass Rock tells the story of three women, all living at some point in a house in Scotland, near the Bass Rock: Sarah, in the 1700, accused of witchcraft and fleeing for her life; Ruth, in the years after the war, trying to adapt to a new village and her new husband; and Viviane, sixty years later who’s dealing with the death of her father and emptying the house Ruth used to live in.

The Bass Rock is an exploration of toxic masculinity and its effect on women; it took me a few pages to really get into the story, but after that it was a deeply interesting story and I could not put it down. The lives of these three women are connected by the place near the Bass Rock in Scotland, and by the similarities in what they experience with the violence of men, who seek to control their lives, in some way or another. It was very interesting especially to see the connections between Ruth and Viviane, both having been institutionalized and living with the ghost of, presumably, Sarah. Continue reading

Review: A Thousand Ships, by Natalie Haynes

a thousand ships natalie haynesRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Greek Myth Retelling

Goodreads

A Thousand Ships is a retelling of the Odyssey through the eyes of the women. The narrators are, ostensibly, Muses to whom a poet prays for inspiration. But each character gets their own chance to narrate, and stories that should not have been forgotten, are finally told.

This was so enchanting, beautiful and I devoured it in two sittings. A Thousand Ships is exactly what I hoped The Silence of the Girls would have been, and I am pleased that, despite my initial hesitation towards this book, it surprised me with how good it is! Continue reading

Review: The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel

the mirror and the light hilary mantelRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

Goodreads

The Mirror and the Light is the third and final installment of the Cromwell series, which has had my whole heart since I started it a few years ago. It tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, his ascension into power and trust of King Henry VIII. In this last installment, we have seen Anne Boleyn fall from the king’s graces and lose her head – and although Cromwell has more power and wealth than ever, his enemies are gathering to plot his fall.

This trilogy takes a long time to read, not only because it’s nearly 900 pages, but also because of the sheer amount of characters, plots, subplots and the amount of attention the reader has to pay to details (absolutely worth it). It’s a series to get immersed into, and I loved spending around two weeks reading this – it’s one of my favorite series of all times, of all genres I read. Mantel turns Cromwell into a character so full of life, complexity, sharp wit, intelligence and ambition it’s truly refreshing to cheer for someone who is clearly not the classical hero in historical fiction stories. I’ve read a few Tudor books, and none have the brilliance of this series. Continue reading

Review: Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams

queenie candice carty williamsRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction

Goodreads

When Tom says he needs a break and Queenie needs to move out, she tries to tell herself it’s not as bad as all that, she’ll live for a few months in a shared apartment and then go back to he relationship, even better than before. But as her break becomes messier and messier, Queenie’s mental health deteriorates and she makes increasingly worse choices.

Whew, this book knocked me out of the park and left me a mess. It starts off rather runny, I was snorting on my lunch break, but as Queenie starts to make terrible choices and act detached from her own life, my heart started to break. I think this book hit me hard because I went through a breakdown too, some years ago, and jeopardized a lot of things in the process, including not doing my job and ignoring my friends and family, detaching myself from my life – so as Queenie becomes more unlikable and makes worse choices that a person doing okay never could understand, I couldn’t help but sympathize. We did not go through the same things at all (I’m not a black woman, for starters, and had the support of my family and boyfriend), and my heart aches so much for all the horrors she had to go through. Continue reading

Review: How We Disappeared, by Jing-Jing Lee

How we disappeared by Jing-Jing LeeRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Goodreads

How We Disappeared tells the story of Wang Di, an old woman from Singapore who’s just lost her husband before she told him her story of the war and listened to his own. Trying to find out the truth is much harder now that the war is long over and so many people are dead or missing. Her own story hurts too much and she tries to not think about it if she can – she’s never told her husband she was a “comfort woman”. On the other side of the town, Kevin finds out his grandmother found his father when he was a baby and never gave him back to the biological father she later found out still lived. Continue reading

January Releases eARC Reviews: Miss Austen & How Quickly She Disappears

miss austen gill hornbyMiss Austen by Gill Hornby

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Historical Fiction

Goodreads

I received an advance copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Miss Austen is the story of Cassandra Austen, who famously destroyed most of the letters exchanged with her sister Jane. I enjoyed the witty dialogues, so very like the way the books are written, and I think it’s where it shines. I was however bored with it rather soon, despite its attempts at making a (fictional) dramatic account of Cassandra’s love life, Jane’s depression and jealousy of other women. All the characters seem to be taken right out of Jane Austen’s novels (on purpose, I assume), all wit and clear heroines vs antagonists, which did not work well for this novel, in my opinion. I hoped for more well-rounded characters. I was engrossed by the story at times, but much too often I was simply bored. The predictability of the plot (which, considering it’s based on real events, can’t be avoided) was not helped by the writing, or the characters. If you’re craving some Austen in your life, I think you’ll enjoy this, especially how much you see of Cassandra in this. I itched to know more about their real lives. The novel, although witty and loosely based to real events from the Austen family’s lives, did not feel quite strong enough. Continue reading