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Tag Archives: historical fiction

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees

Title: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

Author: Kelly O’Connor McNees

Publisher:  Berkley Trade 2011

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Pages: 384

Rating:  5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction; What’s in a Name – Calendar; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it!

A richly imagined, remarkably written story of the woman who created Little Women– and how love changed her in ways she never expected. Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O’Connor McNees returns to the summer of 1855, when vivacious Louisa May Alcott is twenty-two and bursting to free herself from family and societal constraints and do what she loves most. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire, she meets Joseph Singer, and as she opens her heart, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.
Little Women is one of my favorite childhood books.  I loved how this story allowed the reader to get to know Louisa May Alcott better, even if it is fiction.  McNees wove the historical life events of Alcott with great dramatic passages.  I especially loved the character of Joseph.  I could see exactly how Louisa/Jo could have fallen in love with him despite herself.  I also loved her reunion with him after all those years.  It gave closure to a tragic story.  Reading this book and short biographies of the real Louisa, I appreciate the story of Little Women even more.
This book was also our book club selection for November-December. Just like our last book club selection, all of us had a slightly different view of the book.  I loved the connections to her fictional works.  We had a great discussion on the family dynamic and the philosophies of the time.  We also discussed the obligations of women of the time period.  It was a great night sharing our love of books and some great food.  Plus, we did our gift exchange and picked our January selection.

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Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Title: Suite Francaise

Author: Irene Nemirovsky

Publisher: Vintage 2007

Genre: Historical fiction

Pages: 434

Rating:   4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it

Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy—in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.

Wow!  A very powerful novel.  I started reading it thinking it was a modern novel writing about the past.  Of course I realized my mistake when I looked up the author on wikipedia.  I thought that the language and sentence structure was a bit strange for a recently written novel.  And it is…  because it was written during WWII and has been translated from the original French.  That explains it!

As to the story, I loved following the various families through the ordeal of the German occupation of France.  We get to see how various people reacted to the events of turmoil.  I can’t imagine having to become refugees in your own country.  It seems inconceivable and yet people had to continue with their lives.  There are some villains (besides the Germans) and yet I can understand why they are how they are.  Overall it was a very interesting read.

When starting this book, I realized that I have read multiple fiction books set during WWII this month.  All three  (Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, The White Pearl, and Suite Francaise) were set in different places.  It was interesting to see how different locations affected lives during the war.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall

Title: The White Pearl

Author: Kate Furnivall

Publisher: Berkley 2012

Genre: Historical fiction (WWII)

Pages: 433

Rating:  4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction; Fall into Reading; Mount TBR; Color Coded — White

How I Got It: I own it!

Malaya, 1941. Connie Thornton plays her role as a dutiful wife and mother without complaint. She is among the fortunate after all-the British rubber plantation owners reaping the benefits of the colonial life. But Connie feels as though she is oppressed, crippled by boredom, sweltering heat, a loveless marriage. . .

Then, in December, the Japanese invade. Connie and her family flee, sailing south on their yacht toward Singapore, where the British are certain to stand firm against the Japanese. En route, in the company of friends, they learn that Singapore is already under siege. Tensions mount, tempers flare, and the yacht’s inhabitants are driven by fear.

Increasingly desperate and short of food, they are taken over by a pirate craft and its Malayan crew making their perilous way from island to island. When a fighter plane crashes into the sea, they rescue its Japanese pilot. For Connie, that’s when everything changes. In the suffocating confines of the boat with her life upended, Connie discovers a new kind of freedom and a new, dangerous, exhilarating love.

Hmmm… First off, I have to say that I liked The Russian Concubine trilogy much more than this stand alone novel.  I loved the setting in Malaya and the Pacific.  I liked the backdrop of WWII.  I liked many of the side characters.  I just couldn’t stand Connie.  Sure she was stuck in a bad marriage.  But did that mean she had to treat everyone else like she was the center of the universe?  I felt no sympathy for her.  And it made me want to throw the book down a few times.  Don’t get me wrong, the story’s great.  My annoyance at one character made my reading of the book feel like more of a struggle than an enjoyment.

Historical Fiction

Mount TBR

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris

Title: Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

Author: Kristina McMorris

Publisher: Kensington 2012

Genre: Historical fiction

Pages: 438

Rating:   5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading; What’s in a Name – Topographical Map

How I Got It: I own it

Los Angeles. 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.

This book killed me.  I was in tears by the end.  It’s not that hard to see where the book is going, but I was still in tears by the end.  McMorris weaves a tragic story set in the tumultuous world of WWII.  I love how researched this book is.  I can tell that McMorris really delved deep into the various events and groups in WWII.  And that thought was verified in her acknowledgements sections.  A must read for history fans that don’t mind a bit of fiction with their history.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall

Title: The Jewel of St. Petersburg (Russian Concubine #3)

Author: Kate Furnivall

Publisher: Berkley Trade 2010

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 432

Rating:   5 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it!

Russia, 1910. Valentina Ivanova is the darling of St. Petersburg’s elite aristocracy-until her romance with a Danish engineer creates a terrible scandal and her parents push her into a loveless engagement with a Russian count.

Meanwhile, Russia itself is bound for rebellion. With the Tsar and the Duma at each other’s throats, and the Bolsheviks drawing their battle lines, the elegance and opulence of Tsarist rule are in their last days. And Valentina will be forced to make a choice that will change not only her own life, but the lives of those around her forever…

I finally completed the Russian Concubine trilogy.  It had been on my radar for a very long time, the volumes sat gathering dust in a box, and yet I bypassed them for other reads.  I forced myself to start the book and I’m glad I did.  I enjoyed this novel much more than any of my recent reads.  I even liked this one more than The Girl from Junchow.  Somehow I grew to love Valentina much more than I loved Lydia.  Valentina’s struggles to survive and thrive in revolutionary Russia struck my heart more than Lydia’s struggles in China.  While the previous book was gray, gray, and more gray, this one has pops of color.  The mood wasn’t always desperate.  I knew what was coming but still there was hope in the story.  I loved seeing Alexei and Liev and Jens younger and full of life.  Plus, the actual historical elements of the Russian Revolution wove seamlessly throughout the story.  I definite recommendation for lovers of historical fiction and great stories.

Russian Concubine

  1. The Russian Concubine
  2. The Girl from Junchow
  3. The Jewel of St. Petersburg

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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The Girl from Jungchow by Kate Furnivall

Title: The Girl from Jungchow (Russian Concubine #2)

Author: Kate Furnivall

Publisher: Berkley Trade 2009

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 500

Rating:   4 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction; Mount TBR; Fall into Reading

How I Got It: I own it!

China, 1929. For years Lydia Ivanova believed her father was killed by the Bolsheviks. But when she learns he is imprisoned in Stalin-controlled Russia, the fiery girl is willing to leave everything behind- even her Chinese lover, Chang An Lo.

Lydia begins a dangerous search, journeying to Moscow with her half-brother Alexei. But when Alexei abruptly disappears, Lydia is left alone, penniless in Soviet Russia.

All seems lost, but Chang An Lo has not forgotten Lydia. He knows things about her father that she does not. And while he races to protect her, she is prepared to risk treacherous consequences to discover the truth.

A slow start, but ultimately a good historical fiction read.  I admit that Lydia isn’t my favorite literary character.  It’s the other characters that roped me into the book.  Liev’s stubbornness, Alexei’s mystery, Elena’s hardness, Antonina’s fragile nature, Edik’s need for a place, even Chang’s honor.  Those characters kept me reading each chapter, wanting to see where life took them.  The contrast is setting also grabbed my attention.  While The Russian Concubine was set in China, the second book is set squarely in Stalin’s Russia.  Like Lydia, I yearned for the colorful warm China.  Russia is gray, gray, and more gray.  I did appreciate the descriptions of settings and building.  Overall I didn’t like is more than The Russian Concubine, but it definitely kept my attention for the third book.

Russian Concubine

  1. The Russian Concubine
  2. The Girl from Junchow
  3. The Jewel of St. Petersburg

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon

Title: Intentions of the Earl (Scandalous Sisters #1)

Author: Rose Gordon

Publisher: Second Wind 2012

Genre: Historical Romance

Pages: 270

Rating:  3 / 5 stars

Reading Challenges: Romance; Mount TBR; A to Z — I

How I Got It: Own it in ebook form

Will he secure his future by ruining hers, or will she ruin his plans by securing him? A new twist on the old fortune hunter plot puts an impoverished earl in a position to gain his fortune only by ruining an innocent’s reputation without offering marriage. The innocent he’s selected, however, has no plans to settle for anything less than marriage and will go to almost any length to secure him. With no other means for an income, the impoverished Andrew Black, Earl of Townson, makes an agreement that will put a definite end his eight year poverty streak. But, in order to gain his fortune he must do only one simple thing: ruin an innocent young lady’s reputation enough to make her flee to America. Brooke Banks isn’t interested in marriage, or so she thinks. She came to London to have a good time, and that’s exactly what she’s doing. Widely known for her tendency to flout the rules, she suspects nothing when a handsome stranger appears on her doorstep. Thirteen days, a handful of kisses and one scandalous situation later, Andrew and Brooke will have to choose to stick to their original plans, or decide if a life together is worth the risk.

Light and fluffy romance.  I do love those types of books.  Brooke, while impestuous, is  great heroine.  She’s full of spunk and confidence, even when things aren’t going her way.  Andrew is a great hero and Gateway is the stereotypical villain.  The storyline is great fun.  Then I got to the last 20 pages and the story seemed to get way too complicated and convenient at the same time.  The pacing was great until those last 20 pages.  Everything seemed to get out of control and wrapped up quickly without much discussion.  I just couldn’t get behind those last 20 pages.  I wished the ending had been a bit more drawn out.  We get more of an explanation for the conclusion and not a rushed happily ever after.  This if the first book in a trilogy.  I’m still trying to decided whether or not to read the other two.  Overall I enjoyed the book, just disappointed at the ending.
Scandalous Sisters
1. Intentions of the Earl
2. Liberty for Paul
3. To Win His Wayward Wife
  
 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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