I absolutely love historical fiction and read a lot of it; I love to learn history this way. I also enjoy reading science fiction, fantasy, horror, thriller and non-fiction science.
Johnathan Beckett is on a mission as an agent of the Crown. The mission is to save Lady Hannah who has been missing since an attempted abduction. Lady Hannah's father holds sensitive information about a traitor to the Crown and her life is now in danger because of it. Lady Hannah finds refuge on a country farm where Johnathan finally finds her; but Hannah's abductors are not far behind. While on the run, Johnathan and Hannah act as husband and wife so Hannah may stay under his protection. When Johnathan and Hannah reach safety at his sister, Eliza's estate, Johnathan and Hannah's feelings for one another grow; however, Johnathan's attitude toward Hannah changes. Johnathan would now like Hannah to act as a lady and Hannah would like to learn to defend herself as Eliza does. Unfortunately, before Johnathan and Hannah can sort things out, trouble catches up to them and a conspiracy unravels.
A Peculiar Courtship continues with Johnathan Beckett's story as it left off in Saving Shadow. However, you do not have to read Saving Shadow first in order to enjoy A Peculiar Courtship. I enjoyed getting to know Hannah and loved that there was yet another strong female character in the story. I liked that Hannah was a quick thinker, able to outrun her attackers for at least a little while, she was grateful and gracious to the family that saved her, even if it meant working on a farm and she was able to mold herself to be useful in a variety of situations. I also got to learn more about Johnathan in this installment. He is, as I expected, an excellent agent of the Crown, but surprised me with his treatment of Hannah. Johnathan's overprotective nature almost ruins Hannah's perception of him. As in Saving Shadow, the characters are all very well developed and I am happy to see Eliza and Benedict as a couple. At first, the action and suspense all seemed to be concentrated at the beginning of the book, although, underneath the surface a bigger conspiracy is brewing that could affect Parliament and will need several agents of the Crown, including Shadow, in order to bring down French traitors. With many well crafted spy elements, a sweet love story and plenty of fierce female characters, A Peculiar Courtship is a wonderful addition the The Beckett Files and I can't wait to see what's next.
The lake called Swanville is in need of new leadership. President Lulu, the black knob duck that previously served as President is on his way out. In the running is his Secretary as well as newcomer, Trumpeter. To everyone's surprise, Trumpeter wins with his brash Honks and cries to overturn Lulucare and tear down the beaver's wall that is eating up precious shoreline. As Trumpeter assumes leadership, the lake learns that he is more Honk than action and the Trumpeter's team seems to be just as silly flapping around the lake. Trumpeter's slogan was to 'Make Swanville Great Again." But no one is sure it needed saving in the first place.
TrumpeterVille is a satire of the current American political situation that revolves around the aquatic birds of Swanville. Amusingly, there are many quick one liners and similar names to the current leadership, that there are plenty of laughs; however, it too closely parallels President Trump's current situation to be called an allegory or have anything intellectual about it. It is simply the last election and the USA's current political state loosely placed in a swan pond. When I read the description, I imagined this story to be more of a takeaway of current politics using the actual ecology of the birds that occupy the pond. Instead, I read about anthropomorphized birds parroting back the current rhetoric. That being said, this is a short story and has plenty of amusing points throughout.
A Librarything Early Reviewers book.
Theresa Marshall is a woman of a certain age who appears to live a comfortable life in her Fifth Avenue home during the Jazz Age. However, she is in a loveless marriage with her much older husband and has not gotten over the death of one of her sons during the Great War. Things change for Theresa when she meets Octavian, a young pilot and hero during the war. Theresa and Octavian begin a love affair and Octavian becomes intensely involved with Theresa. When Theresa's brother Jay becomes engaged to a young Sophie Fortesque, he needs a cavalier to deliver the engagement ring according to family tradition. Theresa offers up Octavian for the job. Octavian and Sophie meet and they know there is something more there. When Octavian is asked by Theresa to look into the new money of the Fortesque family, he finds a secret that not even Sophie knows about. Decisions will be made by Theresa, Octavian, Sophie and Jay that require courage , conviction and love.
Three women are bound together by fate and their husbands choices made during World War II. The husbands of Marianne von Lingenfels, Benita Fledermann and Ania Grabarek were all involved in the failed plot to assassinate Hitler in July of 1944. Appointed "the Commander of Wives and Children" by her husband, Marrianne takes her duties seriously and decides to round up those she can find in the aftermath of the War in the relative safety of her family castle, Burg Lingenfels. While Marianne succeeds at the impossible task of finding the dispersed women and children, her harsh steadfastness combined with Benita's gentle inward intuitiveness, Ania's survival drive and the children's collective shock makes for a difficult group to have under one roof. The secrets that each woman must keep combined with their sense of camaraderie creates a very different post war experience for Marianne, Benita and Ania.
The Women in the Castle is an epic story that creates a great range of feelings and complicated and scenarios. It also shines a light on the role of women and children before and after the war, but more importantly, the resistors. In thinking of the heroes of World War II, I don't often think of the Germans who were strong enough to resist Hitler's pull, even in little ways. All of the women's characters were strongly developed and I enjoyed that they showed their strength in different ways. At first, I was pulled toward Marianne's conviction and dedication to her task, but as each woman's story unfolded and the layers peeled away, I felt more and more connected to their stories and understood their reasoning. The writing does jump back and forth through time and each woman's perspective. Keeping track of the time jumps and point of view can become a bit confusing; however, you do learn things at appropriate times instead of being bombarded with too much information at once. There are many, many more things I could say about this book, but most importantly, it provides a different perspective of World War II, and comments on the importance of friendship, compassion and resistance.
Grace bolts from her London home late one night after her father comes home drunk and hits her. Still blaming Grace for her mother's death, Grace has become the unwilling scapegoat. However, the streets of 1800's London are not a friendly place for a lady at night. Grace is found by Ned, a stage manager at the nearby Theatre Royale. Ned graciously helps Grace recover over the next few days. During their stay together, Grace tells Ned of her interest in the theatre and how she and her mother would recite lines. Ned allows Grace to sit backstage and watch a performance before she must leave and face her father once more. Before Grace goes, an opportunity arises for Grace to be in the Chorus of a show. Grace falls in love with the theatre and finds the strength to part from her father's household. Upon hearing the news, Grace's father writes her out of his will. Soon, with help from Ned, Grace finds her place among the acting troupe. Although, just as Grace begins to rise, the theatre burns down and when it is rebuilt and hike in prices results in a riot at theatre every night. As Grace and Ned deal with the Old Price riots, they also uncover a mystery dealing with Grace's mother and Aunt.
The Muse of Fire transported me directly to London's Theatre scene in the early 1800's. I was taken with the historical detail, I had never heard of the Old Price Riots and were surprised to learn that they were very real and just as comprehensive as described. I also enjoyed that some of the actors, actresses and directors were also taken from history. The thoroughness in describing how backstage operations at the theatre worked was entertaining as well, from costuming to props, fly rigs and makeup, to orchestras and prompters the liveliness and excitement of live theatre is revealed. Grace and Ned's characters were complete and well thought out. Both had interesting histories and good backbone. From the beginning I wondered what their relationship to one another would be and I was pleased to see how they ended up. I loved Grace's direct nature and willingness to endure. Ned is exceedingly kind and able to use his wit to his advantage. The mystery and drama created by Grace's Aunt, Father and cousin Percival was exciting and unexpected, creating just as much drama as the stage. Overall, another rich and exhilarating historical fiction from Carol M. Cram.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
In 1924 Geneva, or Gin, as her friends call her, has become entwined in the atmosphere of Manhattan's speakeasies. A typist by day, Gin let's loose in the evenings and often visits the speakeasy, Christopher's in the basement of the building next door to her apartment. Life is good for Gin until Christopher's is raided one night and she is pulled back into the life she thought she had escaped and the step-father she would rather forget back in River Junction Maryland. Prohibition officer Oliver Anson has recruited Gin to help him bring down one of the biggest bootleggers in the East, her step-father Duke Kelly. At first, Gin is hesitant, but when she returns home to see how Duke has influenced everyone, she agrees to join, the stoic and strong prohibition officer on his mission. Recently, in 1998, Ella Hawthorne walks in on her husband cheating and promptly walks out of their home. Ella finds refuge in a humble apartment on Christopher street. Ella immediately finds a friend in her upstairs neighbor, Hector. Hector also gives her a warning to not go downstairs to the laundry room at night since there was a speakeasy in the basement next door and strange sounds can still be heard.
I found myself immediately pulled into The Wicked City. The writing and the characters grabbed my attention. First of all, I adore dual time stories. I do admit that Gin's story grasped my attention more; the writing so perfectly conveyed Gin's personality that I felt that this is someone that I would want to be friends with. Her strength, resolve and willingness to do what was right for her family and town made Gin irresistible to me and the other characters. I loved her sayings and her witty banter, everything she said felt so perfect for the time period but not overly done. The city itself also became a character; the city becomes alive as Gin states:
"...and I thought I had made a terrible mistake, that I would never belong in this sea of stink and vice, this hive of determined bees ling heir cells with hones. Ant then I tasted the honey, honey , and I stared to understand what New York City was all about. Hallelujah. I started to glimpse my place in the hive, how each tiny insect contributed her mite of pollen, how grand it was to live in a hive like this at all..."
With the city taking on a life of it's own, it made more sense that there was a lingering of spirits and the hint of a ghost story waiting in the wings for Ella to find and explore. I do feel like this side of the story could have been expanded, but the air of mystery it left was ideal for the atmosphere. As Ella connected more with Gin's story line, I did feel a stronger pull toward her as well. As Ella and Gin's story lines weaved together, I could see the parallels of their situations despite the years apart, both women were dealing with issues within their professions, man troubles and above all else, a new found sense of independence. Overall, a great mix of history, atmosphere, mystery and a touch of romance. I can't wait to see where it goes next!
This story was received for free in return for an honest review
Square 14 for the 16 Festive Tasks- Seaside setting
When eighteen-year-old Elise's parents decide to move from their comfortable lives in Atlanta to a small fishing village in Apalachicola, Florida, Elise becomes anxious. Her mother has asked Elise to put off going to college for a year in order to help them settle in. Elise has always been an outsider, even to her parents, she decides that the move may mean a new start for her as well. When Elise first sets eyes on their new home, something inside her clicks. Finally, Elise feels like she belongs, the townspeople adore her and the boat shaped house feels like home. Then, the dreams intensify, Elise dreams of another young woman, Annelise, who never got the chance to live in the boat shaped house that was built for her in 1897. Elise keeps getting clues to Annelise's life and how the man she loved died. Elise feels she might be burdened with living out Annelise's dream but those around her are worried that Elise is living in a fantasy world.
House on the Forgotten Coast pulled me in with the intense atmosphere and air of mystery. I was grabbed by the snippet from Annelise's demise and then caught up in Elise's story and wondered how the two women connected. I was effortlessly drawn to Elise, she has been an outsider all of her life, not even understood by her parents, but determined to make her own way. I was pleased that she was generously taken in by the inhabitants of Apalachicola. The residents of the town were also very well developed, I loved getting to know Peyton, Dallas, the Myers, the Aunts and Ty. They all added to the mystique of the town. Through the entire story, the writing presents a very gradual build up of something being not quite right. The mystery lies in whether or not the town is cursed due to Annelise's demise or if Elise herself is the only one being haunted by Elise's memory. Overall, a mysterious and haunting story that I absolutely devoured.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Anna decides to take a trip to Venice and visit her friend Margo in order to get her mind off of her impending divorce back in the states. Instead, Anna finds herself in a romantic entanglement with serious complications; furthermore, she is the prime suspect in a murder when the man she slept with is found murdered. Anna's job at the US Treasury is put in danger when she begins to look into the life of Count Sergio Corrin, Anna finds a sordid past entangled with many other Venetians who just may want to kill the man. While Anna desperately searches to uncover any information to clear her name, she reveals some other secrets of the closely-knit Venetian people. Meanwhile, the person who murdered Sergio is still on the loose and is attempting to throw Anna off the trail.
An exciting and suspenseful murder mystery set in the sensuous and mysterious island of Venice. Immediately, I was pulled in by the murder scene, a gruesome murder committed by someone who appears to be female. Then, I was connected to Anna's character. Anna is intelligent and resourceful but has been handed a difficult lot in life, her parents died when she was younger, she has had a miscarriage and her marriage has fallen apart. Venice was made into a sumptuous setting, I could easily image the aging but descendant buildings, the murky canals and small passageways. The suspense grew for me as Anna started digging up the past. Most interestingly, I began to question Anna's reliability as a narrator even as she began to uncover other's motives. Overall, a uniquely woven murder mystery with intricate twists and turns.
In Renaissance Italy in the village of Pesaro, Seer Savinus is looking for someone who shares his talents for divining the future so he is able to cultivate the next generation and Seers. Savinus' daughter, Guilia is talented, however, women in the trade are simply not respected. Savinus decides to hold a competition. One of Pesaro's noble family's son, Nichola Valperga competes as well as a servant in the Valperga household, Antonious. Antonious has far more ability in the field and is recognized right away by Savinus. Nichola has limited ability, but Savinus agrees to apprentice Nichola as the secondary apprentice out of respect to the noble family. From the start the two young men are at odds, Nichola can not stand that a servant has a position above him and Antonious can not understand Nichola's haughty nature. Tensions rise as Giulia's affections towards one apprentice emerge and jealousy leads to violence.
Stone Circle immersed me into 16th century Italy and the alchemy practices of the time. I was surprised to learn the esteemed role that Seer's played in the society and that they were often employed by nobles to learn the best time for special events to take place and even who they should marry. Savinus was my favorite character, wise and conscientious in his choices, helped along by his psychic abilities. Antonius and Nichola were typical young men, but their strained relationship demonstrated the division between classes at the time. I was waiting for one of them to compromise on their differences as so many of the adult characters suggested. Guilia was an interesting character for me, I really wanted her to take a more prominent role in her father's practice rather than simply be a love interest; however she did show insight and grow as she realized the apprentices true nature. Jealousy was a theme throughout the story, and it was one that had dire consequences. It was interesting to see that even with magic and alchemy all of your problems could not be fixed. Overall, an engrossing story that mixes history, magic and romance.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Square 10 For the 16 Festive Tasks- A Book of Forgiveness
Things are changing quickly for 15 year old Bridie. Her beloved father has died, her mother quickly remarried their border, Alf Bustle and is pregnant. Now, Alf has decided to move the family from their London home halfway across the world for more opportunities in Australia. Bridie’s mother and Alf are hoping that the voyage and leaving London will help Bridie forget her father, move on and grow up. However Bridie Refuses to give up the memory of her father, especially his stories which is why Bridie defies her mother and brings his storybook along. The voyage on the Lady Sophia is dangerous, lengthy and difficult for all the passengers, particularly the pregnant ones. Bridie quickly makes friends with a Welsh couple, Rhys and Sian. Rhys seems to have a secret or two himself and is also a storyteller. Sian has a mystery about her and is about as far along as Bridie’s mother. The ship’s surgeon wants a clean and uneventful journey, but as the voyage is prolonged it seems that a story is just what everyone on board needs.
Bridie’s journey is one of self-discovery, growth and sadness. Something that struck me between the changing narratives of Bridie and Rhys was the many reasons that people leave the place that they have always called home, whether it is new opportunity, new identity, or a new beginning, they are willing to look for these things in a place that they have never known. With the exception of the very beginning and very end, the entire story takes place on a ship. For a ship in 1841, I was amazed at the process taken to keep things clean and free of disease, though it didn't always work, as well as the monotony of life on a ship. I found Bridie's character very easy to relate to, I loved that she held onto the stories of her father and loved him unconditionally, despite her mother's wishes. I especially felt for her when she came into womanhood among the cramped, public conditions onboard the Lady Sophia. I enjoyed watching her evolve through her friendship with Rhys and Sian and their own stories. I got caught up myself in the Welsh stories and the unique way they were told through Rhys and Sian, I could imagine their vivacious performances. Through their stories, the storytellers offer healing and acceptance to themselves and others. What touched me most of all was how everyone onboard seemed deeply touched by secrets and sadness while continuing on with their lives, and the impact of a single story.
This book was provided for free in return for an honest review
Originally written in German, square 7 for the 16 festive tasks!
Moshe Goldenhirsch grew up in Prague in the 1930's. His family was far from perfect and Moshe decides to run away. Moshe comes across a circus run by the Half-Moon Man and is entranced by his magic tricks; he eventually is eventually taken on as an apprentice by the Half-Moon man. Moshe eventually transforms into the Great Zabbatini, a Persian mentalist. However, as the war grows, Zabbatini's facade is broken and he is found out as a Jew. In 2007, Max Cohn is trying to deal with his parent's divorce. As his parents are moving out, Max finds a record of the Great Zabbatini's performance and one of his tricks is a spell for eternal love. The record happens to be scratched on the eternal love spell sending Max on an adventure to find the real Zabbatini and ask him to perform his spell.
This dual time story was an emotional journey that ranged from sorrowful to sweet. The writing flowed seamlessly as the alternating time lines switched between Moshe and Max. Moshe's story drew me in with the complexity of family issues and his desire to find escape within the magic of the circus. I was further impressed with Moshe's transformation to Zabbatini and his path to becomming a mentalist. The suspense grew as Zabbatini interacted with officials from the Nazi party. Seeing some of the mentalist tricks in action was very intriguing. Max's character evoked a lot of sympathy as his parents went through the trials of divorce and Max clung to the hope of a magic spell. When Max did fine Zabbatini, the tone of the story changed as both characters found hope in one another. The relationship they formed was similar to grandparent and grandchild and exactly what the other needed at the time. I loved the eternal love spell that Zabbatini performed as well as the unlikely connection that he found. Overall, an emotional story that incorporates history, magic and hope.
This book was provided for free in return for an honest review.
Square 15 for the 16 Festive Tasks- Science and Astronomy for Newtonmass
What We See In The Stars is a wonderful book with a lot of good information laid out in an easy to read format, great for a beginner astronomer or someone who has taken an interest in astronomy.
Laid out in successive sections, the importance of astronomy and our understanding of the stars in laid out and written in common language accompanied by wonderful artistry. The stars are outlined in their importance in history, mythology, culture and science as well as our understanding of what lies beyond.
Through reading, I developed an understanding of how we see space from the Earth and how this has developed over time. I was surprised to learn that the Islamic people were among the first to name the stars and their names have been Latinized over time. I loved looking through Ptolemy's Constellations and learning their stories along with the stars that make them up and how they fit in with Greek mythology. The modern constellations added many constellations that I had no idea were recognized, such as the microscope, the telescope and the giraffe. The section of our own galaxy, the milky way was intriguing. There are beautiful depictions of the moon, it's phases, geologic features and seasonal names. This section also discusses the sun, seasons, eclipses and goes into detail about each planet.
A gorgeous book that encouraged me to get outside at night and look up to see what can be discovered.
In 1917, 11-year old Fritz Reynolds is trying to find a good place to set his fox trap in the woods of Linden, NY. He stumbles upon a couple in the woods, thinking that the couple was just looking for some alone time, Fritz hides behind a rock. Instead, Fritz ends up witnessing the brutal murder of the women who ventured into the woods. As Fritz runs away, he is sure that the murderer catches a glimpse of him. Terrified, Fritz keeps the sighting to himself. When the woman is found, she is so brutally beaten that she cannot be identified and more so, the murderer is never found. Years later, another murder shakes the small town of Linden. This time it is a neighbor and obviously committed with forethought. Fritz is immediately reminded of the brutal murder he witnessed before. Several years later, three more beloved residents of Linden are murdered. With no arrests and no good suspects, the residents of Linden are thoroughly shaken. Fritz and his family decide to move on, but the memory of the murders continues to haunt Fritz.
I happened to grow up in Batavia, NY which is right outside of Linden, NY and mentioned quite a lot in the book. So, I have of course heard of the Linden murders and have been to the small town on numerous occasions as well as several of the landmarks mentioned in the book. I enjoy reading about local history and was glad that some new light has been shone on this unsolved mystery in a thoughtful and respectful way. The description of the town, farms and shops created a perfect image in my mind. The main characters names may have changed slightly and Fritz's character was fictional; however, the timeline and details of the case were presented with historical accuracy and detail while the writing drew me into an intriguing mystery. One thing I was surprised to learn was that the Linden murder investigations were among the first to use some new forensic techniques that were being developed such as plaster facial recreations, fingerprinting and using different 'tells' to see if someone was lying. While the Linden murders are still officially unsolved. Shadow By The Bridge provides interesting insight into just who might have committed such awful crimes.