Reading · Reviews

Book Review: Big Water

I wish historical fiction would take off in young adult. Well technically I wish it would get way more popular across the board. It’s one of those tough genres that houses hesitate to take risks on and as a person who loves historical I’m sick of seeing mostly WWII fiction these days. Historical fiction can be a great way to get teens interested in history, so when I found Big Water I was excited to pick up a YA historical based on a real historical event and it didn’t disappoint. I would love to find some YA historical based on real history for my own client list too.

Big Water is based off the true story of the steamship Asia that sank in Ontario’s Georgian Bay in 1882. The only two survivors of the wreck were two teenagers. Christina is struggling with the death of her twin brother and believes her family wishes she’d died instead of him. She decides to run away to find work elsewhere and winds up on the ship Asia. When an unexpected storm whips up, the overloaded boat is no match for the large waves and the ship sinks. Christina finds herself in a fight for survival against the storm in a lifeboat alongside fellow passenger Daniel. She fears he might be a criminal but she has no choice but to rely on him if they both want to make it off the water alive. Continue reading “Book Review: Big Water”

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Reading · Reviews

Book Review: The Lost Season of Love and Snow

The Lost Season of Love and Snow is about Russian poet Alexander Pushkin’s wife Natalya. I loved this book and recommend it to fans of Russian history, controversial female figures, and historical dramas. While it is heavily character driven, the book kept me riveted. I can see this appealing to fans of books such as The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence and My Dear Hamilton.

Alexander Pushkin is Russia’s most famous poet. When he dies from wounds inflicted in a duel meant to protect his wife’s honor, Natalya is blamed for his death. The story explores Natalya’s story from how she met Alexander, their dramatic marriage, and his death and the events leading to it. While there is tragedy to this book, the romance helps keep the book from becoming too dark and gloomy and while avoiding spoilers, the ending let’s you walk away on a positive note. Continue reading “Book Review: The Lost Season of Love and Snow”

Reading · Reviews

Book Review: Ivory and Bone

Ivory and Bone is a young adult novel set during the Ice Age. It’s the first of a series with the next book in the series, Obsidian and Stars, already out. Overall I give this book 4 stars out of 5. I’ve been craving books set during the Ice Age and I wish there were more of them, but I admit I had a few hangups with this book while reading. However I still look forward to reading Obsidian and Stars.

Ivory and Bone is about a teenager named Kol who is searching for a bride while finding his clan caught up in a war between two other clans. First off this book does a great job of bringing to light some of the struggles teenagers during the Ice Age would have dealt with, like the main character Kol searching for a bride amongst other clans because there aren’t enough girls in his clan. This book also tackles the issue of the number of mammoths dwindling, making survival a struggle for those who relied on them. The setting of this book is what made the story was the books biggest strength in my opinion. Continue reading “Book Review: Ivory and Bone”

history · Reading · Writing

Modern Women in Historical Fiction

Historical fiction has always been one of my favorite genres right behind fantasy. While I love all kinds of historical fiction, I enjoy reading about the lives of women since their experiences can be so different from my experiences today. However, I’ve noticed historical women being modernized too much in ways that don’t match their time periods. Making a main character relatable without too much modernization can be difficult, but I love seeing historically accurate representations of women.

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Sometimes I pick up a historical and think, “Wow, this main character reads as though she stepped right out of the current day and into history.” Looking at you in particular here historical fantasy novels. It’s true that some women were ahead of their day, but often the modernizing of women in regards to their views and attitudes aren’t always historically accurate. I’ve noticed a trend of historical and historical fantasy gravitating around women who don’t want to get married, usually for reasons that wouldn’t fly in their time period. Views about their own place in society are often modern as well. While I appreciate the women who fight against society to make progress or refuse to accept the double standards placed on them, I also find myself longing for stories about the average woman and how she navigated the social mores cast upon her. While women who were ahead of their time can be easier for a modern author to write about, reading about the average woman helps me appreciate the progress made since their era and how different my life has been from theirs. Continue reading “Modern Women in Historical Fiction”

Reading · Reviews · Uncategorized

Book Review: The Silent Companions

One of my recent reads was a spooky Victorian gothic set in a crumbling English estate in the countryside. I enjoy horror and creepy stories and I have a tendency to gravitate toward ones with historical settings. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell did not disappoint. I give it 4 stars and if you are looking for a good creepy gothic, add this to your list right away. If you are like me and find stories about anything doll-like horrifying then don’t read this one right before bed.

So what’s it about? Elsie has recently married into the Bainbridge family. Her husband’s family is marked by tragedy, including the death of countless Bainbridge heirs, but Elsie has also suffered from the gruesome loss of her father in the family’s matchstick factory. Elsie’s happy marriage comes to a screeching halt when her husband suddenly dies, leaving her as the owner of the Bainbridge estate known as the Bridge. The estate is full of eerie lifelike wooden dolls. Elsie is unnerved when she discovers one that looks just like her as a child. Her fears intensify when the dolls begin to multiply, first taking on the visages of past inhabitants and then tragic figures from her own background. Then the grisly bodies of the Bridge’s inhabitants begin to stack up. What at first seems to be a dark power haunting the manor could just as easily be Elsie’s runaway imagination bringing her fears to life. Purcell masterfully toes the line between these possibilities as she tells the story behind the lurking evil through Elsie’s experiences at the Bridge, her time spent in a psychiatric hospital after her stay, and through the 17th-century diary revealing the origin of the dolls. Continue reading “Book Review: The Silent Companions”

history · Reading · Reviews

Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid

I couldn’t pass up a book that takes place in 1860’s industrial Pittsburgh, let alone one about Carnegie. You might recognize the author Marie Benedict from her last book, The Other Einstein. I give Carnegie’s Maid 3.5 stars. While I enjoyed the idea of the story, the world-building and character development fell too flat for me. The climax was also underwhelming. One thing this book did get right is detailing the struggle of Irish immigrants in America. That aspect was the most believable for me in this historical.

As the title suggests, Carnegie’s Maid follows the story of Clara Kelly, an Irish immigrant who heads to America to find employment. When a girl with the same name as her dies on the boat, Clara assumes the other girl’s identity to take her job in Pittsburgh as a lady’s maid. Clara uses her salary to help her struggling family in Ireland. However, her new position becomes tricky when a blossoming romance begins between Clara and Andrew Carnegie. Due to their difference in status, a successful marriage between them is unlikely. When Carnegie’s mother gets wind of Clara’s fake identity, she threatens to tell Andrew. Knowing a happy future together is futile, Clara leaves to pursue a life elsewhere, using her salary to pay for her family’s tickets to America. The story is a great peek into the rise of the Carnegie steel empire, how Carnegie’s success affected poor immigrants, and his sudden rise as a philanthropist. Continue reading “Book Review: Carnegie’s Maid”

history · Reading · Reviews

Book Review: On A Cold Dark Sea

On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell is about three women who were aboard the Titanic. No Jack and Rose here, so no need to debate if they could have both fit on their makeshift raft, but there is still a touch of tragic romance. I give this Titanic tale four stars. While there are romantic elements to it, the story focuses more on the human element and how the tragedy impacted the lives of survivors and not the excitement of the sinking.

This book is about three women from varying backgrounds and social standings: Charlotte, Esme, and Anna. The book switches between perspectives effortlessly. Charlotte winds up on the Titanic with a man she loves but can’t marry. Esme is struck in a loveless marriage while she falls for a man named Charlie who sweeps her off her feet. Anna is leaving behind her home of Sweden to make a new life in America while her best friend prepares to marry the love of Anna’s life. Each woman survives the sinking, but they don’t escape unscathed. They all lose someone close to them and in the aftermath struggle to come to terms with their lives post-tragedy. None of them can fully escape the past while Anna prepares for a marriage of her own, Esme fights to hold onto her new love, and Charlotte mourns what could have been. This book explores what it means to be a Titanic survivor.

The book shows us snippets of their lives before boarding the Titanic, their time aboard, and how they fared after surviving including coming to terms with those they lost in the sinking. This makes it easy to see the big picture and the impact the tragedy had on their lives and in some cases, how it changed the course of their lives. The actual sinking of the ship itself gets little screen time, which is unfortunate for those of us interested in it, but it also keeps the sinking from taking up too much of the book.

Continue reading “Book Review: On A Cold Dark Sea”