Tag Archive | Historical

Review: House of Silence by Sarah Barthel

House of Silence Book Cover House of Silence
Sarah Barthel
Historical
Kensington
December 27, 2016
Paperback
261
Goodreads First Read
August 6 - October 6, 2023

For fans of HBO’s The Gilded Age, explore the dazzling world of America’s 19th century elite in this lush, page-turning saga…

Oak Park, Illinois, 1875. Isabelle Larkin's future--like that of every young woman--hinges upon her choice of husband. She delights her mother by becoming engaged to Gregory Gallagher, who is charismatic, politically ambitious, and publicly devoted. But Isabelle's visions of a happy, profitable match come to a halt when she witnesses her fiancé commit a horrific crime--and no one believes her.

Gregory denies all, and Isabelle's mother insists she marry as planned rather than drag them into scandal. Fearing for her life, Isabelle can think of only one escape: she feigns a mental breakdown that renders her mute, and is brought to Bellevue sanitarium. There she finds a friend in fellow patient Mary Todd Lincoln, committed after her husband's assassination. 

In this unlikely refuge, the women become allies, even as Isabelle maintains a veneer of madness for her own protection. But sooner or later, she must reclaim her voice. And if she uses it to expose the truth, Isabelle risks far more than she could ever imagine.

Weaving together a thread of finely tuned suspense with a fascinating setting and real-life figures, Sarah Barthel's debut is historical fiction at its most evocative and compelling.

House of Silence

Review

2.5 Stars

After witnessing her fiancé, Gregory, murder a woman, and having nobody believe her, Isabelle Larkin stops speaking. This is a conscious decision, because why speak if nobody believes you? And when she refuses to speak for a period of time, her mother and her doctor feel there is no other choice than to send her off to Bellevue sanitarium. Isabelle is glad to get away, it means she won’t see Gregory; however, if anyone were to find out, Isabelle’s reputation would be ruined. 

While at Bellevue, Isabelle acquaints herself with the other patients who have various issues, and befriends the staff. And then the former first lady of the USA, Mary Todd Lincoln takes up residence. It is Mrs. Lincoln to whom Isabelle confides.

This book was well written, and the characters fleshed out, however I don’t feel like there was enough substance in the middle of the book. After Isabella witnessed the murder, the book seemed to drag as she did her day to day tasks at Bellevue, and went on carriage rides with Mrs. Lincoln, until we finally reached the climax, which I did enjoy. I would have been more invested had anything happened to Isabelle throughout the middle of the book. As it was, there was one small incident that was barely a blip. It happened so fast, I wasn’t even sure if it was real or Isabelle’s imagination.

I did enjoy learning a little more about Mary Todd Lincoln though. I had no clue that after the assassination of her husband President Abraham Lincoln, she was sent to a sanitarium due to her behaviors that her son found troubling. 

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you’re a big fan of historical novels. 

REVIEW: The Wolf Mirror by Caroline Healy

The Wolf Mirror by Caroline Healy           

Read: March 2016

Format: Uncorrected Manuscript

My Book Rating: 4 Stars

Publisher: Fire & Ice Young Adult Books

Release Date:

Genre: Time Travel YA

Pages: 217


ABOUT THE BOOK

Changing places doesn’t always help you see things differently.

Cassie throws the first punch in a brawl at Winchester Abbey Girl’s School. Her subsequent suspension is a glitch in Cassie’s master plan; Finish School/Get Job/Leave Home (and never come back). As punishment her mother banishes her to Ludlow Park, their creepy ancestral home. In the dark of a stormy night Cassie finds herself transported to 1714, the beginning of the Georgian period.

With the help of a lady’s maid and an obnoxious gentleman, Mr Charles Stafford, Cassie must unravel the mysterious illness afflicting Lord Miller. If Lord Miller kicks the bucket the house goes to Reginald Huxley, the brainless cousin from London.

Cassie’s task is to figure out who is poisoning the Lord of Ludlow without exposing herself to the ridicule of her peers, getting herself committed to the asylum or worse, married off to the first man who will have her.

Cassie must learn to hold her tongue, keep her pride in check and reign in her rebellious nature – because the fate of her entire family, for generations, rests on her shoulders.

Meanwhile, Lady Cassandra Miller frantically searches for her smelling salts or her trusted governess Miss. Blythe, whose soothing advice she would dearly love. Instead Cassandra finds some woman and a boy squatting in the Ludlow mansion; her father, her lady’s maid and all the servants have magically disappeared.

Tell-a-vision, the In-her-net, horseless carriages and women wearing pantaloons; Cassandra is afraid that she might have inhaled fowl air causing her to temporarily lose her senses.

Only when both girls can get over their pride, societal prejudices and self-importance will they be able to return to their rightful century. Until then, they are free to wreak maximum damage on their respective centuries.


REVIEW

Cassie Miller is not handling her parents divorce well. Her mom is a work-a-holic judge in England, and her dad moved to France.

After she’s kicked out of her boarding school, Her mom takes Cassie and her little brother to her ancestral home, Ludlow Park, for some quality family time. But that first night, after a big fight with her mom, a storm rolls in. While trying to sneak a cigarette, the power goes out, right as she’s standing by the creepy wolf mirror in the East Wing.

Suddenly Cassie finds she’s been sent back in time to 1714. Meanwhile, the Lady Cassandra Miller of 1714 finds herself in 2014.

This is an interesting story because while the main plot is that Lady Cassandra’s father is dying and Cassie has to stop that from happening in order to save her lineage. But more than that, it’s about family. Lady Cassandra’s mother is dead, and Cassie doesn’t get along with hers at all. During her time in 1714 she quickly realizes there are many times she wishes her mom was there for her.

Both girls find an ally/confidant in their new time and it’s quite interesting to watch them try to adapt.

I also praise Ms. Healy for her descriptions of 1714. She wasn’t overly descriptive, but there was enough for me to get a feel for a time long past.

The real gem of this story however, is the characters. From page one, I loved Cassie. I felt for her and I wanted her to find acceptance. Sure I didn’t approve of a lot of her life choices, but at the same time I understood her reasons for acting the way she did. I thought she was very well written.

I’d recommend this book for teen and adult readers alike who are looking for interesting, well-developed characters, a little mystery, and the magic of time travel.

 

Disclaimer: I do work for this publisher, and I designed the covers for this series. My rating and opinions are 100% my own. I love this series!


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REVIEW: Risuko by David Kudler

 

Last night at work I was alone folding laundry and able to finally finish this book!
Seriously you guys, the text to speech function on the Kindle is the greatest invention EVER!
Multitasking at its finest.

I was also able to do a little outlining on my novella due next year. Unfortunately, my Bluetooth keyboard wouldn’t connect to my Kindle so I couldn’t actually write. I’m hoping the keyboard just needed charging. Fingers crossed it works tonight!

Now that wedding season is calming down, there’s a little more down time at work so I actually take breaks. When things are busy, I just don’t take a break at work. At least, not one that lasts longer than it takes to eat something, and even then I’m ready to run to the front desk if someone walks in. I don’t mind though, I love my job.

And now, my review!


Risuko by David Kudler

Series: Seasons of the Sword #1

Read: October 5 – 26, 2016

Format: ARC Ebook (Kindle)

My Book Rating: 3 Stars

Publisher: Stillpoint Digital Press

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

Can one girl win a war?

My name is Kano Murasaki, but most people call me Risuko. Squirrel.

I am from Serenity Province, though I was not born there.

My nation has been at war for a hundred years, Serenity is under attack, my family is in disgrace, but some people think that I can bring victory. That I can be a very special kind of woman.

All I want to do is climb.

My name is Kano Murasaki, but everyone calls me Squirrel.

Risuko.

Though Japan has been devastated by a century of civil war, Risuko just wants to climb trees. Growing up far from the battlefields and court intrigues, the fatherless girl finds herself pulled into a plot that may reunite Japan — or may destroy it. She is torn from her home and what is left of her family, but finds new friends at a school that may not be what it seems.

Magical but historical, Risuko follows her along the first dangerous steps to discovering who she truly is.

Kano Murasaki, called Risuko (Squirrel) is a young, fatherless girl, more comfortable climbing trees than down on the ground. Yet she finds herself enmeshed in a game where the board is the whole nation of Japan, where the pieces are armies, moved by scheming lords, and a single girl couldn’t possibly have the power to change the outcome. Or could she?

Historical adventure fiction appropriate for young adult and middle-grade readers.


REVIEW

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Check out this cover art. It’s amazing, right? I’ll admit, I requested this book from NetGalley all those months ago because this cover is amazing. So pretty. Plus there was a little girl called ‘Squirrel’ who is supposed to unite Japan? Sounds awesome!

Unfortunately, I found the story lacking. I couldn’t really connect to the characters on a deep enough level. For example, in the beginning, Risuko is taken from her village after being purchased by Lady Chiyome, and she digs in her heels a little at first, but it really didn’t take much for her to seemingly “get over” being taken from her mother and sister. Sure on the outside she accepts her fate, but I find it hard to believe that a little girl would not even have any internal dialogue resenting Lady Chime or missing her family. She just kind of goes through the motions as if this is all normal.

Now, that isn’t to say that all characters were difficult to understand. The exception is Kee Sun, the Korean cook working for Lady Chiyome. He was fabulous! He has his own nicknames for everyone and just a very vibrant personality.

As far as pacing and plot, it took a really long time to figure out what the plot really was. Things were happening to Risuko, but it was almost like she was a bystander. Her actions were the result of people telling her what to do. It took a long time before her own actions began to drive the plot forward. By the time it ended, I liked where things had gone, but I just didn’t get enough sense of Risuko’s growth as a character. And while I can’t think of any scenes that should have been cut, I just didn’t see most of them really driving the plot forward.

There were some really cool things in this book though. I learned a little about ancient Japan and the Takeda empire. I loved the concept of these women being trained as shrine maidens, but also spies and killers. There was some interesting information about herbs that I enjoyed reading about. (Yes, I’m a nerd.)

Also, the tag line – Can one girl win a war? – is a little misleading. Because really, not much happened in this book. I can see maybe in future books this being a true catch line, but not this one.

So, would I recommend this book?

In the end, I think this book is just written for too young an audience for me. I think it reads more middle grade than YA and tweens and younger teens will probably get more from this story than older teens and adults, like myself. For those interested in ancient Japanese culture, this may be a good intro into the topic/culture. I’d say read the sample online to decide if the book is right for you.



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QUOTES


“…Some people think that I can bring victory. That I can be
a very special kind of woman. All I want to do is climb.”

 

Kee Sun fussed with the platters, placing a bunch of watercress at the end of each, then he turned to us, gravely, and said, “If any of yeh drops year platter, I’ll skin yeh with the dullest, rustiest knife I’ve got, yeh hear?”

REVIEW: Hazel’s Promise by Emily Larkin

Hazel’s Promise by Emily Larkin

Series: The Fey Quartet #2

Read: September 1-14, 2016

Format: Print Book

My Book Rating: 4.5 Stars

Genre: Fantasy Romance

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

A lighthearted and magical tale of adventure, true love, and disguises.

Hazel Miller gave her heart to a man who went off to earn his fortune, but he’s been gone longer than she thought he would. A lot longer.

Dressed as a boy, Hazel sets out to find her lover, but the roads of Medieval England are fraught with peril. When a ragged stranger risks his life to protect her, how can she refuse his company?

Hazel’s quest is about to get complicated—and at its end, she may discover that her true love isn’t the man she has waited ten years for.

This is Hazel’s tale.


REVIEW

I received a free copy of this book via Goodreads First Reads.

 

At only 74 pages, I had some reservations about this novella. I often find that authors can’t develop realistic characters that the reader can understand and identify with. That was not the case with Hazel’s promise.

On his way back to the isolated village in which he lives, Tam passes a young man on his way out. Upon second glance, he realizes the young man is actually a young woman in disguise. Despite longing to arrive home, he turns his cart around and follows her.

The young woman is Hazel, who has just received a wish granted by the faeries. When she was just a young girl she fell hard for a nam named Drewet. He promised to come back for her, once he’d made his fortune away from their little village in Dapple Valley. But Drewet never came back. Using her faeries wish, Hazel is able to locate him and sets off to find him. This is when she meets Tam.

Tam proclaims himself Hazel’s chaperone and accompanies her the rest of the way to Drewet. Along the way they get to know one another and their chemistry is hard to deny. As predicted, by the end of the book Hazel has given up on Drewet and realizes she’s fallen in love with Tam.

I liked the characters in this story. Tam is kind and chivalrous. He isn’t described as being exceedingly good looking, but that doesn’t matter to Hazel because his personality shines. Meanwhile Hazel is quite pretty, at least in the eyes of Tam. She’s also headstrong and determined. When she makes a promise, she keeps it. She’s loyal to a fault and a little naive.

The charming way in which this book is written, it feels like it’s aimed at a younger audience, however some of the content is definitely not. It’s by no means erotica, but there are a couple spicy scenes.

In the end, this little story left me with a smile. I would gladly read the rest of this quartet. And at only 99 cents a pop, I may just do that.



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QUOTES

 

“The debt you owe is much smaller than you think, Hazel Miller…” The smile became speculative. “I slew your dragons; I would be content with a kiss.”

 

“I’d rather live in a one-roomed cottage with you than a manor house with any other man.”