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Historical Fiction

The Summer That Melted Everything – Tiffany McDaniel

The Summer that Melted Everything – Tiffany McDaniel

The Summer that Melted Everything

5 Stars (5 / 5)

This was a GREAT read! It totally caught me off guard how absolutely unique and fabulous this book was.

In the summer of 1984, Fielding’s father Autopsy Bliss wrote an invitation to the devil in the newspaper. And the devil accepted. Or did he? A young boy called Sal arrives claiming he is the devil. At first the townspeople think its a joke, that he is a runaway. But as Sal begins to get involved with some of the people from the small town, strange things begin to happen and darkness seems to follow Sal wherever he goes.

I was just so taken aback by the complexity and brilliance of this novel. It is told from Fielding’s point of view in large flashbacks and flash forwards to the the future, when Fielding is a old man. And this back and forward alternating perspective really worked. You get glimpses of what he is like in the future, and slowly start to understand why he is the way he is, and what exactly happened that summer.

It wasn’t so much the story that captivated me (although it was in itself, captivating), it was the writing. The powerful atmosphere and the emotional, resonating quotes and dialogues throughout the book were hauntingly beautiful and incredibly moving. There were numerous occasions where I had to stop reading and sit in wonder at what I just read. At times it was utterly depressing, but not in a bad way!

The characters are all so deep and powerful. They all have their own unique stories and a darkness about them. Fielding was probably the most innocent and naive of the lot. His brother, mother and father were fascinating

Would I recommend The Summer that Melted Everything?

Absolutely! I am surprised that more people don’t know about this novel and I have a feeling that its going to be huge! And I can’t believe that this is a debut!! I can’t wait to see what else the author has up her sleeve for the future!

Many thanks to author Tiffany McDaniel and the publisher for an advanced copy of The Summer that Melted Everything to read and review.

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If you enjoy The Summer that Melted Everything, you may enjoy:

The Muse

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The Muse – Jessie Burton

The Muse – Jessie Burton

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4 Stars (4 / 5)

I must have been living under a rock for the last few years. I had never heard of Jessie Burton or her first, immensely popular novel “The Miniaturist”, before The Muse came into my radar.  I don’t tend to read much historical fiction, so perhaps that is why it was lost on me. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this book because of the former, and I got to ignore all of that and come at my review with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.

The Muse is set in two time frames; In the 1960’s, Odelle moves from Trinidad to London to pursue her dream of being a writer. She gets a job typing at an art gallery, working for an eccentric woman known as Quick. When she meets a man who possesses an unusual and haunting painting, she delves into the mystery of where the painting came from, who the painter was, and what happened to him. Back in time to 1936, Olive and her parents move to Spain where she becomes enamoured with a local young man Issac, who is a revolutionary and an artist. He agrees to paint a portrait of Olive and her mother as a surprise for her father, and this gesture leads to a whole lot of catastrophic events, and melds both time frames together.

As soon as I started reading The Muse I was captured by the writing. Usually historical fiction and I don’t get on very well, but I breezed through this book as if I had read it before. I enjoyed the jumps back and forth in time, each jump giving away bit by bit of the storyline until the final climactic chapters.

I must admit, the key twists were not lost on me, I picked them up quite quickly. However there was always still some doubt if my suspicions were correct throughout.

I loved all the twists and turns, drama and intrigue. There were a few times, especially in the 1930’s Spain setting, that it got slightly slow for me, but I think again that is my usual indifference to historical fiction coming through, rather than any fault of the writer.

Overall I really enjoyed the atmosphere, both the settings and I found the characters to be well written and engaging.

Would I recommend The Muse?

Yes, historical fiction fans – I think you will really enjoy it!  Now I’m off to add The Miniaturist to my to-read pile!

Many thanks to author Jessie Burton via publisher Pan Macmillan for a copy of The Muse in exchange for my honest review.

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If you enjoy The Muse, you may enjoy:

Burial Rites   The Secret Years

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Flight of Dreams – Ariel Lawhon

Flight of Dreams – Ariel Lawhon

Flight of Dreams

4 Stars (4 / 5)

Well, I don’t think I have been so thoroughly educated by a book in a long time! I knew absolutely nothing about the Hindenburg disaster before reading this, and now I feel absolutely enlightened, and a little terrified that this could have happened.

Based on the actual events of May, 1937 – Although worked into a piece of fiction, the Hindenburg makes its final voyage from Germany to the United states. We all know the outcome, have seen the pictures of the air ship engulfed in flames, crashing to the ground. But Lawhon takes us on an enthralling mystery. Out of the colourful characters on the airship those fateful three days, who was the one to bring it down? Numerous passengers stories intertwine to create a story of intrigue, romance and revenge.

I must admit I spent a lot of time on Google and Wikipedia while reading this novel, just to get a better feel for the Hindenburg. The disaster was such a huge event at the time, which has largely been forgotten about,  and it was wonderful that this little gem brought the Hindenburg briefly back to life!

I loved the research that the author did with this novel. All the characters were real people, even if their stories were fiction for the most part. She states that everyone who died on the ship, died in the novel, which she weaved well into her storyline. Even details such as the movement of the airship and the mechanics were meticulously detailed and fascinating!

The only criticisms I have is that it was slightly slow moving in places, and I felt the crash was all over the place, too much going on at once… But of course it was in real life too. It took only 30 seconds for it to hit the ground after it caught alight.

The characters were charming and it was even better knowing that they were based on real people. Both the passengers and the crew were fascinating to read about, right up to the final climactic crash and aftermath.

Would I recommend Flight of Dreams?

Absolutely! Anyone who is a fan of historical fiction, or anyone who has any interest in the Hindenburg will appreciate the information in this book, as well as the exciting storyline.

Many thanks to the author and publisher via NetGalley for a copy of Flight of Dreams to read and review.

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If you enjoy Flight of Dreams, you may enjoy:

The Secret Years    Burial Rites    verity-uk

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Guardian of Paradise – W.E. Lawrence

Guardian of Paradise – W.E. Lawrence

Guardian of Paradise

2.75 Stars (2.75 / 5)

I enjoyed this historical fiction island story. I am not the biggest Historical fiction fan, but the story appealed to me, probably because of the romance. I’m a bit of a sucker for a good romance. Unfortunately there are a few things that fell short for me, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

Kira lives on a pacific island, isolated from the rest of the word. She has been there since she was a young girl. Her parents were taken by a tidal wave years earlier and she has been living alone with the natives ever since. A merchant Australian ship arrives and Kira is apprehensive. What do they want from the small island and the trusting natives? And can she trust the handsome doctor working on the ship?

The story starts out well. The scene of this beautiful island is set and Kira is introduced, along with her friendships with some of the locals. After the ship arrives and she is attracted to the handsome doctor Trevor, the romance progresses along quite well. There are some lovely moments and a few hot scenes… However there is a lot going on with  Kira attempting to discover what the nasty captain and his crew are really doing on the island. And then eventually the story starts to dwindle and become quite long winded. Even the romance and romantic scenes were getting too much by the end of it. They started to become unbelievable and a bit corny. I feel the entire book could have been a bit shorter.

Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kira’s character, I enjoyed the strong female lead and the unique predicament she was in being the only non native living on the island. She knew what the merchants and other settlers were like, even if she had only experienced them in Australia as a child. I didn’t mind Trevor, I did enjoy some of the banter between them. I didn’t enjoy reading the slang that a lot of the locals used, and the written Australian accent attempt. I found them both inconsistent at times.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. Religion or belief in a higher power had not really been explored much throughout the book and so when they started talking about what God wanted for them, I was thinking “Where is this coming from?”. It felt out of place, kind of like the author just wanted to throw it in there at the end.

Would I recommend Guardian of Paradise?

Despite my criticisms, I still enjoyed it. There were a few good funny moments and the author did create a beautiful island atmosphere. The romance had some touching moments and the central storyline was entertaining. I would recommend it to historical romance fans. And only for readers aged 18+ as it was very raunchy at times.

Many thanks to Book Publicity Services for a copy of Guardian of Paradise in exchange for my honest review.

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AMAZON | AMAZON AU | Book Depository

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

W. E. Lawrence Headshot

W. E. Lawrence graduated in 1978 from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a BS in business administration. He has run a successful home health care supplies distributorship for the past twenty-three years.

Passionate about God, writing, reading, family, sports, politics, and America, Lawrence currently lives in Davidson, North Carolina, with his lovely wife and their two wonderful children.

W. E. Lawrence enjoys writing historical romance novels filled with action and adventure. He published his debut novel Guardian of Paradise in October 2014.

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If you enjoy Guardian of Paradise, you may enjoy:

The Secret Years

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11.22.63 – Stephen King

11.22.63 – Stephen King

11.22.63

4.25 Stars (4.25 / 5)

This was yet another mammoth audio book. I’m not sure why I always choose the big ones to listen to… I guess I look at the book and not the 30+ hours its going to take to listen to it!

Jake Epping is an English teacher living out his life until one day his friend Al introduces him to a worm hole in time. Every time the wormhole is entered it takes the passenger back in time to 1958. Al was forced to come back before he was able to change the past, by preventing the Kennedy assassination. Now he want’s Jake to do it – To save thousands of lives that were lost in wars and past events by saving the president in 1963. However the past is the past for a reason. It resists change, as Jake soon discovers.

I really enjoyed this story. Stephen King is one of my favourite authors. Ever since I turned the pages of “Night Shift” all those years ago in my youth, and scared myself to death with “The boogeyman” I have loved everything he has written (even his crappier stuff) because it was him. 11.22.63 Is a fantastic story. Full of heart. And the audio version was just superb. Narrated by Craig Wasson, it is extremely entertaining. You can feel the tension in the exciting parts and Wasson does all the voices so well. Up the top of my list for best audio books!

I am not the biggest fan of historical fiction, not sure why. It just doesn’t appeal to me. And time travel novels can be so hit and miss. There are only a few that I have really enjoyed. But this story is so much more than a historical fiction time travel book. Its so much more than just the events associated with the assassination of the president (although obviously this is the central course of events of the story). It is a romance, an adventure, an action and just a plain old good yarn!

The characters are fabulous. I love the 50’s feel to the characters and places. King has put a LOT of research into this book and it shows. Jake is a great character. Even though some of the choices he made me scratched my head at times, I really liked him. Sadie was also a great character. But the star of the show was the obdurate past. It was a character in itself. Always trying to stop him, and “harmonising” in spooky ways. Gave me goosebumps in a few places (Jimla).

The main reason this story gets a 4.25 from me and not higher, is because a lot of the historical subject matter didn’t interest me that much and it dragged on at times, especially the parts where he was just observing Oswald. I don’t know much about American history so a lot of it went over my head. I just couldn’t give it a higher rating.

However 4.25 is still a great rating, I can’t say I will listen to it again any times soon, but It was an enjoyable ride.

Would I recommend 11.22.63?

Yes! A great read, you wont regret it!


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The Secret Years – Barbara Hannay

The Secret Years

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

I have never been a fan of Australian rural settings in novels. I’m not sure why really, when I was younger they never seemed to interest me. I must be mellowing a bit as I grow older, or perhaps I would have always liked them and was just stubborn.. Either way I am glad I read this book, it was wonderful.

Lucy comes back to Townsville from an army posting in Afghanistan and is excited to be reunited with her fiancée. Unfortunately things do not go quite so well with their reunion, and Lucy finds herself at her mothers house. There, she stumbles across an old biscuit tin full of old papers, letters and photographs. She stumbles across a photograph of her grandmother, who she knows little to nothing about, and begins to investigate her grandmother and her family. Her search leads her to England where she goes to find answers, and stumbles across a bit of romance herself. Simultaneously the story jumps back in time and tells the story of “George”, Lucy’s grandmother, and how she met the love of her life, Harry (An Aussie farmer and soldier) during the second world war, and how she came to transform from an upper class member of English society, to a cattle farmer in the Aussie outback.

Absolutely delightful! I must admit that I had my reservations if I would like this book or not. I saw so many friends rate it highly and have such praise for it, that I had to give it a go. So glad I did because its one of my favourite romances of the year!

All of the characters are fantastic, in both time frames. I especially love Harry, Lucy’s grandfather, and I adored the love story with him and Lucy’s grandmother. Lucy’s mother Rose obviously has some issues in relation to her relationship with her father, and it was interesting to discover why she had these issues and I was anxious to see if she could mend ties. Lucy is a great character too. Independent and strong, and although I didn’t particularly agree with some of her choices, she was a great character. I loved Nick, her love interest.

The only thing I didn’t really like about the book was it got a bit corny towards the end. But it was sweet, and it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the novel.

I’m not generally a fan of historical fiction, but the way this book went back and forth in time was seamless, and fascinating. I was absolutely enthralled by the scenes from the 40’s and the war, especially the scenes set when the Japanese invaded Papua New Guinea . It was all written extremely well and I loved the brief mix of action, suspense and romance. This book is not entirely classed as historical fiction, because the majority of the book was set in the present.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely! A must read for any romance and Australian history fan! And anyone who loves the Aussie outback, The Secret Years is for you!

Thanks to the author via NetGalley for a review copy.

If you enjoy this book, you might enjoy:

the saddler boys   

The Mine – John A. Heldt

the mine

3.25 Stars (3.25 / 5)

I enjoyed this time travel romance. I have a high expectation for time travel books as so often they can so often be done poorly. This one was delightful.

Joel is on a road trip with a friend in the year 2000 when he stumbles across an abandoned mine. It just so happens that some strange celestial event is occurring at the same time and once he enters the mine he is thrust back in time to 1941. With money he can’t use because it hasn’t been printed yet, and no identification, he has to quickly learn how to make his way in a world that is about to be ravaged by war. He also happens to come across his grandmother and fall in love with her very-much-engaged-already best friend Grace. If the opportunity to go home again came, would he take it?

I loved the characters. Joel was a fantastic character! I loved how he was forced to navigate through this foreign time with nothing but his wits and intelligence, and luckily a good memory of history. I enjoyed his sense of humour and take on life. I was a bit perplexed by some of his choices in regards to his love life, but overall he was a great character.

I enjoyed the other characters too but I feel it lacked a bit of conflict. I find I really enjoy stories where the main character makes an enemy or has to work out how to deal with a foe, I felt that this story lacked a bit of OOMPH for me. Don’t get me wrong it was a lovely romance, but I felt at times it was a little slow moving without too much strength in the story to keep me totally hooked.

I really enjoyed the friendship that bloomed between Joel and Tom. That was one of the best parts of the book for me. The predicament he was in, that if he didn’t let Tom go, he would never be born.

The book was extremely well written and easy to read. I polished it off fairly quickly.

As for the romance. I don’t know… I just felt it was slightly forced and unbelievable. I found Grace to be quite a dull character and their interactions were quite drab. And Joel sure was forward to get the attention of the already extremely ENGAGED Grace. And knowing that any alterations that he makes in regards to the timeline may have dire consequences, some of his actions did surprise me. Especially towards the end. However the twist at the very end made up for this and overall it was a satisfying read.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, If you enjoy a nice feel good romance and a bit of time travel with a touch of history, The Mine is for you.

Many thanks to the author John A. Heldt for a copy of this book in exchange for my review.

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Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

Burial Rites

 

5 Stars (5 / 5)

I had a vivid dream a week or so ago. I was at the top of a giant tower. For some reason I had been there all day and I desperately wanted to go home as I was incredibly tired. I crowded into the lift with a handful of other people, none of whom I knew, and we began to make our descent to the ground floor. I remember the dream vividly. Suddenly the elevator jolted and we began to plummet to the ground. As the force of the fall flung me to the roof of the small enclosure, I KNEW I only had mere seconds to live. I immediately thought of my husband and my son, and the reality that I would never see my son grow up came into my mind. I knew I only had seconds left. We were falling, falling down, like on some tremendous rollercoaster. I made peace at that moment, quickly reflected on my life and I pictured my smiling son’s face in my mind and knew that this would be my last moment on earth. We hit bottom. I awoke with a start, sweat pouring down my face, and I could hear my son laughing in the other room with his dad. I cant even begin to describe the relief that poured into me then. The dream had been so real.

I only write about my experience last week because when I began to listen to the audio version of Burial Rites it reminded me of my dream. The darkness that Agnes endures, was like my seconds in the elevator, but drawn out so, so much longer. What an incredible book. The dark haunting atmosphere of this book will no doubt stay with me for a long time to come, and I imagine will always remind me of that brief instant in a dream elevator where my life was ending.

Loosely based on a true story, Burial Rites is the story of Agnes, the last person in Iceland to be put to death for murder. She is sent to a farmhouse to serve the remainder of her sentence before her execution, much to the family’s discontent. There, she receives spiritual guidance from Toti, a priest in training. Slowly she begins to open up to Toti, and the family about her history, her life, and what happened that fateful night that she was accused of killing two men in cold blood. Slowly the truth begins to unravel, and the family begins to realise that Agnes might not be the cold hearted murderess that everyone thinks she is.

I don’t even know how to describe this novel. I saw it in my local library audio book section and remembered seeing it on GoodReads and thinking that for a historical fiction book (not my forte), that it sounded good. It had great reviews and was written by an Australian author and was soon to be made into a movie. So I thought “Why not?”. Surprisingly it was read by Morven Christie, who had narrated my favourite character in “Code Name Verity” which I read recently, so it didn’t take me long to get used to her hauntingly beautiful voice.

It is set in Iceland which is another reason this book appealed to me. It is on my bucket list and I was interested in what it was like back then in the 1800’s, in such a cold, desolate, yet beautiful place. And I’m not going to lie. It’s pretty depressing. The way of life is hard and dangerous, as it was in most places back then. Children died in infancy, women in childbirth and the cold bred nasty infections for everyone. The way Kent describes everyday life in such exquisite, depressing detail is so profound. I am new to audio books, and can’t remember ever before being captured by beautiful prose like I was while listening to this book. My favourite moment of the book, even though it was in a depressing part of the book, was when Agnus was young and her foster father took her out into the cold to watch the northern lights. Their description sent shivers down my spine. I could see them in my minds eye so clearly.

Even before I listened to the authors notes I knew the research that went into this novel was obviously a HUGE undertaking. Thoroughly impressive! Kent’s love for the country is obvious, and it made me want to go and visit Iceland even more!

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely!!!! I HIGHLY recommend the audio version. Just don’t listen to it if you are in the mood for a feel good book! But my gosh! – Its marvellous!

If you enjoy Burial Rites, you may enjoy:

code name verity

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Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein (Audio Version)

code name verity

3.75 Stars (3.75 / 5)

I took a bit of a risk I think, my very first audio book AND Historical fiction… My most detested of all genres… But I enjoyed it! Just didn’t LOVE it like so many others seem to have done.

The story is written (or told in this case) by two best friends set in World War 2. The first part of the novel is written by Queenie who is a prisoner of war, caught in France by the gestapo. She is made to write an account of why she is in German occupied France, and of her friendship with Maddie, who was flying the plane that brought her into France. The second part of the book is Maddie’s version of events. The first part of the novel written by Queenie is obviously written under duress, and although entertaining, it is not till the second part that it all comes together and the whole truth is revealed.

It was a great book. Extremely well written. The characters were written flawlessly and the research that must have gone into this, especially the planes and navigation aspects, was amazingly thorough!

The audio version itself was impressive. The beautiful Scottish accent of the first narrator was wonderful. I really enjoyed the audio version. I don’t think if i read the written version of this book, i would have enjoyed it quite so much. I enjoyed the audio version because I could do other things. Unfortunately I am yet to master housework and reading at the same time so this allows me to do just that. Its funny, when I read a book I can’t remember much about where I was when I read it. With this audio version I can remember the EXACT moment of the most pivotal shocking moment of the book – I was unloading the dishwasher and nearly dropped a plate!

I really enjoyed how the story came together with the second narrator. Everything started to make more sense and it was extremely interesting. Overall though there were quite a few slower parts but then something really interesting would happen to peak my interest again.

It took me a while to get used to listening to a book being read for me. I haven’t been read to since I was a child so it was a bit difficult for me to stick with it at first. But as the story started to flow I was all in.

I would have liked a little bit of romance. I saw potential there, just to throw a bit in, but nothing really happened. I understand though it was hardly a romantic setting!

Overall I really enjoyed Code Name Verity. However I as I said, I didn’t LOVE it. But that’s not the books fault! Its all me! Its still the highest rating I’ve ever given a historical fiction before.

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