Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: Lily of the Nile (Cleopatra's Daughter #1) by Stephanie Dray

Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony struggles with the complexity of her relationships with her parent's enemies, and her loyalty to her home and religion after she and her brothers are orphaned and held captive in Rome.

In the past, I've been known criticize books that are heavy handed with magic and mysticism, but in truth, I don't mind magic being used in the novels I read, I just want it to make sense and not come across as contrived just for the sake of it. In Lily of the Nile, although magic was frequently involved, I didn't mind it since it did not feel contrived. The plot did not rely too heavily on magic, but Selene's relationships and religion did, which is what this novel is all about.

I'm looking forward to completing this series and seeing how Selene uses her power and influence as a queen in a new land.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction Sales

Happy belated Thanksgiving! Hopefully not too late on this - Black Friday sales on Amazon often extend to Cyber Monday. There's dozens of historical fiction on sale right now - view them here. There's also a number of non-fiction history books on sale here.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: The Huntress by Kate Quinn

Release Date: February 26, 2018

There are some books that are really difficult to review because it's difficult to express just how good it is, at least not without sounding like I'm gushing or fangirling all over. This is one of those books.

In the wake of WWII, an English journalist, American translator, and Russian female pilot track down a German Nazi murderess who committed horrific war crimes before fleeing to Boston where she embeds herself in an All-American family.

Kate Quinn is a master at weaving real history into fictional characters and stories. You might think the fact that they are fictional takes away from the impact of the story but it doesn't, because although the main characters are fictional, they are usually inspired by real life historical figures, and the plot based on real life historical events. And best of all, Quinn's hallmark is her strong and compelling, yet realistic heroines.

Like "The Alice Network", this one jumps back and forth in the timeline, but only over a span of about 10 years. We see the war only through Nina's eyes, a Russian pilot who grew up in the wilderness of Siberia with an abusive father. In the scenes after the war, it's told from the point of view of Ian, a former journalist turned war criminal tracker, and Jordan, a young woman in Boston who can't get passed the niggling thought that something isn't quite right with her seemingly perfect new stepmother.

It was a little frustrating to know the whole time where "the huntress" was hiding but the characters having no way of knowing that, but it did not detract from the enjoyment of the story. For a moment in the beginning, I thought maybe Nina's identity was stolen by the huntress, but then I realized that was silly, Kate Quinn doesn't really do twists like that. It's not a mystery. But it is an incredibly good story and I had great difficulty putting it down.

Advanced review copy from publisher via Edelweiss. My opinions are my own.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Review: The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

Release Date: January 15, 2019

A great novel on an incredible woman. Honestly, if it wasn’t true, I’d hardly believe it. A Hollywood actress who escaped an abusive marriage and the Holocaust just before it came to her Austrian homeland, and became a self taught scientist and inventor, partnering with a musician to develop an unappreciated radio guidance system for torpedoes, which wasn't adopted by the US Navy until the 1960s, and later became the basis for Bluetooth and wi-fi. I know it almost sounds like I just strung a random selection of words together, but it's true and it rightfully makes a great story. My only criticism is that I felt like the ending was a bit of a let down, being somewhat anticlimactic, which I thought might be inevitable given Hedy's life story.

Hedy is a flawed but enormously strong and highly intelligent woman. She uses her beauty to the best of her advantage without compromising her integrity, yet she's not vain, and in some ways, her beauty is what holds her back, as so many people can't see beyond it. She is driven by her empathy and survivors guilt to aid the US military against Hilter. Fulfilling her acting obligations at the same time, she invents a radio guidance system that solves the problem of signal jamming, something no expert with formal education in the industry could do. Sadly, the government rejected her invention until the 1960s for a number reasons, none of them justified.

I feel a little bit like Hedy must have been something of an inspiration for Legally Blonde's Elle Woods: "Did she just wake up one morning and decide 'I think I'll go to law school'?" Did Hedy just wake up one morning and decide, 'I think I'll solve radio signal jamming today'? Of course, it wasn't that simple in reality, but it parallels the movie of an underestimated beautiful woman proving the world wrong and showing everyone just how smart and capable she really is, even if it took some time before they realized it.

Advanced review copy from publisher via NetGalley. My opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

More 2019 Historical Fiction Releases

The Poison Bed: A Novel by Elizabeth Fremantle

Release Date: April 2, 2019

In the autumn of 1615, scandal rocks the Jacobean court, when a celebrated couple, Robert and Frances Carr, are imprisoned on suspicion of murder. Frances is young, captivating, and from a notorious family. She has been rescued from an abusive marriage by Robert, and is determined to make a new life for herself. Whatever the price.

Robert is one of the richest and most famous men in the kingdom. He has risen from nothing to become one of the country’s most powerful men. But to get to the top, you cannot help making enemies.

(Full description at Goodreads)

City of Flickering Light by Juliette Fay

Release Date: April 16, 2019

It’s July 1921, “flickers” are all the rage, and Irene Van Beck has just declared her own independence by jumping off a moving train to escape her fate in a traveling burlesque show. When her friends, fellow dancer Millie Martin and comedian Henry Weiss, leap after her, the trio finds their way to the bright lights of Hollywood with hopes of making it big in the burgeoning silent film industry.

(Full description at Goodreads)

Wunderland: A Novel by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Release Date: April 23, 2019

Things had never been easy between Ava Fisher and her estranged mother Ilse. Too many questions hovered between them: Who was Ava's father? Where had Ilse been during the war? Why had she left her only child in a German orphanage during the war’s final months? But now Ilse’s ashes have arrived from Germany, and with them, a trove of unsent letters addressed to someone else unknown to Ava: Renate Bauer, a childhood friend. As her mother’s letters unfurl a dark past, Ava spirals deep into the shocking history of a woman she never truly knew.

(Full description at Goodreads)

The Red Daughter: A Novel by John Burnham Schwartz

Release Date: April 30, 2019

In one of the most momentous events of the Cold War, Svetlana Alliluyeva, the only daughter of the infamous Soviet despot, abruptly abandoned her life in Moscow in 1967, arriving in New York to throngs of reporters and a nation hungry to hear her story. By her side is Peter Horvath, a young lawyer sent by the CIA to smuggle Svetlana into America. She is a contradictory celebrity: charismatic and headstrong, lonely and haunted, excited and alienated by her adopted country's radically different society. Convincing herself that all she yearns for is a "simple American life," she attempts to settle into suburban existence in Princeton, New Jersey. But one day an invitation from the widow of architect Frank Lloyd Wright arrives, and Svetlana impulsively joins her cultlike community at Taliesin. When this dream ultimately ends in disillusionment, she reaches out to Peter, the one person who understands how the chains of her past still hold her prisoner. As their relationship changes and deepens, it unfolds under the eyes of her CIA minders, and Svetlana and Peter's private lives are no longer their own.

(Full description at Goodreads)

Anna of Kleve, The Princess in the Portrait: A Novel (Six Tudor Queens) by Alison Weir

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe's most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve--a small German duchy--is twenty-four and eager to wed. Henry requests Anna's portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.

(Full description at Goodreads)
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