Tag Archives: historical fiction

Review: The Lost Sisterhood

sisterhoodThe Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Source: eARC courtesy of publisher via NetGalley

Two main reasons I picked this book is the author (I enjoyed her previous work, Juliet) and she’s writing about Amazons! Girl Power, right?! Plus there isn’t much known about the Amazons –are they a myth or were they real? What’s happened to them? There are so many possibilities and in the realm of fiction… infinite possibilities!

The story is told from 2 perspectives: Diana (present) and Myrina (past). I think Diana is a great choice of a name for a protagonist who is a philologist completely obsessed over the Amazons. Whilst she’s not a fighter or hunter as such, she is proficient in fencing (as a sport) –I found this to be slightly strange and amusing at the same time. Diana is as academic as you could get and will do all she can to gain knowledge about the Amazons. I have to admit that I didn’t particularly find Diana to be special though there were some admirable moves on her part.

Myrina, though, is a very strong and courageous woman. She definitely spoke to my heart of hearts. She fought for her sister and then again for the women in the sisterhood. She is a born fighter and leader; tough, resilient, and sharp. Throughout the reading, her chapters are the ones I looked forward to and dreaded the ending.

There is romance, of course, and though it was sweet…ish, they went as per my expectation so I didn’t find them particularly engaging. In terms of actions (Amazons… actions… you know where my thoughts are going), there really wasn’t much though the ending about the Amazons were kind of interesting though I must admit I was somewhat disappointed. Yes, indeed, Girl Power, and I supposed that might make a very interesting tv series but I just can’t find it in myself to like this conclusion.

Overall, I found The Lost Sisterhood to be a pretty average read. It was slow to begin with and held only half of my attention. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it as engaging as Juliet and due to personal taste, am not a fan of parts of the ending.

Thanks to Random House for copy of eARC via NetGalley

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Review: Infamy

infamyInfamy by Lenny Bartulin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Source: Courtesy of Allen & Unwin via The Reading Room

This time it wasn’t the blurb or the cover which grabbed my attention but the author. I’ve read and enjoyed his previous works which were very different from this altogether. The Jack Susko books were mysteries set in Sydney which had a slight noir atmosphere but modern setting. Infamy is historical fiction set in the early settlement days of Australia, specifically in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Being an immigrant myself, this kind of story (particularly in Australia) appeals to me.

The blurb of this book compares author & this work to other authors & works of which I am unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, this is a point which I can neither support nor disagree with. ‘A Steamy love story’, however, it is not. Well, at least not what I think of what ‘a steamy love story’ is supposed to be. There was attraction at first sight type of thing, a damsel in distress and a hero to rescue but there wasn’t really any sparks that you’d expect from a romance.

The book follows quite a number of characters which encompassed practically all strata of society and from which we can appreciate the story from all different point of views. We can see the story unfolds from the top ruling class to the convicts and the outcasts. The numerous lines of story could have been annoying but the flawless execution of switches between characters made the read smoothly chronological.

One thing that I dislike about historical fiction is how hard life was then and at times, how totally unfair. Whilst Infamy does not shy away from the hard stuff, it also wasn’t that graphic (at this point, I’m referring to violence against women & natives). Let’s just say, things could have been a lot worse but the ending was not in any way distressing as I’d expect from this kind of novel.

Quotes of interest:

‘To be,’ Coyne had said, ‘one must become.’
~the words of a madman

Wells dropped the back of his head to the ground now, lay there and draped an arm over his eyes, felt the cold earth come up into his body. Where the hell was he? Fucking a boy beneath these stars, drunk in this place that he still couldn’t believe was real, drunk and undoubtedly about to die. He remembered once being among kindnesses, some distant and by now frayed and faded love, though he’d never been sure it was his own memory to begin with. More likely it was something pilfered; there was nothing Marcus Wells had ever had in his life that wasn’t already somebody else’s first. Maybe he’d looked into a window from the street somewhere back in England, cold and hungry like he was, seen a fire glowing and a mother sewing, children at her feet and a father dozing in a chair beside. Took it as his own. Did it matter? Could anybody have begrudged him the thieving? Well, he supposed it didn’t matter anymore now. And they had, by God. Begrudged him.
~just utterly hopeless

Thanks to Allen & Unwin via The Reading Room for copy of book

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Blog Tour: Poisoned Waters -a Review

bannerblogtour copy

Welcome to today’s stop where I will be reviewing this amazing mystery book by Ermisensda Alvarez.  Firstly, a bit about the book, if you don’t yet know anything about it.  If you do, just skip down to the review 😉

About the Book

Book-Cover-Poisoned-Waters

Poisoned Waters by Ermisenda Alvarez

Bloody mistakes, ugly scars, and beautiful lies. A tale of corruption.

Helen Gardener is murdered on a trans-Atlantic cruise. The Diamond Royale sails from Southampton to New York with her murderer aboard. Set in the 1950s, Poisoned Waters follows the stories of seven unfortunate characters and how they are affected by her death. Was it merely an accident? Mr Phillips, the owner of the ship, and sponsor of the cruise, rules with an iron fist, in search of something or someone.

Lies spiral out of control as the suspects try to survive the final days on board. Conflicted by their sense of morals, greed, and lust, they realise what kind of people they really are. Who will rise? Who will fall? Who was Helen’s murderer?

My Blurb

For some reason this book reminded me for Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  It’s not quite of the same calibre but it is dark and sinister and played upon that particular human nature which proved too great a temptation to many of us.  It is mostly their settings which are somewhat similar in that they are isolated and outside assistance is not available.

Set in the 50s on a trans-Atlantic cruise ship, the scene first began with a dinner where the first class passengers are dressed to a t.  I can just imagine the glamour, the backless shimmering dress, the bright red lipstick, the black & white contrast of the gents’ tuxedos, the tinkling of polished cutlery, the vivid redness or sparkling clearness of wine in glasses… what a beautiful world to be in!  Unfortunately, things very quickly deteriorated as darkness descended upon these passengers.  A woman was murdered, an investigation instigated, and no secrets can remain safe.

There were so many things happening and so many greatly flawed characters that it was hard to decide if there is one thing to focus on.  I think the most amazing thing about this book was that each character from different walks of background was confronted with their own brand of temptation and was faced with a choice and for some, deadly choices.  I wasn’t expecting this book to be so sinister, so heartbreaking (despite the blurb) because this is so much more than a murder mystery.  It’s about the dark-side of human nature which comes to light when overcome with temptation.

Humanity was like any animal under pressure, whether it was for love, money, or life.  When it counted, the dark monsters inside of ourselves, the part of us we denied, would shed our compassion, feast on blood, and consume our hearts.

4 out of 5 stars

About Author

Author-Photograph-Ermisenda

Along with numerous solo works, Ermisenda began writing on role play sites at fourteen and completed her first crime novel at fifteen. Driven by the desire to evoke the kaleidoscope of emotions her favorite authors are able to, she kept writing. Growing up bilingual amongst her Spanish family in Australia, she found a love and deep appreciation for language and the power it wielded.

Now she’s working on a joint project with coauthor Eliabeth Hawthorne. Ermisenda has written Leocardo’s perspective of Blind Sight #1, the first book in an urban fantasy series that changes depending on whose perspective you’re reading.  So the question is, “whose eyes will you read through?”

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This post has been part of the Poisoned Waters Blog Tour. Poisoned Waters is a thrilling mystery set on a trans-Atlantic cruise where a murderer walks amongst passengers.

preview on Amazongoodreadsmark copy

Review: Game

gameGame by Trevor Shearston

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Source: Uncorrected Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin via The Reading Room

A moving tale of Ben Hall where we are given a glimpse of the man, or who the man could’ve been, behind the bushranger mask. Whilst a number of his adventures as bushranger is included in this story, there are endless possibilities of the thoughts and feelings that would’ve driven Ben Hall to do the things he did and I think Trevor Shearston has done marvellously in balancing that sympathy with a man who is ‘driven’ to bushranging and yet, not condoning them in any way. The book felt very realistic – life was hard, in fact, it was harsh for these Aussie pioneers and one would have to adjust as one chose to.

The book opens with a scene of Ben Hall, Jack Gilbert, and John Dunn bailing a coach. It was actually quite exciting beginning except that I was struggling quite badly with a cold (found it hard to concentrate), the historical terms / lingo (it took me some time to understood that ‘trap’ referred to policeman), and confusion over who’s saying what. This last bit happened quite a few times as a three-way conversation (or more) was told mostly in what was said and not necessarily who said them which can get quite confusing a lot of the time.

description

My background contributed to my struggle with Aussie terms and sayings. I immigrated to Australia when I was 15 so whilst I got to know most modern Aussie lingos, the gap in my knowledge over Australian history (including linguistics) is quite wide. For example, I had to actually search over the internet as to whether any of these characters were real. To my shame, they were (thanks, Google & Wikipedia!) and it sounded like the story of Ben Hall was quite faithful to historical events. I found it very interesting that Ben Hall was described as, “Unlike many bushrangers of the era, he was not responsible for any deaths” [Wikipedia]. There were also things they did, which were well described but since I had no idea what it was, I still got confused. For example, pit-sawing. Again, thanks to the internet, I found pictures to my great delight for now I understood what Ben was experiencing and reason behind his restrain.

Ben likes to thinks that circumstances forced him into bushranging and truly, conditions were so harsh and injustice so rife, that many bushrangers were on this path as they truly believe there is no other alternative. Many people (the poor, in any case) understood bushrangers to have had a rotten past and would be helpful in sheltering them and sharing provisions. The bushrangers themselves would try to repay as best they could. Nevertheless, were whatever it is that made them chose this life reasonable?

[Ann] “…He chose to give up Sandy Creek. No one force him, not even Biddy, though I’m sure he likes to tell himself it was her fault – which goes to what I was saying about blaming everyone but himself. He’s not the first man to be left by his wife. If they all used that as a reason to take to bushranging there wouldn’t be a road safe to travel.”

There really no other way to end this but one way. You could probably tell which way that is. As I said, this book appears to be pretty faithful to historical events. A truly poignant tale of a wretched man struggling to find his way. This is more than just a tale of a legendary bushranger. This is a story of the man who has strayed off the straight path and was looking for a way back.

If you’d enjoyed True History of Kelly Gang, you would definitely love this book. In a way, though I struggle with the language here, it was actually worse with Kelly. If you are not Australian, you would find it a bit hard to read but if you are interested in the history of Australian pioneers and bushrangers, you’ll find this hard to put down.

Thank you, Allen & Unwin via The Reading Room for copy of uncorrected proof of this book in exchange of honest review

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Review: The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession

bookmanThe Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was a good premise, a good mystery but I was disappointed with the predictability of it all. I was hoping for a twist or two or of at least being surprised which unfortunately, I wasn’t at all. There was a point where something I expected happened and I was actually that disappointed that I had to stop reading for a few days. In saying that, it wasn’t a hardship at all to read. It was a pretty enjoyable and relaxing read. I especially enjoyed the love story between Peter and Amanda -a very sweet and endearing romance.

The story is told from 3 different time period settings which took a bit of getting used to, in the beginning. Each is very different in either characters and / or localities so each was enjoyable in its own merit. The only downside was that as we reached a peak moment in one period, we move on to another time period in the next chapter so the momentum was lost. It was as disconcerting as falling on your ass whilst crossing the road during peak traffic!

Whilst I appreciate the author’s effort on tying up loose ends, there was just the one instance where I thought was completely unnecessary and out of place. It was a “really…?” *roll-eye* moment. The tough issue with this type of book is the ending. You could either go controversial and copped a lot of flack as well as praises or… conservative that it’s anticlimactic enough for readers not to feel unsatisfied. Hence, the average rating.

Thank you, Viking Adult via Edelweiss, for the privilege to read & review this galley

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Review: The Railwayman’s Wife

Railwaymans Wife, TheThe Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Source: Courtesy of Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room

I adore the first chapter as it sets the tone of this book. Slow as a small seaside town in the 30s-40s. The most important thing, of course, was that Annika Lachlan was reading… and I can feel myself being drawn into the story and looking through Annika’s point of view.

3 broken persons are seeking for healing, for themselves. Each of them had their own unique gut-wrenching heart-breaking experience and found themselves drawn to each other by the brokenness they sensed in each other. In the midst of all the sadness, there are also beauty- of sweet memories of love from the past, of the beauty surrounding them, of rows of words interlinking. It renders a bittersweet overtone throughout the book which was surprisingly maintained from the beginning to the end and left me with a gasp.

Thirroul is described so beautifully that makes me want to visit! I’m only about an hour’s drive away but due to the descriptions of the book, I’d like to catch a train there. I catch the train 4 days in a week and am not a fan of cityrail. Most Sydneysiders aren’t. However, I now want to go to Thirroul on the train just to be in the footsteps of Annika and to experience the beauty… though since the book is set in the 40s, I doubt I’d feel the same…

The engine is puffing and blowing, pulling hard, and the train presses on towards the archway that’s been carved to open up the mountain… They’re in darkness, the sound monumental, the speed somehow faster when there’s only blackness beyond the windows. And then they’re out, in the light, in the space, in the relative quiet. And there’s the ocean, the sand, the beginnings of this tiny plain that has insinuated itself, tenuous, between the wet and the dry.

It is a reminder of the beauty all around us which we really shouldn’t take for granted for there are also much brokenness. But brokenness are a part of life which makes the beauty of it all more precious.

Thank you, Allen & Unwin and The Reading Room for a copy of Uncorrected Proof of which I truly enjoyed

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Review: Children of Liberty

Children of Liberty by Paullina Simons
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Source: ARC courtesy of HarperCollins Australia and The Reading Room

The Bronze Horseman has been on my to-read list for a while now so I am familiar with the name Paullina Simons but I’ve not read any of her works just yet. When offered an advanced copy of this book, I jumped at the chance, and was especially happy to find out that it was a prequel to The Bronze Horseman. It’d be great to have the background story and it may lit the fire to get me going to read The Broze Horseman. Was it successful? Not at all! In fact, it’s a miserable failure.

Spare me from stupendously idiotic selfish inconsiderate characters! Oh, this book made me so angry! If I wasn’t reading it for a challenge, I reckon it’d be a DNF. Finishing it probably made me angrier because the ending was totally not worth it.

I disliked Gina right from the very beginning. She knows what she wants and she’s a go-getter no matter the consequences. It’s admirable that she would work very hard to get it but her deceitful insidious ways completely turned me off. She had the potential to grow to a character I could admire but that’s not what happened.

To begin with, I actually really liked Ben and Harry. Harry also had the potential but instead both Gina and Harry were so selfish that in the end, they have destroyed all that is beautiful around them. That’s what really got me angry –utter inconsiderate fools! I am truly sorry that I could not for the life of me like these characters which in turn means that I did not enjoy the plot and I absolutely abhorred the ending.

It was an easy to read book (in terms of language used), some minor characters were likeable, the descriptions of setting were lovely and of course, loved the beautiful cover. I’ve kept The Bronze Horseman on my TBR as it appears to have different characters plus I’ve read reviews which stated that they hated this book but loved The Bronze Horseman. I’m just not in any hurry to read it… maybe when I’ve forgotten how angry I am at this book…

Thank you HarperCollins Australia & The Reading Room for the opportunity to read & review this book. Unfortunately, this one is not for me.

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