Review: Come From Away

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Title: Come From Away
Author: Genevieve Graham
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Source: Publisher
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of Tides of Honour and Promises to Keep comes a poignant novel about a young couple caught on opposite sides of the Second World War.

In the fall of 1939, Grace Baker’s three brothers, sharp and proud in their uniforms, board Canadian ships headed for a faraway war. Grace stays behind, tending to the homefront and the general store that helps keep her small Nova Scotian community running. The war, everyone says, will be over before it starts. But three years later, the fighting rages on and rumours swirl about “wolf packs” of German U-Boats lurking in the deep waters along the shores of East Jeddore, a stone’s throw from Grace’s window. As the harsh realities of war come closer to home, Grace buries herself in her work at the store.

Then, one day, a handsome stranger ventures into the store. He claims to be a trapper come from away, and as Grace gets to know him, she becomes enamoured by his gentle smile and thoughtful ways. But after a several weeks, she discovers that Rudi, her mysterious visitor, is not the lonely outsider he appears to be, but someone else entirely—someone not to be trusted. When a shocking truth about her family forces Grace to question everything she has so strongly believed, she realizes that she and Rudi have more in common than she had thought. And if Grace is to have a chance at love, she must not only choose a side, but take a stand.

Come from Away is a mesmerizing story of love, shifting allegiances, and second chances, set against the tumultuous years of the Second World War.

Review:

I like historical fiction, but not usually books that are set during WWI or WWII. However, I loved this story!

This story has a real twist on a typical war love story. Rather than being about two people who are torn apart during the war, this story is about Grace and Rudi who meet during the war. The twist is that Rudi is a Nazi who has become stranded in Nova Scotia. The setting and the circumstances make this story unique.

The narrative switches between Grace’s and Rudi’s perspectives. This way, we get to see both sides of the story. Grace doesn’t want to betray her country, but she is drawn toward the German man. Rudi has to be careful about what he does and says in order to stay safe.

I loved this book, and I highly recommend it!

Review & Book Launch: The Home for Unwanted Girls

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Title: The Home for Unwanted Girls
Author: Joanna Goodman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Source: Purchased
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Philomena meets Orphan Train in this suspenseful, provocative novel filled with love, secrets, and deceit—the story of a young unwed mother who is forcibly separated from her daughter at birth and the lengths to which they go to find each other.

In 1950s Quebec, French and English tolerate each other with precarious civility—much like Maggie Hughes’ parents. Maggie’s English-speaking father has ambitions for his daughter that don’t include marriage to the poor French boy on the next farm over. But Maggie’s heart is captured by Gabriel Phénix. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, her parents force her to give baby Elodie up for adoption and get her life ‘back on track’.

Elodie is raised in Quebec’s impoverished orphanage system. It’s a precarious enough existence that takes a tragic turn when Elodie, along with thousands of other orphans in Quebec, is declared mentally ill as the result of a new law that provides more funding to psychiatric hospitals than to orphanages. Bright and determined, Elodie withstands abysmal treatment at the nuns’ hands, finally earning her freedom at seventeen, when she is thrust into an alien, often unnerving world.

Maggie, married to a businessman eager to start a family, cannot forget the daughter she was forced to abandon, and a chance reconnection with Gabriel spurs a wrenching choice. As time passes, the stories of Maggie and Elodie intertwine but never touch, until Maggie realizes she must take what she wants from life and go in search of her long-lost daughter, finally reclaiming the truth that has been denied them both.

Review:

I loved this book! I had high expectations because I loved Joanna’s previous book, The Finishing School (that was also one of the first books I reviewed on my blog!).

The narrative switches between Maggie’s and Elodie’s perspectives. At first, I preferred Elodie’s story, because her experience at the orphanage was so new to me. But then I got hooked on Maggie’s story.

This story was heartbreaking, but it is an important story that needed to be told. I didn’t know about these orphanages that turned into psychiatric hospitals in Quebec. The story also had twists that I didn’t see coming, with some romance along the way. I highly recommend this book!

I was invited by HarperCollins Canada to attend the book launch at Ben McNally Books last week in Toronto. It was a great experience! Here are some photos from the event:

 

This book is amazing! Have you read it yet?

Review: White Houses

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Title: White Houses
Author: Amy Bloom
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Rating: ★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

For readers of The Paris Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenuecomes a “sensuous, captivating account of a forbidden affair between two women” (People)–Eleanor Roosevelt and “first friend” Lorena Hickok.

Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.

From Washington, D.C. to Hyde Park, from a little white house on Long Island to an apartment on Manhattan’s Washington Square, Amy Bloom’s new novel moves elegantly through fascinating places and times, written in compelling prose and with emotional depth, wit, and acuity.

Review:

Since I’m Canadian, I don’t know much about American History. I wasn’t very familiar with the Roosevelts before reading this story. I learned a lot, but this story just wasn’t for me.

The story was quite confusing at times. It jumped around in the timeline. The main story was about Lorena and Eleanor in a hotel in New York following Franklin Roosevelt’s death. But Lorena would tell stories from her past at times. It was confusing when she would jump to a different time between paragraphs. Sometimes, I would be reading a scene and I would forget what the point of it was or even how she got to that story.

Whenever I read historical fiction, I end up googling the characters to see what parts are true. Many of the events in the story really happened. But some seemed over the top. One example of this is a scene with a circus troupe near the beginning of the story. It reminded me of the exaggerated circus story from the movie Big Fish. These scenes didn’t seem connected. This book was really missing an overall plot to weave these scenes together.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t work for me.

Review: Mad Miss Mimic

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Title: Mad Miss Mimic
Author: Sarah Henstra
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Source: Borrowed from a friend
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Jane Austen meets Arthur Conan Doyle in a historical fiction debut for fans of Ruta Sepetys and Elizabeth Wein.

Born into an affluent family, Leo outwardly seems like a typical daughter of English privilege in the 1870s: she lives with her wealthy married sister Christabel, and lacks for neither dresses nor trinkets. But Leo has a crippling speech impediment that makes it difficult for her to speak but curiously allows her to mimic other people’s voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her “Mad Miss Mimic” behind her back… and watch as she unintentionally scares off every potential suitor. Only the impossibly handsome Mr. Thornfax seems interested in Leo…but why? And does he have a connection to the mysterious Black Glove group that has London in its terrifying grasp? Trapped in a city under siege by terror attacks and gripped by opium fever, where doctors (including her brother-in-law) race to patent an injectable formula, Leo must search for truth in increasingly dangerous situations – but to do so, she must first find her voice.

Review:

I loved this Victorian novel! As the description says, it has aspects of both Jane Austen and Sherlock Holmes novels.

Leo is an interesting character. She’s very secluded because of her stutter, but she is still expected to follow the path of a Victorian lady by marrying into money. Because of her stutter, she has faced many hardships. A unique aspect of her stutter is that she can mimic voices perfectly. But that has led her into more trouble than anything. When she mimicked the voice of her sister’s suitor, her words ended her sister’s engagement and also ruined her relationship with her only sibling.

Most of the characters were unlikeable, which is hard for the writer to do and still create a great story. Right from the beginning I didn’t like Christabel, her husband, or Mr. Thornfax. I didn’t like the way they patronized Leo, solely because of her stutter. But I liked Leo and I rooted for her through the whole book. She was intelligent, and took risks to solve the mystery of the Black Glove.

I’m definitely going to follow this author, because this was a great debut novel!

Blog Tour: Robin Hood’s Dawn

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Title: Robin Hood’s Dawn
Author: Olivia Longueville
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Angevin World Publishing LLC
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

England, 1154-1194
A kingdom under assault.
A conspiracy born of anarchy.
A hero standing against tyranny.

Falsely convicted of a shocking crime, Robin Fitzooth, the Earl of Huntingdon, finds refuge in Sherwood Forest and becomes Robin Hood.

Leading a band of men against the injustices of a malevolent sheriff and his henchmen, Robin begins to unravel a web of treachery threatening the English royal family.

As shadowy forces gather to destroy the future of a nation, Robin faces deceit, betrayal, and the ravages of war as he defends his king, his country, his people, and the woman he loves from a conspiracy so diabolical, so unexpected, that the course of history hangs in the balance.

From the mists of an ancient woodland, to lavish royal courts teeming with intrigue, to the exotic shores of the Holy Land – Robin Hood leads the fight in a battle between good and evil, justice and tyranny, the future and the past.

Part one of an exciting three-part retelling of the Robin Hood legend!

Review:

When I was approached about reading this book, I was only vaguely familiar with the story of Robin Hood. I watched the Disney movie and I read some Robin Hood books when I was a kid. I knew he took from the rich and gave to the poor, but that was just a small part of this story. This book gave so much more fascinating details about Robin Hood.

I loved the background of the characters that was given at the beginning. The characters all had so much depth, because their family histories were told before they were introduced. I enjoy English historical fiction, so I really liked this story.

The story wasn’t just about Robin Hood. It really talked about the royal issues at the time, such as who will inherit the throne. Many people took advantage of their position to abuse their power, such as the Sheriff. But these situations only gave Robin Hood an opportunity to become a hero.

The story was incredibly detailed. So much happened in the story, that I can’t imagine what will happen in the next instalments. This story would be great for fans of historical fiction and Robin Hood.

Blog Tour: A Pearl For My Mistress

Title: A Pearl for My Mistress
Author: Annabel Fielding
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HQ Digital
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: August 9, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

A story of class, scandal and forbidden passions in the shadow of war. Perfect for fans of Iona Grey, Gill Paul and Downtown Abbey.

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household.

Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…

Review:

I love books set in England. I was excited to read this new historical fiction novel.

Because it was set in the 1930s, it kept reminding me of Downton Abbey. I kept picturing Lucy and Hester’s relationship like Mary and Anna from Downton, at least from their early friendship.

There were a bunch of parts that had high tension, such as someone being chased through a dark alley. But they were often resolved in a calm way. These parts had the potential for a lot of drama if they ended with more exciting twists.

I found the romantic relationship between two main characters unbelievable (I don’t want to give details to give away spoilers). There didn’t seem to be a valid reason that they loved each other. They just suddenly said it so it had to be true. I didn’t see their relationship grow and develop, so I wasn’t rooting for them.

I also thought the beginning of the story wasn’t a good introduction. It talked about characters that disappeared for quite a while, so I was lost when Hester’s story began. If that prologue wasn’t there, it would have been a much stronger beginning.

I would have liked to see Lucy’s parents. Lucy talked about them but they never appeared in the story. I also wondered why Lucy was being given a lady’s maid. Typically, only married women had a lady’s maid. And if the family could only afford a housekeeper and one housemaid, how could they afford the extra expense of a maid for their daughter? These things didn’t make sense.

This story was a unique historical fiction, though questionable at times.

Review: Birdcage Walk


Title: Birdcage Walk
Author: Helen Dunmore
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
Source: NetGalley
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Rating: ★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence.

Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism.

But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war. Soon his plans for a magnificent terrace built above the two-hundred-foot drop of the Gorge come under threat.

Diner believes that Lizzie’s independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants.

In a tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror, Diner’s passion for Lizzie darkens until she finds herself dangerously alone. 

Review:

I love books that are set in historical England. I always learn things from them. I was a little lost when at the beginning because I wasn’t familiar with what was happening at that time period.  

The story began with a contemporary narrator who found Lizzie’s mother’s grave. He wants to learn more about Julia but there isn’t anything documented about her. Then Lizzie’s story begins. I wish the first narrator was revisited throughout the story. I enjoyed his part, while he searched for information on Lizzie’s mother. 

Lizzie’s mother, Julia, was a feminist. She believed in fighting for women’s rights. This was nice to see in a historical setting, though I have to wonder how realistic that would be during that time. 

The story was narrated by Lizzie, but I didn’t feel connected to her. She did things that didn’t make sense and she couldn’t even explain herself. I found her annoying most of the time. 

The story was very character driven. There wasn’t a lot of plot happening. In the last quarter of the book, the story picked up when some drama happened. But I didn’t find it exciting for most of the book. 

I found this book a little disappointing. It just wasn’t exciting enough for me.