Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Genre Freebie- Historical Fiction Eras I've Never Read About


For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, the topic was a "genre freebie." So of course I have to post about my favorite genre: historical fiction. It's a very busy time right now....school, baseball, band, etc....so this week I needed to be short and sweet as I'm low on time! But I wanted to post on this topic because I just know my fellow bloggers will jump in and make it fun by giving me the books they've read set in these eras to broaden my reading. So here are the time periods I have never, ever read about in fiction. Give me all the books you recommend!

1. Pre-1066 Norman Invasion- I have not read anything prior to the conquest of England by William the Conqueror. It is not an era that appeals to me...the whole "Last Kingdom" time. I'm sure there are some great books about it though. Circa....600-1000 Britain.

2. Ancient Greece- Maybe I've never looked hard enough but there seems to be a shortage of good historical fiction for this time period. Or maybe it's because it's all battles and blood and not so much people. But surely I'm missing something!

3. Napoleonic Wars- On my Classics Club list I have a goal to read War and Peace but haven't been able to find a lot from this time period that interests me yet. 

4. Ancient Egypt- The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George is the only book coming to mind that I've considered reading from this era. 

5. Irish Republican Army conflict- I am sure there are some fabulous books about this topic/era that I'm missing. 

6. Korean War- There is not a single book that springs to mind about this time period. It's often forgotten in the world of novels. 

7. Scotland prior to 1300's- Pre- Robert the Bruce time period I haven't seen much but there are probably some books there.

8. The Roaring Twenties- Now full disclaimer....I have read The Great Gatsby which would technically fall during this time period. But other than that one, I can't recall another historical fiction book in this category. 

9. 1400-1600's Italy- I know there are some great books about this period. Jean Plaidy has a series of novels about the DeMedici family and I'm sure there are lots more but I haven't tackled this era yet.

10. Pre- Crusdades Middle East- Wow...now this would be a great era to know more about through fiction. I would love to know more about the stories of those living there prior to 1100 when their world changed with the coming of the Franks.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie: A Tommy and Tuppence Collection (Read Christie 2023 February Selection)

Publication Date: 1929

Length: 214 pages

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When I started this book for the Read Christie challenge this month, I had no idea it was a series of short stories. I wasn't thrilled as I'm not a big fan of short stories or novellas. I just find it is hard to get into the characters and storyline when it is such a short piece. But I was pleasantly surprised by this book and thought it worked well. Having never read any Tommy and Tuppence books before I knew nothing about them and it was a great way to get small glimpses into their relationship. 

When the book begins, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford have been asked to pose as owners of the International Detective Agency. Their old friend, Mr. Carter, who works for the government has asked Tommy to pretend to be Mr. Theodore Blunt and for Tuppence to be his assistant. They are to continue taking on legitimate cases while also looking for any information regarding the whereabouts of enemy spies that need to be apprehended. They also have an assistant named Albert to help them. Throughout the book as they solve current cases, the couple uses the style of different famous detectives to help them, ambitiously guaranteeing a resolution within 24 hours. Even Hercule Poirot's style makes an appearance in one story.

With seventeen stories this book is impressive. Christie's clever clues and use of the methods of a different detective each time are entertaining. For Read Christie February the focus was on the method of murder with a blunt object although with so many stories this didn't factor in every time. Rather than review them all, and they are short enough that reviewing them too in depth gives away far too much of the plots, I will give honorable mention to a few of my favorites. All can be read separately and and contain witty dialogue, suspense, and just enough depth to be puzzling. The banter between Tommy and Tuppence is adorable and I thought they came across as an authentically loving couple.

"The Case of the Missing Lady" involving an explorer who has returned home to find his fiancee missing, "The House of Lurking Death" with a mysterious, scripture quoting woman and poison as the murder weapon, and " The Unbreakable Alibi" where a man takes on a challenge to win the woman he loves, were the ones I enjoyed most. These all had a touch of either humor or originality that stuck with me. It is hard to choose though because each case was so different and unique. Tying in the idea of a famous detective's handprint to the solution was brilliant. I honestly hadn't heard of most of them and it made me want to read their mystery stories as well. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be reading more of Tommy and Tuppence in the future. The last page was heartwarming and a perfect conclusion to their cases. 


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: The King's Jewel by Elizabeth Chadwick


For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I am excited to feature The King's Jewel by Elizabeth Chadwick. I have yet to read one of her books (still working my way through other novels from the same periods) but I am determined to read one this year and review it. This one really appeals to me because it is set in Wales in 1093 which is a rare find in novels and features a real person in the character of Prince Rhys of Deheubarth's daughter, Nesta. 

April 18, 2023

Historical Fiction

Book description courtesy of Amazon

Wales, 1093.

The warm, comfortable family life of young Nesta, daughter of Prince Rhys of Deheubarth is destroyed when her father is killed and she is taken hostage. Her honor is further tarnished when she is taken as an unwilling concubine by King William's ruthless younger brother Henry, who later ascends the throne under suspicious circumstances.

Gerald FitzWalter, an ambitious young knight is rewarded for his unwavering loyalty to his new King with Nesta's hand in marriage. He is delighted, having always admired her from afar, but Nesta's only comfort is her return to her beloved Wales where cannot she help but be tempted by the handsome, charismatic and dangerous son of the Welsh prince, Owain. When he offers her the chance to join him in his plan to overthrow Norman rule she must choose between her duty and her desire . . .

Friday, February 17, 2023

Mystery By the Sea by Verity Bright (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery) Book Five

Publication Date: March 8, 2021

Length: 286 pages

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆

The setting for this book was not one I was familiar with. Being American I didn't know much about Brighton, England, or why people choose to vacation there. It was a lot of fun to be given a lesson in geography and culture along with a cozy mystery! I love all things water.....sea, ocean, whatever, so this sounds like a place I'd like to visit. Clifford the butler was a great tour guide in this one as he and Ellie work to solve who has murdered her husband.....the one she thought was already dead.

When the story begins, Ellie is taking a much deserved holiday to celebrate her 30th birthday, with her butler Clifford and her bulldog Gladstone. Also tagging along is her cook, Mrs. Trotman, housekeeper Mrs. Butters, and awkward but loveable kitchen maid, Polly. As Ellie and Clifford arrive ahead of the others they are once again thrust into a murder mystery, this time involving Eleanor's husband, Hilary, who was supposed to have died six years earlier under mysterious circumstances. How on earth did she end up at the same hotel at the exact same time his murder occurs? Shocked and confused, she nevertheless sets out determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. 

As the clues unfold she and Clifford make a list of suspects. As each one is eliminated and a second mysterious death occurs, they are more bewildered than ever. It seems Hilary was a man of mystery and Ellie feels she hardly knew him at all. The only real clue they have is a wedding photograph with a cryptic message on the back and the stories told to them by the remaining suspects. DCI Hugh Seldon from previous adventures arrives to be of assistance but is limited on resources himself. Ellie must discover who murdered her husband for two reasons it seems: the need to know what happened to him and her growing feelings for Hugh. She will need to resolve one relationship before she can start another.

I really enjoyed this story. It was fast paced as all the Verity Bright books are with the same recurring, adorable characters and the typical shady suspects. I didn't guess the ending and it had a few extra twists that made it fun and didn't really get resolved until the last 30 pages or so. Throughout the story Clifford, Ellie, and the hilarious ladies visit all the Brighton sights and go to the beach in surprise homemade swimsuits. Clifford shows his softer side and even gets caught testing the waters with his trousers rolled up. The author weaves local and historical information into their sightseeing which I really enjoyed and was very informative. You felt as if you'd visited Brighton yourself by the end and if I ever go I will definitely know about some things to see and do along the way. 

This is a solid series I will be continuing and is always a nice, uplifting break from more serious books. And the covers are an added bonus....I just love seeing what colorful, cute 1920's style look will grace the next one. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Romantic Themes I Haven't Read Yet


This week's Top Ten Tuesday theme, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is a Valentine's Day freebie choice. I decided to list the top ten books with romantic themes that I haven't read yet. I know the title sounds a bit awkward...but these aren't necessarily "romance novels." So I chose to call them "romantic themes." Just to be extra confusing....lol. Hope everyone has a wonderful Valentines Day, however you choose to spend it! 

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy- consistently listed as the best novel of all time...it's on my Classics Club list as number 1.

2. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak- I've seen the movie numerous times and love it, but I should probably read the actual book.

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte- I enjoyed Jane Eyre but never got around to this one. Everyone recommends it so it must be good.

4. The Bride by Julie Garwood- I don't generally read these types of romances but I've seen it on top ten lists for years now so I'm intrigued.

5. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen- Still working my way through Austen novels and this one is a must read.

6. Border Bride by Amanda Scott- Another more recent romance novel but I love her books and this is one of her earlier ones. 

7. Redeeming Miss Marcotte by Martha Keyes- I love promoting this author. She is fairly new to the scene but quickly becoming very successful. She writes sweet, wholesome books and this story is a retelling of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

8. Poldark by Winston Graham- I have watched this show on PBS Masterpiece Theater twice now and never get tired of it! Ross and Demelza, George and Elizabeth, Doctor Enys and Caroline.....wonderful couples to revisit and I need to get started on this series!

9. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens- This may seem like an odd choice for romance but I recently watched the mini-series and I found it to be a sweet, romantic story at heart.

10. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough- An epic that has been recommended to me many times. I'm sure it has to be fantastic.

Friday, February 10, 2023

St. Peter's Fair (Cadfael Chronicles Book 4) by Ellis Peters


Publication Date:  January 1, 1981

Length:  219 pages

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆

This series has always interested me due to its unique time period, well written dialogue, and intriguing plots. The continuation of Brother Cadfael's story along with recurring characters make it a must read, I have to check in and see what happens next. I struggle to read new authors for this reason.....I just love series books! And Ellis Peters has such a good grasp of vocabulary and description of the medieval period I always feel like I'm actually there myself. 

This story centers around real events, (as do all the Cadfael Chronicles), during the period known as The Anarchy. King Stephen and Empress Matilda are still warring over who will rule England, and the monks in Shrewsbury are caught in the middle. Empress Maud is trying to gain support for an invasion and takeover along with her brother, Robert of Gloucester and his son-in-law, Ranulf, the Earl of Chester, who she hopes will join the cause. Ranulf has not decided which side to join, Stephen or Maud, and is interested in weighing his options. In the summer of 1139, everyone in Shrewsbury is eagerly awaiting the start of the St. Peter's Fair. 

The story is broken down into sections: The Eve of the Fair, The First Day of the Fair, The Second Day of the Fair, The Third Day of the Fair, and After the Fair. At the beginning of the story we find the monks preparing for the three day event which will take place in and around the Abbey. This has been a long standing tradition, one in which the Abbey stands to benefit monetarily from the revenue generated. Geoffrey Corviser, the town provost, wants the order to allow for some of the money raised to go to damages incurred from last year's siege of the town but Abbot Radulfus is unmoved. He states that this is not the responsibility of the Abbey and that no money will be given. 

Tensions begin to rise between the townspeople who want the money for repairs and the merchants of the fair, who are caught in the middle and don't want to be seen sharing the profits and going against the traditions of the Abbey. When a wealthy wine merchant, Thomas of Bristol is pushed to the breaking point, he hits one of the young men with his staff and a riot begins. Later, when Thomas is found naked, murdered, and stripped of his clothes, Phillip Corvisor, the young man he assaulted, is charged with his death. 

Meanwhile, Thomas's niece, Emma, is grappling with the shock of her Uncle's death and feeling the weight of both the murder and the realization that she must make decisions regarding the wine business and her future. During all of the happenings, Cadfael takes Emma under his wing and vows to help her get to the bottom of her Uncle's murder. He is not convinced the right man has been arrested and charged. Due to clues uncovered regarding the state of the body and what appears to be the break in and search of Thomas and Emma's booth by an unknown culprit, he thinks there may be much more depth to the story and that the murderer is using the convenient surroundings of the riot and Phillip's involvement to mask a more sinister plot. As more is revealed, Emma realizes she may be in danger herself and must be careful as she works to uncover the truth. 

While the story had all the same elements of the three previous books, I found myself a bit bored with this one which is why I only gave it three out of five stars. It was disappointing because I look forward to being entertained when I pick up one of these and they are usually an enjoyable break from longer, epic books. The story's setting at the fair just wasn't terribly interesting and the main characters didn't excite me. Most of the real action didn't get going until late into the plot and even then, it wasn't that suspenseful. Cadfael didn't factor into many parts of the story that I normally expect and so I found myself wishing we'd seen and heard more from him. 

My favorite part was at the very end when the murderer and the motives behind the crime were revealed. I thought it was clever and brought some more history into the mix, which I always love. So even though it was a bit of a slog to get there, the ending was pretty satisfying. I will definitely be continuing with the series, but will probably take another break from it for a bit. The next story looks more interesting just based on the title, The Leper of St. Giles. Cadfael must seek help from the nearby leper colony and that alone sounds fascinating. 

The Cadfael Chronicles are well written, classic mysteries, but there are twenty so I'm sure there are bound to be a few that won't make the very top of my favorite list. They are still worth the read though.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Can't Wait Wednesday: The Armor of Light by Ken Follett

For this week's Can't Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, I realize I've chosen a book that will be quite the wait! This book doesn't even come out until September 2023 but it is sure to be a popular one.  I have only read the first book in this series, The Pillars of the Earth, so I am very behind but even if I don't make it to this one this year, I know others who would want to see it coming. I was especially intrigued to see it covers the Napoleonic Era which I want to know more about so I may just have to jump in and read it out of order. 

September 2023

Historical Fiction

Book description courtesy of Amazon

The long-awaited sequel to A Column of Fire, The Armor of Light, heralds a new dawn for Kingsbridge, England, where progress clashes with tradition, class struggles push into every part of society, and war in Europe engulfs the entire continent and beyond.

The Spinning Jenny was invented in 1770, and with that, a new era of manufacturing and industry changed lives everywhere within a generation. A world filled with unrest wrestles for control over this new world order: A mother’s husband is killed in a work accident due to negligence; a young woman fights to fund her school for impoverished children; a well-intentioned young man unexpectedly inherits a failing business; one man ruthlessly protects his wealth no matter the cost, all the while war cries are heard from France, as Napoleon sets forth a violent master plan to become emperor of the world. As institutions are challenged and toppled in unprecedented fashion, ripples of change ricochet through our characters’ lives as they are left to reckon with the future and a world they must rebuild from the ashes of war.

Over thirty years ago, Ken Follett published his most popular novel, The Pillars of the Earth. Now, with this electrifying addition to the Kingsbridge series we are plunged into the battlefield between compassion and greed, love and hate, progress and tradition. It is through each character that we are given a new perspective to the seismic shifts that shook the world in nineteenth-century Europe.


Friday, February 3, 2023

The Chevalier: (Morland Dynasty Book 7) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Publication Date: November 3, 1994

Length: 410 pages

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆

I came across these books last year and thought the idea behind them was really unique. The author wanted to create a sort of "history without tears" approach to British history and decided to write these books covering chronologically the era from the Wars of the Roses through World War II. She got as far as the Great Depression era before the publishers decided to call it quits. That's a real shame because they are gems and apparently are making a comeback recently. Maybe they will decide to let her continue if the demand is there.

I decided to start with this one because it covers an often neglected time period between the Glorious Revolution and the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. I have the first one called The Founding and will definitely have to go back and read it because I admit to being a bit lost with all the characters and no knowledge of their backstories. It was still readable though. The story begins in the late 1600's as James II has fled England for France after being deposed by William of Orange. The Morland family is gathered around discussing their future and how they will support the Catholic James in his fight to regain his throne. The family matriarch, Annunciata has decided to go to France and see how she can assist there. The family left behind, including her five year old grandson James Matthias "Matt", are prepared to live under Protestant rule despite their reservations in order to care for Morland Place, the family estate.

The story shifts from the political angle to the personal as we see Matt grow up, Annunciata living her years out in France, and several Morland family members making their way in foreign countries. Matt's life on the Morland estate is told through his interaction with childhood friends living on the property and we begin to see the chasm grow between tenant and overlord. Despite being a gentle, kind hearted soul, Matt must come to terms with his priviledged place in the world and how it will affect his life going forward. He eventually marries the selfish, spoiled India who will receive her own inheritance upon the marriage and although Matt wants to believe his bride cares for him it is obvious she is self serving and narcissictic, caring only for her and her mother's life of luxury. 

In the third half of the book we return in earnest to the political as the Jacobite rebellion heats up. The Morlands become tangled in the attempts by the Scots to regain the throne for James and his heirs and not all of the Morlands will survive. Annunciata returns, an old woman, to Morland Place to live out her years. As new family is born, while others perish, the dynasty continues on. 

This book did an excellent job of educating the reader about the time period and its lead up to the rebellion as well as the intricate details of how it all took place. I have not found another historical fiction novel about this subject that had so many pieces of information woven into the narrative: Sophia of Hanover, her son George, the process by which the rebellion happened piece by piece, was included in such a way that I wondered where the author had gotten all of her research from. Many non-fiction books dealing with the Jacobites don't have as much thorough information. This made the third part of the book the most interesting for me. 

I will be honest and say I wasn't a fan of the first part of the book and it took me awhile to get into it. There was too much emphasis on Matt and India's relationship for my taste and I just couldn't bring myself to care about them. So I think I'm going to have a love/hate feeling about this series. I love the history she brings but am not crazy about all the details of the family members lives. Perhaps it was these particular people though and maybe when I read the first book it will have a different dynamic to it. It was a good story though and I can definitely say she succeeds in her goal of teaching history in an absorbing way.