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2017-07-03 10:58 am

A Soft Breath of Wind - Roseanne M. White

Title: A Soft Breath of Wind (A Stray Drop of Blook #2)
Author: Roseanne M. White
Genre: Christian fiction, Historical fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 360 pages
Date read: July, 2017

Zipporah is thirteen when the Spirit descends upon her, opening her eyes to a world beyond the physical goings-on of the villa outside Rome she has always called home. Within hours, she learns what serving the Lord can cost. Forever scarred after a vicious attack, she knows her call is to use this discernment to protect the Way. She knows she must serve the rest of her life at Tutelos, where the growing Roman church has congregated. She knows her lot is set.

Yet is it so wrong to wish that her master, the kind and handsome young Benjamin Visibullis, will eventually see her as something more than a sister in Christ?

Samuel Asinius, adoptive son of a wealthy Roman, has always called Benjamin brother. When their travels take them to Jerusalem for Passover, the last thing he expects is to cross paths with the woman who sold him into slavery as a child the mother he long ago purged from his heart. His sister, Dara, quickly catches Benjamin s eye, but Samuel suspects there is something dark at work.

When Dara, a fortune-teller seeking the will of a shadowy master determined to undermine the Way, comes into the path of Zipporah, a whirlwind descends upon them all.

So... Nina told me that this sequel was even better than the first book in the series. And as usual, she was absolutely right! I could not put it down and finished it in just one day.

While it is a stand-alone sequel, aspects of it definitely make more sense if you've read the first book, but the main character is no longer Abigail, but rather the next generation. Abigail still plays a major part though.

But where the focus of the first book was on finding Jesus, the focus here was definitely more on following him and thus didn't just make for excellent reading, but also had elements that were applicable to my own life (sort of like "The Yada-Yada Prayer Group" which I absolutely adore!). There were certain points where I worried Roseanna White would take the plot in a direction I didn't agree with, but fortunately that never actually happened, and I ended up finding one of the best books I've read all year :-)
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2017-07-03 10:57 am

A Stray Drop of Blood - Roseanne M. White

Title: A Stray Drop of Blood
Author: Roseanne M. White
Genre: Christian fiction, Historical fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 482 pages
Date read: July, 2017

Beautiful is a dangerous thing to be when one is unprotected.

For seven years, Abigail has been a slave in the Visibullis house. With a Hebrew mistress and a Roman master, she has always been more family than servant... until their son returns to Jerusalem after his years in Rome. Within a few months Jason has taken her to his bed and turned her world upsidedown. Maybe, given time, she can come to love him as he says he loves her. But how does she open her heart to the man who ruined her?

Israel's unrest finds a home in her bosom, but their rebellion tears apart her world. Death descends with Barabbas's sword, and Abigail is determined to be there when the criminal is punished. But when she ventures to the trial, Barabbas is not the one the crowd calls to crucify. Instead, it is the teacher her master and Jason had begun to follow, the man from Nazareth that some call the Son of God...

Recommended to me by Nina who talked me into reading this even though I wasn't looking for historical fiction. I'm so grateful she did!

Beautifully written, this book blew me away, and I couldn't put it down. It would have been a solid 5-star book if it hadn't been for the certain death at the half-point mark. I understand Roseanne White's reasons for killing off this particular character and even kinda agree with them (it would have been a very different book indeed if she hadn't), it just detracted somewhat from my enjoyment of the book at that point.

Fortunately the rest of the book made up for it, and despite my annoyance at that event, it still ended up being an altogether amazing book that I may have to add to my physical library at some point. I loved Abigail, I loved Ester and Cleopas and I especially loved Samuel.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
2014-07-14 10:08 am

Written In My Own Heart's Blood - Diana Gabaldon

Title: Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander #8)
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 814
Date read: July, 2014

In June of 1778, the world turns upside-down. The British army withdraws from Philadelphia, George Washington prepares to move from Valley Forge in pursuit, and Jamie Fraser comes back from the dead to discover that his best friend has married Jamie's wife. The ninth Earl of Ellesmere discovers to his horror that he is in fact the illegitimate son of the newly-resurrected Jamie Fraser (a rebel _and_ a Scottish criminal!) and Jamie's nephew Ian Murray discovers that his new-found cousin has an eye for Ian's Quaker betrothed.

Meanwhile, Claire Fraser deals with an asthmatic duke, Benedict Arnold, and the fear that one of her husbands may have murdered the other. And in the 20th century, Jamie and Claire's daughter Brianna is thinking that things are probably easier in the 18th century: her son has been kidnapped, her husband has disappeared into the past, and she's facing a vicious criminal with nothing but a stapler in her hand. Fortunately, her daughter has a miniature cricket bat and her mother's pragmatism.

It took a while to get started, and some of the events in the first 200'ish pages really bugged me... spoiler ), but once it took off, it took off with a vengeance, and I read the last 400 pages in 2 days.

But it is a testament to Gabaldon's writing that even though it took awhile for the plot to line up with my expectations of the plot, I never once considered giving up on it. She would benefit from having a more strict editor though... some of her detours didn't seem altogether necessary.

I loved that - despite everything - Gabaldon was less harsh on her darlings in this book than in many of the previous ones. No, life wasn't easy, but it did serve as a bit of a breather compared to e.g. Fiery Cross.

Did she tie up the loose ends from the last book in a satisfying way? Yes, I think she did. Did she leave me wanting more? Absolutely! Granted, it didn't end with a cliffhanger the way An Echo in the Bone did, but it did leave me thinking "Ooooooh!!! I want to know what happens next!!!" ... but in a good way :) I loved the way it ended :)

In the end, I think this has been her best book in awhile. I thought #7 better than #5 and 6, and I found this better than #7! So that's saying something, at least :) According to her website, this is the penultimate book... we'll see :)
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
2013-10-09 12:52 pm

Shadow of Night - Deborah Harkness

Title: Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2)
Author: Deborah Harkness
Genre: Paranormal, Historical fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 672
Date read: October, 2013

Historian Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library,she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to Matthew. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened.

Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers.

The fact that it took me over a month to read this is in NO WAY an indication of what I thought of it. In fact, I loved it - I've just been too busy knitting to read much. I need to learn how to read and knit at the same time!

But I digress. This was an amazing sequel to A Discovery of Witches and I think I might even like it a tiny bit more than that one. This was Twilight means Dragonfly in Amber (Diana Gabaldon)... I wouldn't have thought it would work, but it totally did!

I loved this chance to see Matthew and his Dad together, and have some questions answered about Diana's family, but am very interested in seeing what awaits the two of them next.

The last book in the trilogy is expected in 2014 - I'll definitely be getting hold of that one as well.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
2013-10-09 12:50 pm

Black Powder Wars - Naomi Novik

Title: Black Powder War
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy, Historical fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~13hrs
Date read: October, 2013

After their fateful adventure in China, Capt. Will Laurence of His Majesty's Aerial Corps and his extraordinary dragon, Temeraire, are waylaid by a mysterious envoy bearing urgent new orders from Britain. Three valuable dragon eggs have been purchased from the Ottoman Empire, and Laurence and Temeraire must detour to Istanbul to escort the precious cargo back to England. Time is of the essence if the eggs are to be borne home before hatching.

Yet disaster threatens the mission at every turn - thanks to the diabolical machinations of the Chinese dragon Lien, who blames Temeraire for her master's death and vows to ally herself with Napoleon and take vengeance. Then, faced with shattering betrayal in an unexpected place, Laurence, Temeraire, and their squad must launch a daring offensive. But what chance do they have against the massed forces of Bonaparte's implacable army?

Better than book 2, still not as good as book 1. I may read more of the series eventually, but it's not at the top of my list just now.

... The fact that those two sentences is all I can think of to say about it probably also indicates how little impression it made on me.

I did love Iskierka though :)
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
2013-09-24 10:29 am

Throne of Jade - Naomi Novik

Title: Thone of Jade (Temeraire #2)
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy, Historical fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~12hrs
Date read: September, 2013

China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands - and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East - a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.

Unfortunately I wasn't quite as blown away by this sequel as by the first book in the series. It was still good, but somewhat repetitive. Guess I prefer their English exploits to their Chinese ones. We'll see where the next book takes us.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
2013-05-16 01:45 pm

Perfume - Patrick Süskind

Title: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Author: Patrick Süskind
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: Audiobook ~9hrs
Date read: May, 2013

In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift - an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille's genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and frest-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the "ultimate perfume" - the scent of a beautiful young virgin.

I'm having a really hard time figuring out how to review this. The plot was very weird, and the main character - though fascinating - was so entirely unsympathetic that I didn't even mind that Spoiler )

Apparently this has been turned into a movie? I can't even begin to imagine what that would be like!
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
2013-02-12 12:52 pm

Border Wedding - Amanda Scott

Title: Border Wedding
Author: Amanda Scott
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 1/5
# pages: 387
Date read: February, 2013

Captured in 1388 in the act of stealing back his own cattle, young Sir William Scott faces hanging, then gets one other choice--to marry immediately his captor's eldest daughter, the lady Margaret Murray, known by all as Muckle-Mouth Meggie. With the line between England and Scotland shifting daily, the Earl of Douglas wants to win back every inch of Scotland that the English have claimed; whereas the equally powerful English Percies (under Hotspur) want to win back the land between Northumberland and Edinburgh; and the Murray family is caught in the middle, shifting its alliances to try to survive. Uncertain whether she is English or Scottish and abruptly married to Sir William who is staunchly loyal to the cause of Scottish independence but who also has promised he'll never take up arms against her family, Meg Murray learns two things: first, Will's word is his bond; second, her favorite brother is spying on Douglas for Hotspur. As Sir Will faces the dilemma of honoring his word to the unscrupulous Murray without betraying Douglas, Meg must choose between betraying the husband with whom she is rapidly falling in love, or betraying her own family and best-loved brother.

Wow.... that was a decidedly terrible book.

The first proof that something was wrong came when I discovered that the main character's name was different on the dust jacket than in the book itself (copied in full above - his name is actuall Wat/Walter. I'm not going to blame the author for that one though, as it's probably more likely to be the fault of her editor/publisher than of herself.

I started this book almost 3 months ago. It's not a long book - just under 400 pages in fact - but just utterly uninteresting. I liked it well enough while reading it, but never disappeared completely into it, and it was far too easy to put it down and pick up something else instead. It was as if it couldn't figure out what kind of book it wanted to be. Was it a period romance? Erotica? Period suspense? A spy novel? Or something else entirely?

I could have forgiven it for all of that though, and fully intended to give it 2 stars for being "OK" until the big reveal 50 pages before the end.

Cutting the rest for spoilers...
Read more... )

I seldom give out 1-star ratings to books, but unfortunately this one really deserved it. And it's the first in a trilogy? Spare me.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
2012-12-14 09:30 am

The Prisoner of Heaven - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Title: The Prisoner of Heaven
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Genre: Historical fiction, suspense
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 278
Date read: December, 2012

Christmas in Barcelona in 1957, one year after Daniel and Bea from The Shadow of the Wind have married. They now have a son, Julian, and are living with Daniel's father at Sempere & Sons. Fermin still works with them and is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. However something appears to be bothering him.

Daniel is alone in the shop one morning when a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters. He spots one of their most precious volumes that is kept locked in a glass cabinet, a beautiful and unique illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. Despite the fact that the stranger seems to care little for books, he wants to buy this expensive edition. Then, to Daniel's surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words 'To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future'. This visit leads back to a story of imprisonment, betrayal and the return of a deadly rival.

Even though The Prisoner of Heaven is the third book in the series of the Cemetary of Forgotten Books, it isn't necessary to have read the two first books in the series. It continues some of the story of especially Shadow of the Wind in such a way that will satisfy people who have read that book, but not confuse readers who haven't.

In The Prisoner of Heaven Fermin is in focus, and we are given his history - how he was imprisoned during the Spanish civil war, how he escaped with the help of a fellow prisoner, and how these events brought him into Daniel's life.

It's very different form the two other books - not the least because it's a lot shorter - but it still has the same gothic style, and I actually ended up thinking it was the best of the lot. I appreciated the look into Fermin's life and getting a better understanding for why he is the way he is.

The book clearly paves the way for a fourth book in the series, and I'll be interested in seeing what happens to Daniel and Bea next.
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2012-11-28 10:09 pm

The Crimson Petal and the White - Michel Faber

Title: The Crimson Petal and the White
Author: Michel Faber
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 932
Date read: November, 2012

Meet Sugar, a nineteen-year-old prostitute in Victorian London who yearns for escape to a better life. From the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, she begins her ascent through society. Beginning with William Rackham, a perfume magnate whose lust for Sugar soon begins to smell like love, she meets a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters as her social rise is overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds.

First a disclaimer: I use the Goodreads definition of the stars, where 2 stars means "It was ok". I.e. this is not a bad rating! It's an average rating.

Because honestly, I thought it was an average book. It was pretty well written, but it was so LONG! And not good enough to justify 900+ pages. The story could easily have been told in half that space. The plot was interesting enough, although I did sometimes wonder where on earth Michel Faber was going with this... which turned out to be a reasonable worry, because the answer was "Nowhere."

Had it had a better ending, I would probably have given it a rating of 3 - maybe even 3.5. But it hadn't, so I didn't. Instead I turned the last page thinking, "That was it?!?!?! What a cop-out!"

I wanted to know what happened next! I wanted the happy ending we got cheated out of. It's a pathetic book indeed when the characters are happier 200 pages from the end that they are at the end - and not a type of pathetic I do well with.

So average. Not a book I'm likely to reread, but one I'm glad to be able to cross off my to-read list and say "The Crimson Petal and the White"? Sure, I've read that!" :)
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2012-08-04 04:49 pm

Dawn's Early Light - Elswyth Thane

Title: Dawn's Early Light
Author: Elswyth Thane
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 365
Date read: August 2012

Against a background of Williamsburg's quiet streets, the pomp and glitter of the Palace during the last days of British rule, and the excitement and triumph which swirled through the Raleigh Tavern, we see the people of Williamsburg whom history has forgotten: aristocratic St. John Sprague, who became George Washington's aide; Regina Greensleeves, the spoilt Virginia Beauty; Julian Day, the young schoolmaster, just arrived from England; and finally, Tibby, the most appealing, irresistible creature Miss Thane has ever written about. Washington, Jefferson, Lafayette, Greene, Francis Marion, and the rest of that brilliant galaxy are portrayed not as historical figures but as men. We see de Kalb's gallant death under a cavalry charge at Camden, the swamp-encircled camp which was Marion's fastness on the Peedee, and the cat-and-mouse game between Cornwallis and Lafayette, which ended in Cornwallis's unlucky stand at Yorktown. "Dawn's Early Light" is the human story behind America's first war for liberty, and of men and women loving and laughing through war to the dawn of a better world.

It has taken me ridiculously long time to finish this book, and I do feel bad about giving it such a low rating, but considering how long I've been reading it, I can't in good conscience claim that it was any better than ok.

The book is split up into three parts. The first part where Julian arrives to the USA and get settles I really liked. That part was a breeze to get through. I loved reading about his friendship with St. John and his job as a teacher - not to mention Kit and Tibby. Had the entire book been like that I would probably have given it a rating of 4/5. Unfortunately then the Revolution started, and with it a much more boring part two. Eslwyth Thane did not manage to make that interesting for me at all and part two was a chore to slog through.

Part 3 was fortunately somewhat a mix of part one and two, so while not quite as good an end as the beginning had lead up to, at least it did end on a better note than I at one point feared.

Guess I'll return to Diana Gabaldon instead for books about the Revolution.
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2012-02-06 10:16 am

Blackout & All Clear - Connie Willis

Title: Blackout & All Clear
Author: Connie Willis
Genre: Sci-fi, historical fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 512p, 643p
Date read: February, 2012

In Blackout, award-winning author Connie Willis returned to the time-traveling future of 2060 - the setting for several of her most celebrated works - and sent three Oxford historians to World War II England: Michael Davies, intent on observing heroism during the Miracle of Dunkirk; Merope Ward, studying children evacuated from London; and Polly Churchill, posing as a shopgirl in the middle of the Blitz. But when the three become unexpectedly trapped in 1940, they struggle not only to find their way home but to survive as Hitler's bombers attempt to pummel London into submission.

Now the situation has grown even more dire. Small discrepancies in the historical record seem to indicate that one or all of them have somehow affected the past, changing the outcome of the war. The belief that the past can be observed but never altered has always been a core belief of time-travel theory - but suddenly it seems that the theory is horribly, tragically wrong.

Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the historians' supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, and seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who nurses a powerful crush on Polly, are engaged in a frantic and seemingly impossible struggle of their own - to find three missing needles in the haystack of history.

An absolutely amazing series, but I am very glad I knew from the set out that "All Clear" was one book split out in two volumes, rather than two individual books. I would have been furious with the cliffhanger at the end of "Blackout" if I hadn't known this in advance. For the same reason I am going to review the two books as one.

In a word - I loved it, and it brought back everything I had loved about Connie Willis' writing in "The Doomsday Book". I liked the way the different plotlines intertwined and was chuffed to spot some of the links before they were made obvious. But as usual, trying to figure out the theory behind time travel gave me a headache ;)

I had serious problems putting the books down, and finished the last one over the weekend. But can somebody explain the ending to me? I have a couple of theories, but wish it had been spelled out for non-mystery solvers like myself...
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2012-01-30 02:00 pm

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 443
Date read: January, 2012

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

I've wanted to read this ever since I saw the movie last year. I loved the movie, and was eager to see how the book compared. Thankfully the movie was very close to the book, so I ended up loving the book just as much as the movie.

I've heard many critics complain that it paints too rosy a picture of the reality, but I don't agree at all. It's very obviously just a selection of experiences and makes it clear that there were many, many others to be found - both some better and some worse. It's a tricky book to write - especially for a white person - but I think Kathryn Stockett handled it well and approached it with humility and poise.

I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being the best book I read all year.
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2011-10-04 09:47 pm

Slammerkin - Emma Donoghue

Title: Slammerkin
Author: Emma Donoghue
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 410
Date read: September, 2011

Born to rough cloth in working-class London in 1748, Mary Saunders hungers for linen and lace. Her lust for a shiny red ribbon leads her to a life of prostitution at a young age. A dangerous misstep sends her fleeing to Monmouth and the refuge of the middle-class household of Mrs. Jones, her mother's childhood friend. There she becomes the seamstress her mother always expected her to be and lives the ordinary life of an ordinary girl.

Although Mary becomes a close confidante of Mrs. Jones and has a catalytic effect on the entire household, her desire for a better life leads her back to prostitution. Ultimately, Mary remains true only to the three rules she learned on the streets of London: Never give up your liberty. Clothes make the woman. Clothes are the greatest lie ever told. And it is clothes, their splendor and their deception, that will finally lead Mary to disaster.

In many ways Slammerkin reminded me of older Danish books in style (like Ditte Menneskebarn and Guds blinde øje to name a couple of examples), but unfortunately that's not an entirely good thing. I've always thought those books too depressing for their own good and much to my disappointment, Slammerkin didn't buck that trend.

A shame, because I had had high hopes for it - Emma Donoghue's Room being one of the very best books I've read this year - and for a time it looked like Mary would figure out how to better her situation and make the most of what life had dealt her. I found the historical descriptions believable and interesting, which is what earned the book its average rating. As a whole, it was merely okay.
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2011-08-31 08:20 am

Waterfall - Lisa Bergren

Title: Waterfall
Author: Lisa T. Bergren
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 384
Date read: August, 2011

Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Bentarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives with their parents, famed Etruscan scholars, among the romantic hills. Stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural Tuscany on yet another hot, dusty archeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds... until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.

And thus does she come to be rescued by the knight-prince Marcello Falassi, who takes her back to his father's castle - a castle Gabi has seen in ruins in another life. Suddenly Gabi's summer in Italy is much, much more interesting. But what do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world?

I'll admit it - my main reason for reading this was that I could get it as a free Kindle book from Amazon. But YA, time-travel and historical fiction sounded like a good mix, so I was eager enough to read it. Not all that eager to finish it though. It's one of those books that you enjoy while reading, but that doesn't leave too much of an impression on you afterwards. I did think Gabi had just a hint of being a Mary Sue at times which meant that the entire book read a bit like wish-fulfilment, and the level of writing didn't exactly dispell that notion.

It was enjoyable enough though, so I think I'd still like to read the next book in the series. Especially as I am actually a tad curious as to what happens next. It had shades of Outlander in its love story, which could be a good thing, depending on where Lisa Bergren takes it from here.
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2011-07-13 03:38 pm

An Echo in the Bone - Diana Gabaldon

Title: An Echo in the Bone
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical romance
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 824
Date read: July, 2011

Jamie Fraser, erstwhile Jacobite and reluctant rebel, knows three things about the American rebellion: the Americans will win, unlikely as that seems in 1778; being on the winning side is no guarantee of survival; and he'd rather die than face his illegitimate son - a young lieutenant in the British Army - across the barrel of a gun. Fraser's time-travelling wife, Claire, also knows a couple of things: that the Americans will win, but that the ultimate price of victory is a mystery. What she does believe is that the price won't include Jamie's life or happiness - not if she has anything to say.

Claire's grown daughter Brianna, and her husband, Roger, watch the unfolding of Brianna's parents' history - a past that may be sneaking up behind their own family.

Long book is LONG! Worth it though. I'd have to say that this is probably better than both book 5 and 6. Wasn't quite as heart wrenching, and for once Gabaldon gave her characters a bit of a break. Not much though... otherwise it wouldn't be her!

One of the weaknesses of the later books is that Gabaldon tries to tell the story from too many different characters' viewpoint, and the reader will invariably be more interested in some story lines than others. Personally I loved Claire, Jamie and Ian's, liked Brianna and Roger's and only cared slightly for Lord John Grey's and William's. I did warm up to the latter though, and loved the way they all connected in the end.

I did think that this book ended with quite the cliffhanger... more than any of the others. Can't wait to read the next one, which I think I've heard may also be the last one? Can anybody confirm or deny this?
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
2011-06-30 01:53 pm

Voyager - Diana Gabaldon

Title: Voyager
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 1059
Date read: June 2011, August 2014

Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her...and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.

Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her...the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland... and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite—or forever doom—her timeless love.

It's a tribute to Diana Gabaldon's writing that no matter how many times I read this book (I think this is my 6th reread? At LEAST), I still get completely drawn in. The only problem is that now I want to reread other books in the series as well and they're all looooong.

Next to Outlander, Voyager is without a doubt my favourite in the series. I love reading about Claire's return to Scotland and her reunion with old friends. The parallel stories of Claire and Jamie frustrated me on my first read-through, because I just wanted to see them together already!! but now I appreciate that insight into their lives.

Sometimes I wish Gabaldon would give them a bit of a break though... although that's even more apparent in later books.
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2011-06-03 12:13 pm

The Last Concubine - Lesley Downer

Title: The Last Concubine
Author: Lesley Downer
Genre: Historical fiction, cultural
Rating: 2.5/5
# pages: 475
Date read: June, 2011

It is 1861.

Growing up deep in the mountains of rural Japan, Sachi has always felt different, her pale skin and fine features setting her apart from her friends and family.

Then, when she is just eleven, an imperial princess passes through her village and sweeps her off to the women's palace in the great city of Edo. Bristling with intrigue and erotic rivalries, the palace is home to three thousand women and only one man - the young shogun. Sachi is chosen as his concubine.

But Japan is changing. Black Ships have come from the West, bringing foreigners eager to add it to their colonial empires. As civil war erupts, Sachi flees for her life.

Rescued by a rebel warrior, she finds unknown feelings stirring within her. But before she dare dream of a life with him, Sachi must unravel the mystery of her own origins - a mystery that encompasses a wrong so terrible that it threatens to destroy her.

I feel a bit bad giving this a rating of only 2.5, because it's in no way a bad book... it's just a book that was so easy for me to put down that it took me 4 months to finish it! It wasn't boring, it just... wasn't engaging either. The author was too far removed from the characters, so the reader never really got to know them or care too much about them either.

It did have some really interesting insights into Japan at the time though, but as a period book was far too long for what I got out of it.
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2011-01-05 10:24 am

The Year of Sacrifice - Rebecca LeeAnne Brammer

Title: The Year of Sacrifice
Author: Rebecca LeeAnne Brammer
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 158
Date read: January, 2011

Hard times face the Fraleys as they wend their way through the early years of the Great Depression on their Eastern Kentucky farm. Through drought, hardship, and tragedy, seven-year-old Odella learns the lesson of sacrifice from the example of her parents and older siblings. But when Odella is asked to sacrifice for the good of her family, will she have the strength to do so?

I was thrilled to find this in my mailbox today, and naturally started it right away. After all, I've been waiting for it for about a year ;)

Just like the first book in the series, The Year of Plenty this is a charming account of the life of a 1930s family on a farm in Kentucky. The title is to be taken seriously though, and even more so the difference between the title of the first one and this one. Depression is setting in, and life is becoming increasingly more difficult for the Fraleys, but they are a close-knit family, always willing to help each other in any way possible, and make the necessary sacrifices to support the others.

But also just like when reading The Year of Plenty, I can't help but wonder how many of the situations were based on actual events, and how many were artistic license from the author. Yes, I'm curious like that.

Despite the sacrifices hinted at in the title, it's a cozy book with much the same atmosphere as "The Little House" series and perfect for a quick comfort read (only took me about 90 minutes to read).
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2010-12-16 01:17 pm

Cathedral of the Sea - Ildefonso Falcones

Title: Cathedral of the Sea
Author: Ildefonso Falcones
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 607
Date read: December, 2010

Arnau Estanyol arrives in Barcelona and joins the powerful guild of stone-workers building the magnificent cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar, while his adoptive brother Joan studies to become a priest. As Arnau prospers, he secretly falls in love with a forbidden woman. When he is betrayed and hauled before the Inquisitor, he finds himself face-to-face with his own brother. Will he lose his life just as his beloved cathedral is finally completed, or will his brother spare him?

A difficult read, as books set in that time tend to be. It always infuriates me to read how nobels treated peasants, how rich treated poor, how Christians treeated Jews, and how the inquisition acted in general.

But leaving aside my natural distaste for those elements, "Cathedral of the Sea" is a brilliant book that gives a fascinating insight into the life and the times of a man in Barcelona in the 14th century. I loved reading about Joan and Armau's childhood and their fascination with the church of Santa Maria. I did feel Joan's developement wasn't sufficiently explained though.

Life handed Armau a tough hand, and it got a bit frustrating to read how one bad thing after another happened to him, but I enjoyed seeing how he made the most of thing, and kept bouncing back up with the help of kind onlookers.

It is by no means a cozy book, but has its comforting moments - I loved seeing Armau's family and friends rallying around him!