historical fiction

Reading Corner – All Together In One Place

oneplace All Together in One Place is a historical fiction novel by Jane Kirkpatrick set in 1852. It chronicles the journey of a number of families moving west on the Oregon Trail. It reminds me of the Commodore 64 game I played in middle school. But with much more vivid detail and emotion than the game ever imparted. The characters endure so many struggles: cholera, thirst, hunger, devastation of many kinds. It is sad and heartening at the same time. Not the most sophisticated writing I’ve ever read but the simplicity sometimes make it more relatable and easy to read and enjoy. I definitely recommend it, especially if you are new to historical fiction; I think it could bring new readers to the genre. It is the first in a series and I look forward to reading the next installments.

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
~ Frederick Douglass

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Reading Corner – Daughter of the God-King

daughterofthegod-kingThis was a delightfully fun read! Yet again, I found myself not wanting to put a book down. So I indulged on Saturday with a lazy morning of coffee and reading for 4 hours, until I finished the latter half of the book.

Daughter of the God-King is book two in Anne Cleeland’s Regency series. (I eagerly await book three!) I liked this one even better than book one, Tainted Angel. I don’t have my own copy of Tainted Angel to cross-check, but I get the feeling that some of the supporting characters in Tainted Angel are present in Daughter of the God-King, but in every other way the book is its own story. In other words, I don’t think you have to read book one to appreciate book two; you’d just miss out on the fun of book one. In Daughter of the God-King, Hattie is a young woman, recently come of age, who is at the center of a mystery surrounding the disappearance and possible death of her parents who are famously well-known scholars in the study of the ancient tombs of Egypt. Hattie sets out on a journey for answers and finds adventure, misfortune, and romance along the way.

I enjoyed DGK immensely. It is quick-paced, full of rich details, mysterious characters, and lots of twists and turns. At one point I laughed out loud I was so shocked by something that I didn’t see coming. It was really a lot of fun to read. It was a little difficult to follow in the first few chapters. I had trouble differentiating the characters, the introductions were brief and didn’t give me good sense of each character. It did not take long for it to come together though. The story is seemingly complex at times and yet easy, light reading at others. It’s a unique juxtaposition that I think in the end works quite well.

I marked a few favorite passages to share:

“Oddly enough, he had the blond woman in tow–she was quite old– at least thirty, if she as a day. Perhaps the woman required his support due to her advanced age.”

While climbing down out a second story window, Hattie’s thoughts were, “The fact that she wore a full plethora of petticoats scarcely slowed her, and in a manner of minutes her uncertain mood was much improved–there was nothing like making a daring escape to lift one’s spirits.”

Upon being invited to join in an activity that Hattie had no interest in, her response to the invite was, “I would be bored beyond imagining and therefore likely to cut the visit short–a most unsatisfactory gooseberry.” I’ve never heard this phrase before! Apparently it’s an older version of the third-wheel. I like it.

DGK is part mystery, part romance, and part historical fiction, a bit like the Venice trilogy by Dave Duncan. If you enjoy any of those genres, then I would highly recommend DGK.

“I read so I can live more than one life in more than one place.” 
~ Anne Tyler

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Reading Corner – Annette Vallon

annettevallonWow. What a story. Annette Vallon is historical fiction at it’s finest. It is a richly woven story, set during the French Revolution, with flavors of romance, adventure, tragedy, and terror. Annette was the language tutor, and subsequently also the lover, of famous poet William Wordsworth. Author James Tipton suggests quite a love story between the two, amid the perils of the French Revolution. Not only was the story an excellent balance of fiction and history, but it was a fascinating read at a time when, I think, our own country is undergoing a great deal of change and splintering. I couldn’t help but see many parallels between the actions of the French revolutionists and the politics of current day. Which is illuminating, but also actually quite scary. Arresting, detaining, and often times executing people for ‘counterrevolutionary’ sympathies as slight as forgetting to wear the tricolor rosette proclaiming the love of country or singing psalms during a funeral procession, because freedom of religious expression has been outlawed, is not a far cry from some of the civil liberties we see violated in our own country these days in the spirit of safety, security, or the fight against terror. How about the recent story of this man who was pulled over, accused of lying that he did not have his legally owned gun in the car, was searched and essentially humiliated in front of his family for nearly 2 hours on the side of the road, on Christmas Eve by an overzealous police officer? Or the probably more well known story of David Eckert who, in January 2013, was forced to undergo multiple colonoscopies and enemas? He’s been awarded 1.5 million for that by the way. Good for him. This kind of extremist behavior towards law abiding citizens is appalling. And it’s happening more and more every day.

It’s scary stuff folks. Forgive my rant that may seem off topic but I can’t comment on the value of this novel without pointing out things it made me think of while reading. I think anyone who is interested in history and/or the climate of our current affairs would find this book to be enlightening to say the least.

He cared nothing for republic or monarchy, just for the river itself, which was much, much older than either of those governments and would be here when kings and revolutionaries had all rotted and become soil washed into the river.
~ Unnamed bargeman, Annette Vallon

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Reading Corner – Tainted Angel

taintedangelTainted Angel was a random selection at the library. Not too bad for completely random. Set in the early 1800’s, during Napoleon’s reign, a female spy is entangled in a web of lies so thick it’s hard to know what is up and what is down. I will be honest and admit that at times I had trouble following some of the action but I enjoyed so much about the story, the writing, the setting, the characters, the intrigue…and the romance, that little things like tracking the spy plots were forgivable. 🙂 If you’re a fan of historical fiction and/or romance, I think this is good rainy day reading. It’s not one of the most moving or sophisticated books I’ve read but it’s great reading for fun.

I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me. 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reading Corner – The Red Scarf

The Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall is historical fiction, set in the Stalinist era of the early 1930’s in Siberia. Readers follow the story of a woman who is barely surviving life in a forced labor camp where convicts and political dissidents (or anyone related to a possible political dissident) are sent to assist in the rapid industrialization movement. Everyone is poor. Everyone is struggling and suffering. Everyone hides their true nature for self-preservation. It’s a terrible, fascinating story. It was an outstanding read. Even when things are so dark, the characters find hope and love. There are a few concepts in the story that stretched reality and edged toward fantasy, in my opinion, but it works for the story. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.
~ Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689 – 1762)