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As Good As True by Cheryl Reid

A powerful and haunting novel of a woman’s broken past and the painful choices she must make to keep her family and her home.

Title: As Good As True
Author: Cheryl Reid
Publish Date: February 1, 2018, Lake Union
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: August 1956. After a night of rage and terror, Anna Nassad wakes to find her abusive husband dead and instinctively hides her bruises and her relief. As the daughter of Syrian immigrants living in segregated Alabama, Anna has never belonged, and now her world is about to erupt.

Days before, Anna set in motion an explosive chain of events by allowing the first black postman to deliver the mail to her house. But it’s her impulsive act of inviting him inside for a glass of water that raises doubts about Anna’s role in her husband’s death.

As threats and suspicions arise in the angry community, Anna must confront her secrets in the face of devastating turmoil and reconcile her anguished relationship with her daughter. Will she discover the strength to fight for those she loves most, even if it means losing all she’s ever known?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

I enjoyed this story since it offered a glimpse into a little-known part of US history. I’ve never thought about how Arab immigrants would have fit into the Jim Crow South and the unique struggles the families would have as to their status in society.

I was drawn to the main character, Anna, who struggled with being different her whole life. I also thought the author did a great job explaining what caused Anna to make certain choices and why those choices had so much impact on those around her. The loss of her mother at an early age affected Anna and created far-reaching implications that will still be felt in the generations yet to be born.

I give this book 4 stars. I wanted to give it 5 stars, but there were just a few editing errors that were noticeable enough to cause me to “fall out of the story” and take notice, but not enough to keep me from recommending it to others.

Other recommendations…

If you liked this book, I recommend The House of Hidden Mothers by Meera Syal, or Mudbound by Hilary Jordan.

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The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

An intellectual and emotional jigsaw puzzle of a novel for readers of A. S. Byatt’s Possession and Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book.

Title: The Weight of Ink
Author: Rachel Kadish
Publish Date: June 6, 2017, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Set in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history.

As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of seventeenth-century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation. Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents’ scribe, the elusive “Aleph.”

Electrifying and ambitious, sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order to reconcile the life of the heart and mind.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

I give this book 5 stars. It’s deep, thoughtful, weighty, and has so much to say about women’s role in society both today and in years past.

I thoroughly enjoyed the back and forth between the two female main characters separated by centuries. The tension created by the author to find out what happens to both heroines was done so well that even the last few pages left me breathless. The role love & marriage play in most women’s lives is also a core theme in this book.

This is not a book for when you just need some brain candy. Part of the beauty of the book is the long philosophical treatises on the nature of man and God’s role in humanity’s day to day life.

I enjoyed Esther’s rebellious spirit and how she finds ways to prevent herself from being ensnared in the gender role that society creates for her. One of my favorite moments was when she finds herself about to be married off and recognizes in the other woman’s meddling that the only way forward for that other woman was to “insert herself, for sustenance, into the forming of further matches, whether or not they might serve as traps for the souls thus bound.” This is indicative of the writing style throughout the book that I enjoyed so much; part narrative, part poetry, part philosophical rigor.

I also learned much about the early Jewish community in London during the time of the plague. It was fascinating to read how the Jews that first settled in London were treated and how the plague effected the whole city. In addition, it was interesting to be a part of the letters that were being written in that time that laid the ground work for modern metaphysical thinking.

I highly recommend this book for book groups since there is so much to talk about along the themes of freedom, community, and power.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Title: Pachinko
Author: Min Jin Lee
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 by HachetteAudio
Genre: Historical fiction
Narrator: Allison Hiroto
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionPachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

“Life keeps pushing you around, but you never stop playing.”

I picked this book up because it got several good reviews and it covers a time period and geography that I’m not that familiar with.

This is a remarkable tale that covers several decades about Koreans and the plight those who immigrated to Japan faced during and after the wars. The narrator, Allison Hiroto, did a wonderful job with the pacing and the pronunciations of the names of the characters, the various forms of address, and the Korean vocabulary. I’m not sure I would have finished the book if she hadn’t been so good.

I also picked up the book because I was familiar with the game, pachinko. I didn’t realize it was associated with gangsters in Korea and Japan. I just played it in a friend’s basement as a little kid. It was a really fun game and a bit like an upright pinball machine.

I liked the beginning of the book quite a bit. I was introduced to one of the main characters, Sunja, and the Korean peninsula during the colonial era. The day-to-day life of a rural peasant was written in such a way that I had a vivid picture in my head, and I really wanted to continue to know more about Sunja’s life.

However, the book seemed to veer off of that intimate relationship I had with the character when the author chose to have many more first-person narratives. Each of them was a member of Sunja’s family or had some close connection to that family, but I felt less and less close to the characters as more points of view were introduced.

I give this book 4 stars.

Other recommendations…

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, The Persimmon Tree by Bryce Courtenay, or The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng.

Tarnished Journey by Ann Gimpel

This is the final book in the Soul Dance Series. Shifters, Romani, and Celtic gods do battle with demons and vampires who have signed on with Hitler in order to save Earth.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

tarnished-journey.jpgTitle: Tarnished Journey
Author: Ann Gimpel
Series: Soul Dance 04
Publish Date: July 18, 2017, Ann Gimpel Books, LLC
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance
Source: Provided by Publisher

Publisher’s DescriptionLong before Germany rounded up Romani and sent them to prison camps, the Netherlands declared them undesirables. Yara’s caravan disbanded when she was fifteen to avoid being driven out of the country. Ten years have passed, and she’s been alone for most of that time hiding in caves and abandoned buildings. It’s been a lonely life, but at least she still has one.

Stewart conceals his true identity for the best of reasons. He’s not actually Romani, even though he’s been a caravan leader for many years. In a bold and desperate move, he joins a small band of shifters and Rom to fight the Reich’s chokehold on Europe. When they’re crossing the border into the Netherlands, vampires attack.

Yara senses Romani near her cave. The stench of vampire comes through loud and clear too, along with shifters. While not nearly as bad as vampires, her people have always steered clear of them. Another type of magic plucks at her. She can’t identify it, but it draws her from her hiding place. That decision tilts her world on its axis when she comes face to face with Stewart’s raw masculinity and savage presence. She could still turn tail and run. If she stays, it doesn’t require magical ability to recognize her life will change forever.


Luna Lovebooks says…Luna_Lovebooks_100

I am almost sad that this series is ending. I was not sure at first, but it became one I greatly enjoyed. For Tarnished Journey we leave behind the vampires and Nazis (for the most part) and get into another mythos, that of the Celts. I enjoyed that aspect a little more than I did the previous novels.

I love that the author features strong women in her stories. Yara is no exception. She has had to be tough and independent since her caravan disbanded and she has been alone since she was fifteen. Meeting Stewart changes everything for her. He introduces her to a new life and reveals many secrets that have been kept from her such as where her power really comes from. I really enjoyed the romance between them. Stewart is very honest with her and genuine in expressing his love. Even though Yara fights him at first, their love had me rooting for them.

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There is a lot of action in the story and many twists. Readers never know what to expect next as the characters encounter all kinds of danger. Not only do they face vampires demons and the Nazis but now god and goddesses are thrown into the mix.Every chapter the characters face a new and exciting danger.

I liked this story better than the previous installments. I give it 4 talismans!

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Check out the Dragon Lore series by Ann Gimpel, The Hathaways series by LisaKleypas, Gypsy Lord by Kat Martin

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Miss Audrey Rose is back at it again in this delightfully creepy mystery that will have you wondering what goes bump in the night.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Hunting Prince DraculaTitle: Hunting Prince Dracula
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #2
Publish Date: September 19, 2017; Jimmy Patterson
Genre: YA Historical Fiction Mystery
Source: Provided by Publisher

Publisher’s DescriptionFollowing the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna_Lovebooks_100Luna Lovebooks says…

Maniscalco has done it again!

 I cannot stop gushing over how much I loved Staking Jack the Ripper. Seriously if you haven’t read it go do so right now. I will wait! …Read it yet? …GOOD! Now pick up Hunting Prince Dracula, with its whispered lore and beautiful snow covered scenery marred by blood, and fall even harder for Maniscalco’s writing!

I feel like a lot of research went into this book, not only when it came to the Romanian folklore but also the brutal history of Vlad the Impaler and Countess Dracula. The plot is complex and had some slower points, but the action and beautiful settings that make you feel like you are actually in a drafty old castle or walking snow covered forest paths more than make up for them.

I love that Miss Wadsworth is still reeling from the events in Stalking Jack the Ripper. But I was a little disappointed to see her worrying more about what society would think, particularly when it came to Mr. Cresswell (who, by the way, I am becoming a huge fan-girl of) than in the previous novel. But once Audrey deals with her personal demons and throws the incessant worrying about society’s rules out the window, things pick up speed. I was also pleasantly surprised by who the culprit really is. I did not see it coming AT ALL!

badge5v5It is a rare event when a sequel is on par with the first installment of a series. This novel will be taking its rightful place next to Stalking Jack on my shelves and I will shout praises from the rooftop until I am blue in the face. For its complex mystery, beautiful writing, and life-like characters, I give Hunting Prince Dracula 5 leather wings (I’d say Romanian Tarantula, but I hate spiders and that chapter made me itchy!) and eagerly await the third installment!

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Check out these other historical fiction reads: The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

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