Category Archives: Historical Fiction

REVIEW {40} A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

A Mad, Wicked Folly
SERIESStandalone
AUTHOR: Sharon Biggs Waller
PUBLICATION INFORMATION: January 23rd 2014
EDITION: Hardcover, 448 pages
ACQUISITION: Borrowed | Library
CATEGORIES: Young adult, Review, 5 Stars, Historical Fiction, Romance, Art, Feminism, Coming of Age, Cultural
RATING: 5.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.96/5.00

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist – a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art, her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse – or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

MY THOUGHTS: Considering historical fiction is one of my top genres to read, and I was an art major in college, I didn’t think there could be anything to make me dislike this story – and guess what? I was right, because I adored this book! Like wanted to hug it to my chest and dance around my room with it, loved it!

Let’s talk about how amazing Vicky’s character is. She is so strong willed and dream driven that nothing – and no one – will stop her from getting what she wants! At the beginning of the book Vicky did what she was passionate about, but was still held back by her station in life, thanks to her wealthy upbringing. Once she’s kicked out of her school in France and moves back to London, Vicky finds herself living the life she’s always wanted – except she’s doing it in secret.

I am not very knowledgeable about the suffragette movement, so that was an aspect of the book that I quite enjoyed. To see how these women fought and endured for their freedom – the freedom we as women still benefit from today – is quite incredible. And to have Vicky become a part of that world makes me see her as an even stronger character than I had already come to see her as.

Another wonderful character is Sophie Cumberbunch, Vicky’s lady maid. She is living a similar “Hidden” life like Vicky is forced to – keeping her involvement in the WSPU a secret so that she may gain employment with families such as the Darlings. It is Sophie who really helps Vicky become the person she wants to be. She dresses her in art-centered clothing to bring out Vicky’s passion for art. She helps her sneak out to WSPU events and also art events under the guise of charity work. Luckily Sophie gets her happily ever after at the end, because she really deserves it!!
The romance that blossoms between Vicky and Will is so real and believable. It wasn’t a passing fancy, no matter how hard Vicky tries to convince herself that she doesn’t love him, and can make herself love her fiance, Edmund. It’s sad that at this time in history, this is probably how a lot of young women felt. 
This book is a wonderful read, and I would recommend it really, to anyone!! The only thing I noticed that kind of upset me, is that it seemed to end a little abruptly. I wasn’t ready to end my adventures with Vicky yet! But we get a nice ending with sufficient closure, so there really isn’t much for me to complain about there.

Happy Reading!
Laura

REVIEW {37} The Diviners by Libba Bray

THE DIVINERS
SERIES: The Diviners #1 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Lair of Dreams #2 (Releases August 5th 2014)
AUTHOR: Libba Bray
PUBLICATION INFORMATION: September 18th 2012 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
EDITION: Hardcover, 578 pages
ACQUISITION: Own
CATEGORIES: Young adult, Review, 4 Stars, Libba Bray, The Diviners, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery, Horror, Supernatural, Ghosts
RATING: 4.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.98/5.00
WHAT THE COVER SAYS: Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.


As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

MY THOUGHTS: Horror is not a genre that I typically read, and when this book came out, it was the setting – 1920’s New York City – that drew me in. Whatever I expected this book to be, it wasn’t. Immediately I was absorbed in Evie’s story from her small town life in Zenith, Ohio to her adventures in New York City and new friends Mabel, Theta, and Henry, while appeasing her guardian, uncle Will, and his assistant Jericho.
What I didn’t expect, were the multiple story lines. We followed Evie as well as Memphis Campbell, and even got other little side stories of the murders. There were tons of characters, but it was pretty easy to keep everyone and everything straight.
I am not the type to really read books that delve into the horror of murders. This book doesn’t spare too many gory details. 
I enjoyed the writing style, but felt the book was overly long. While it didn’t feel like it dragged too bad, I did find myself rushing through pages at some points.
The romance of the book doesn’t even occur until the end, and I didn’t feel it was very believable. Throughout the whole book Evie didn’t have any feelings whatsoever about Jericho, and even wondered what Mabel saw in him. But then suddenly she’s daydreaming about his sweaty muscles and kisses on her lips.

Overall, I will definitely be picking up the sequel because I am curious and interested enough and invested in the characters to see where the future takes them.

SIMILAR READS: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron | The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater | Ask the Passengers by A.S. King | Fathomless by Jackson Pearce | Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride | Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama | Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys | The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan | Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr
Happy Reading!
Laura

REVIEW {34} VENOM by Fiona Paul

VENOM
SERIES:Secrets of the Eternal Rose | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Belladonna #2
AUTHOR: Fiona Paul

PUBLICATION INFORMATION: October 30th 2012 by Philomel
EDITION: Hardcover, 435 pages
ACQUISITION: Borrowed | Library
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Thriller, Italy, 2 Star Rating, Philomel, Review
RATING: 2.00/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.79/5.00 (pre-release)

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Cassandra Caravello is one of Renaissance Venice’s lucky elite: with elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, her own lady’s maid, and a wealthy fiancé, she has everything a girl could desire. Yet ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.
When Cass stumbles upon a murdered woman—practically in her own backyard—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of courtesans, killers, and secret societies. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a mysterious artist with a mischievous grin… and a spectacular skill for trouble. Can Cassandra find the murderer, before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancé, or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?
Beauty, love, romance, and mystery weave together in a stunning novel that’s as seductive and surprising as the city of Venice itself.





MY THOUGHTS: I adore historical fiction. Anything set in Renaissance Italy really gets me excited to read! Unfortunately, I was let down by this tale. I found there to be some inaccuracies in the setting and time period, as far as what was occurring in the story. These parts didn’t detract from the overall story, however I can see some people turned off by it. While I did notice them, I would not necessarily say it ruined the book for me.

I had trouble connecting with Cass, the main character. I really didn’t feel anything towards her, or what happened to her. If you are a teenage girl of marrying age, engaged to someone, you shouldn’t be out traipsing about with another man, one of a lowly station at that. And – one who creeps around cemeteries at night, lies to you, keeps things from you, etc. I wasn’t a fan of Falco, at all. In fact, I really didn’t like any of the characters. I believe that they were well written, I just didn’t have any characters that I was interested in knowing.

The writing style itself overall was decent, but the story didn’t go anywhere for me. It was one of the slowest plotted books I’ve read, and that definitely affected the overall rating that I gave the book. You really don’t learn anything – except two things that are major factors in the book; who sent Cass the creepy letter and was at the Dubois party whom she danced with; and what Falco does for a living that was his “big secret”. As far as what the Order of the Eternal Rose is? No idea. Cass’s Fiance mentions it really quick in the few last pages of the book, but that’s it. I’m all for leaving some strings untied at the end of the first book of a series, but this one literally left everything untied, and I felt no satisfaction when I finished the last page and closed the book.

“How terrible it must be to be a member of the noble class. So many rules. Such restraint. You must feel like a caged bird, battering its wings against the side of it’s golden prison.”

One thing that I did enjoy about the book, is the overall darkness and creepiness of it. It definitely had that going for it. I am curious to see how the series continues, but I don’t know if I’ll read the actual book, or just other blogger’s reviews. There could be potential if the plot picks up in the second book, and if there is more depth to the characters and some questions are answered.


SIMILAR READS: The Innocents by Lili Peloquin | Gilt by Katherine Longshore | Dark Star by Bethany Frenette | The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkowski

Happy Reading!

SAVE THE DATE {22} CHARMED VENGEANCE BY SUZANNE LAZEAR

CHARMED VENGEANCE
SERIES: The Aether Chronicles #2 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Innocent Darkness #1
AUTHOR: Suzanne Lazear
EXPECTED PUBLICATION: August 8th 2013 by Flux
EDITION: Paperback, 408 pages
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Steampunk, Fantasy, Paranormal, Fairies, Romance, Historical Fiction, Flux, August 2013 Release, Save the Date

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: In the Faerie realm, Noli Braddock’s relationship with her best friend V has grown into something more. But V’s mother, Faerie Queen Tiana, has ruled that they are forbidden to see each other. Returning to the mortal realm, Noli joins the crew of her brother’s air-pirate ship, the Vixen’s Revenge. There she discovers that her brother has hired the scallywag Faerie huntsman, Kevighn Silver. While serving as shipmates, Kevighn and Noli learn that the Earth Court King plans to find a forbidden artifact–one that will bring destruction to everyone Noli loves.

MY THOUGHTS: Fairies…Steampunk…Romance…need I say more?! And look at that cover – uh, looks like some crazy stuff is going down! This one is on my TBR list, and I definitely think you should add it to yours as well! 

HAPPY READING!

Save the Date {18}

TITLE: Still Star-Crossed
SERIES: Stand-alone
AUTHOR: Melinda Taub
EDITION: Hardcover, 352 pages
PUBLICATION INFORMATION: July 9th 2013 by Delacorte Press
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Retellings, Historical Fiction, Romance, Delacorte Press, Melissa Taub, Still Star-Crossed, July 2013 Release
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Romeo and Juliet are gone. Will love live on? Despite the glooming peace that’s settled on Verona after the recent tragedy, Montagues and Capulets are brawling in the streets. Faced with more bloody battles, Prince Escalus concludes that the only way to truly marry the fortunes of these two families is to literally marry them together. Everyone is skeptical, but none more so than the pair selected, for the most eligible Montague bachelor is Benvolio, Romeo’s best friend, still anguished by the loss of his companions, and the chosen Capulet maid is Juliet’s older cousin Rosaline, the girl Romeo first loved and whose refusal of Romeo’s affection paved the way for bloodshed. Contrary to their late cousins, there’s no love lost between Benvolio and Rosaline, yet they forge a bond to end the renewed feud not only to escape their forced betrothal, but to save their lives and the city of Verona itself. 
MY THOUGHTS: Holy… I.. Oh man. I want this book, like, now! I don’t know what it is about Romeo & Juliet, but anything to do with a retelling or a spin-off type story and I am so there! I think this book has tons of promise, and it is one that I am going to most likely buy immediately. I also adore the cover, and that alone is enough to draw me in.
What do you think? Is this a TBR or Pass for you?
Happy Reading!

Review {28} Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Born Wicked
AUTHOR: Jessica Spotswood
SERIES: The Cahill Witch Chronicles | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Star Crossed #2
ACQUIRED: Borrowed | Library
EDITION: Hardcover, 330 pages
PUBLICATION INFORMATION: February 7th 2012 by Putnam Juvenile
CATEGORIES: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Witches, Romance, Magic, 3.5 Stars, Putnam Juvenile Publishing, Jessica Spotswood, 2013 Read, Book 1 in Series, Born Wicked, The Cahill Witch Chronicles
RATING: 3.50/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.95/5.00
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.


Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

MY THOUGHTS: Born Wicked was an interesting read for me. It’s not one of those action-packed, fast-paced stories where you’re constantly getting whiplash from how quickly the plot goes and how crazy the scenes get. Instead, the first installment in the Cahill Witch Chronicles moves slowly, dishing out dangerous liaisons, magical misuse, and secrets that rock a town to its core.
Cate Cahill is our protagonist. She is almost seventeen, the oldest of three girls, and very maternal since her mother died several years ago. Cate feels that it is her duty to not only care for her two younger sisters, but also to make sure they are not using any of their magical powers, lest the Brotherhood finds out they are witches and tries them. Once tried, a witch would either be sent to the Harwood Asylum or be killed; neither of which are viable options for Cate and her sisters.
Born Wicked is set in an ‘Alternate 1900 New England’ where the Brotherhood rule and at the age of seventeen a girl must announce her intentions to marry (and to whom) or join the Sisterhood. At first I wasn’t sure how I would feel about reading a story taking place in an ‘alternate’ place and time, but once I was into the story, Spotswood does a wonderful job creating the world where her characters live.
The characters are well developed, each with their own personalities and attitudes. I can’t say I necessarily loved Cate as the protagonist, but I am going to assume that she will be a wholly different person in the next book(s) to come. Where she tried to stay as out of sight as possible, I think we are going to see a giant change in her, now that she knows how things really are in New England.
One character I really enjoyed, however; was Finn Belastra. He was a wonderful love interest, and one of two guys to make up the love triangle. He’s smart, witty, and willing to fight anyone or anything for the people that he loves. In that way, he and Cate have a lot in common. They only want to protect their families, and put themselves last. He is wonderfully selfless, and a great match for Cate.
Cate’s two sisters, Tess and Maura, each have a unique voice to the story. Cate is overprotective and suffocates them, and Maura acts out at any chance she gets. Tess is the quieter, gentler one who just wants the three of them to stay unified while making decisions together, rather than suppressing their magic and being told how to behave.
One character that I completely disliked was Sister Elena, from the Sisterhood. She annoyed me from the first page she appeared on. I’m not sure completely what it was that irritated me, but she just rubbed me the wrong way! And how she played the sisters against each other and played with Maura’s heart and emotions was just unforgivable.
The slower pacing of the story, I believe actually helped the story to achieve an eerie, kind of maybe almost Gothic-Victorian type of air to it. I would say it felt rather dark and gloomy than a light, airy read. The Brotherhood is oppressive in their rules – and just like any other “government” type body, they have their corruption and flaws. I will be curious to see how things change within the Sisterhood that will ultimately affect the Brotherhood in the end.
There is a great prophecy that is entangled in the web of this tale as well; one that could have several different outcomes and consequences. There is a bit of a twist at the end – one that I cannot say was completely unpredictable, but I am anxious to see how Cate handles her choices and how it will affect those around her.
Overall, I enjoyed this read for the straight-forward story that it is. I would willingly recommend to anyone who enjoys paranormal, steampunk, historical fiction, or just a good fight-for-love story.

SIMILAR READS: Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne | When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen | Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock | The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges | Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Happy Reading!

Review {22} Changeling

AUTHOR: Philippa Gregory
SERIES: Order of Darkness #1 | OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES: Stormbringer #2 (Expected Publication: June 4th 2013)
PUBLISHED: May 25th 2012 by Simon Pulse
ACQUIRED: Own
EDITION: Hardcover, 256 pages
CATEGORIES: 2012 Release, Did Not Finish, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Italy, Magic, Adventure, Mystery, Paranormal, Simon Pulse, Philipa Gregory, Book #1 in Series
RATING: DNF/5.00 | GOODREADS RATING: 3.14/5.00
WHAT THE BACK OF THE BOOK SAYS: Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl.
Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous – and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year – the end of days.
Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft – and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.
Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.
MY THOUGHTS: I hate not finishing books; especially those written by one of my favorite authors of all time. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy any aspects of this short 256-page introduction to Gregory’s Order of Darkness Series.I could not connect to any of the characters; and I found the story line very difficult to not only follow in the beginning but not engaging or interesting at all. 
Events happen quickly at first, when we first meet Luca and read along as he receives his orders after being accused of heresy. We also meet Isolde, whose father has just died and she learns that she isn’t going to inherit his lands after all, because her dishonest, untrustworthy brother has altered (or lied) about the will and sends her to be the Lady Abbess instead. Once Luca arrives at the Abbey, things slow down incredibly. We crawl through the events of Luca questioning all of the nuns, we see how “odd” Isolde and her companion, Ishraq are, and we realize that there may be more to Ishraq than we first thought.

Isolde and Ishraq escape the Abbey, and when Luca decides that his work there is completed, he travels on to his next mission. That isn’t the end of his run-ins with Isolde though. When I decided that I was not going to finish the book, I was on page 180 (of 256) so you can see I’d made it quite far. This is the chain of events up to that point. There was nothing spectacular or incredulous to keep me reading until the end, which is why I made the decision to go ahead and mark this one as a ‘Did Not Finish’.

The writing style was not the same that I remember from past novels by Gregory, and I think that as well is partly why I wasn’t able to complete the book. I believe that it, too, did not feel like a YA novel. The characters, even though it is an historical novel, did not feel like young adults, and they did not feel very developed to me. The characters were flat and lacked any depth, in my opinion.

WHO WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO: Fans of Philippa Gregory and those who enjoy Medieval Period Historical Novels.

SIMILAR READS: The Unfailing Light by Robin Bridges | Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame | Debutantes by Cora Harrison | Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb | Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Philipa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, which was made into a TV drama and a major film. Published in 2009, the bestselling The White Queen, the story of Elizabeth Woodville, ushered in a new series involving The Cousins’ War (Now known as the War of the Roses) and a new era for the acclaimed author.
Gregory lives with her family on a small farm in Yorkshire, where she keeps horses, hens and ducks. Visit her website at www.PhilippaGregory.com
Her other great interest is the charity she founded nearly twenty years ago; Gardens of The Gambia. She has raised funds and paid for 140 wells in the primary schools of the dry, poverty stricken African country. Thousands of school children have learned market gardening, and drunk the fresh water in the school gardens around the wells.
A former student of Sussex University, and a PhD and Alumna of the Year 2009 of Edinburgh University, her love for history and her commitment to historical accuracy are the hallmarks of her writing. She also reviews for US and UK newspapers, and is a regular broadcaster on television, radio, and webcasts from her website.
Visit her Facebook page.

Happy Reading!
Laura