Posted in 19th Century Iceland Reviews

review: Burial Rites

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent This story opens on a small family farm in Northern Iceland with two sisters receiving the news that their household was chosen to retain a young woman who had recently been convicted of murder. When Agnes Magnúsdóttir arrived filthy and starved, everyone in the family and neighboring farms were repulsed by merely the thought of being near her. But when a young assistant reverend begins visiting and engages Agnes in speaking of her past, an unlikely understanding slowly develops with those closest to her. The outcome of this story is known beforehand–both because it’s a well-known historical case in Iceland, and because it’s relayed in the official book description. The telling of the story, however, is where the intrigue lies….

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Posted in 19th Century Austen First Line Friday

First Line Friday: 03/03/2017

“Sometimes anger is a living thing.” THE PURSUIT OF MARY BENNET by Pamela Mingle “A tale of love and marriage, society balls and courtship, class and a touch of scandal, Pamela Mingle’s The Pursuit of Mary Bennet is a fresh take on one of the most beloved novels of all time, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Growing up with four extraordinary sisters—beautiful and confident Jane and Elizabeth, and flirtatious and lighthearted Lydia and Kitty—wasn’t easy for an awkward bookworm like Mary Bennet. But with nearly all of her sisters married and gone from the household, the unrefined Mary has transformed into an attractive and eligible young woman in her own right. When another scandal involving Lydia and Wickham threatens the Bennet house, Mary and Kitty…

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Posted in 19th Century Europe First Line Friday Victorian

First Line Friday: 01/13/17

“That solemnity which etiquette, decorum and decency insisted should prevail could scarcely hide the excited expectation in the Palace of Kensington on that June morning in the year 1837.” THE QUEEN AND LORD M by Jean Plaidy On the morning of 20th June 1837, an eighteen-year-old girl is called from her bed to be told that she is Queen of England. The Victorian age has begun. The young queen’s first few years are beset with court scandal and malicious gossip: there is the unsavoury Flora Hastings affair, a source of extreme embarrassment to the queen; the eternal conflict between Victoria and her mother; and, the young queen’s hatred of Sir John Conroy, her mother’s close friend. Then there is the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne –…

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Posted in 19th Century 20th Century America Book Buys Europe WWII

New Year, New Books!

To kick off 2017, I ordered myself 4 books that have been on my my wishlist. This year I plan on reading more books I choose to read, rather than orphans from my editing work (the majority of the YA books I reviewed last year), or review requests. What better way to start than by anticipating lovely, new books in the mail? Burial Rites by Hannah Kent BOOK DESCRIPTION: A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await…

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Posted in 19th Century America Civil War Reviews

review: Mercer Girls

Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker In 1864, founder of the University of Washington, Asa Mercer, left the Territory in search of young, single women willing to make the treacherous journey from the East Coast of the United States to the Pacific Northwest. While Mr. Mercer did not hide the fact that honorable women were needed for marriage–the population in Washington was 9/10ths male–they were also offered respectable employment. The three women who narrate this story each have a different reason for joining the expedition, and as their stories unfold they find that though they are dissimilar in many ways, the journey binds them together like sisters. Josephine (Jo) is the oldest at age 35, and has joined the Mercer Girls under mysterious circumstances that play…

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Posted in 19th Century Austen Reviews

review: Mansfield Park Revisited

Mansfield Park Revisited by Joan Aiken I’ve not actually read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, but I have seen a film adaptation and so I know the characters and the story (though I am sure with inaccuracies, as is the nature of movie vs. book). The Susan Price of this novel is a kind, unassuming and helpful person, eager to put people at ease and assist in making the household run smoothly. Her nemesis is her cousin Julia, who sees her as a lowly and reaching poor relation — a burden upon the family. In this story there are several different possible matches for Susan, and all are explored through a series of gatherings in which Susan helps plan and Julia attempts to force her…

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Posted in 19th Century Reviews

review: Jane Eyre’s Daughter

Jane Eyre’s Daughter by Elizabeth Newark Though it’s been a while since I’ve read Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte’s imaginative writing style came back to me reading this book. It is apparent that the author not only channels the original in style, but also loves nature as the descriptions of wildlife and the changing of the seasons are very detailed and add relevant depth to the protagonist’s personality, who is much like her revered mother. The very first scene of this novel pulled me in and the suspense continued to build to the very end. I’m very impressed! Review Note: This is one of my earliest reviews, from 2007-2008. I didn’t write in depth reviews at the time, because I was wary of posting spoilers.

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Posted in 19th Century Reviews Victorian

review: The Testament of Sophie Dawes

The Testament of Sophie Dawes The Queen of Chantilly and a Scandal at the Heart of Victorian Society by Robert Stephen Parry Author Website / GoodReads / Amazon During the Victorian era, a few months after Prince Albert’s untimely death, an archivist arrives at the Queen’s residence of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. His job is to sort documents and file leftover memorandum that the staff had already sifted through and depleted of personal and sensitive information. This gentleman, who was never named, kept a diary to detail his hobby of observing nature and it’s in this format that the story is related. However, it’s not only birds, flowers and weather he records. Upon settling in his own rented house in St Helens–a…

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Posted in 19th Century Civil War Reviews

review: Fallow Are the Fields, We Danced Until Dawn & Under the Wedding Tree

The best way to describe these three books by Steven D. Ayres is “localized narrative history”. They aren’t fiction, but the first one, Fallow Are the Fields, is written in the voice of the author’s Civil War era ancestor and includes dialogue that pegs it as a story. The second, We Danced Until Dawn, is somewhat the same, but without dialogue it veers into an oral history without footnotes or citations. Under the Wedding Tree would be categorized as a memoir, as it is about the author himself. All of the books include drawings by the author, but there are considerably more in Under the Wedding Tree, as well as other family and genealogical documents in the back. In closing, the author has intimated more…

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Posted in 19th Century Reviews Victorian

review: Bride of a Distant Isle

Bride of a Distant Isle by Sandra Byrd Daughters of Hampshire My review for Mist of Midnight (HNR) A Lady in Disguise (coming 2017) Annabel Ashton of Highcliffe Hall had grown up knowing of her mother’s shameful and alarming condition, which ended with an early death at an asylum. At only four years of age, Annabel lost her mother, and had never known her Maltese father. Shuffled from one boarding school to another, she was not welcome or loved by relatives at Highcliffe, for she was tainted with illegitimacy and, perhaps, her mother’s madness. Two decades later, she is underhandedly summoned back by her peevish and secretive cousin, Edward Everedge, who has plans for her future–of which Annabel is vehemently opposed. As the weeks pass,…

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Posted in 19th Century 20th Century America Southern Fiction

Southern Historical Novels by Steven D. Ayres

Fallow Are the Fields This is an American Civil War novel, about young Steven Jett, his four older brothers, sister, mother and father, living on a small farm near Salt Springs, Georgia, just west of Atlanta in the middle 1800’s. From humble beginnings, this story takes you on a real life adventure, as the great war ravages across the country-side of North Georgia and changes the lives of these and all Americans forever. We Danced Until Dawn We Danced Until Dawn is the sequel to the l800’s family saga of Fallow Are the Fields. After the tragic and triumphant end of the American Civil War, a new beginning took hold all across America and changed the lives of Steven Jett and his family once again….

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Posted in 19th Century America Civil War Reviews

review: Lincoln and His Boys

Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells illustrated by P. J. Lynch This children’s chapter book, aimed at ages 8 – 12 years, is an easy read at 96 pages and features beautiful full-page illustrations. It begins in 1859 in the voice of one of Abraham Lincoln’s sons, Willie, who has been allowed to travel with his father on a business trip to discuss Lincoln’s running for President of the United States. Later, it follows another son, Tad, when the family is ensconced in the White House. This book shows a side of Abraham Lincoln that you’ll not find in most biographies–viewed through the eyes of his beloved children, and includes the wisdom he imparted to them through the difficult years of the Civil War….

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