Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow

Thank you so much to MIRA for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Wrong Kind of Woman
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: Sarah McCraw Crow
  • Publisher & Release: MIRA – October, 2020
  • Length: 320 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 maybe for older women?

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

A powerful exploration of what a woman can be when what she should be is no longer an option

In late 1970, Oliver Desmarais drops dead in his front yard while hanging Christmas lights. In the year that follows, his widow, Virginia, struggles to find her place on the campus of the elite New Hampshire men’s college where Oliver was a professor. While Virginia had always shared her husband’s prejudices against the four outspoken, never-married women on the faculty—dubbed the Gang of Four by their male counterparts—she now finds herself depending on them, even joining their work to bring the women’s movement to Clarendon College.

Soon, though, reports of violent protests across the country reach this sleepy New England town, stirring tensions between the fraternal establishment of Clarendon and those calling for change. As authorities attempt to tamp down “radical elements,” Virginia must decide whether she’s willing to put herself and her family at risk for a cause that had never felt like her own.

Told through alternating perspectives, The Wrong Kind of Woman is an engrossing story about finding the strength to forge new paths, beautifully woven against the rapid changes of the early ’70s.

Man I have to say that it took me forever to get through this book. The Wrong Kind of Woman takes place in the early 70s during a time of political and campus unrest.  It follows a woman trying to find her way through the Clarendon collegiate (fictional) boy’s club after her husband dies. There is a group of four women pushing for coeducation, tenure, rights, recognition and etc. It also follows a confused young man named Sam who is a student of Oliver’s, and he incidentally botches a small bombing to impress a girl. Sounds exciting but it was honestly pretty tedious for me.

I was not really feeling anyone except Sam’s passion, and he confused me too. I wasn’t quite sure what the purpose of his character was.  At first he seemed like a sexually confused kid who had a crush on the dead teacher, but then he fell for a girl involved in domestic terrorism.  A lot of the book was Virginia’s inner monologue as she learned about the women’s movements and adapted her thinking to her own needs and those of the “radicals.”

The parts I found most interesting were the family issues as Virginia and Rebecca tried to make ends meet, and reconcile their household after Oliver (the husband) died.  They had some misadventures.  I would have not minded some more time spent on the commune out of town either.

I just feel like somehow it could have been a little more readable and engaging.  Something about the storytelling lacked for me.  Maybe slightly older women who can relate to the times and connect with the characters would enjoy the book a little bit more than I did, but I did finish it eventually.

Thanks again to the publisher for my copy!

Categories
Fantasy Historical Fiction

ARC Review: The Tower of Fools by Andrzej Sapkowski

     Thank you so much to Orbit Books for the eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Tower of Fools
  • Series: The Hussite Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Andrzej Sapkowski, translated by David French
  • Publisher & Release: Orbit Books, 10/27/20 (original 2002)
  • Length: 576 Pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes but apparently not for easily offended people

The synopsis from GoodReads:

Reinmar of Bielawa, sometimes known as Reynevan, is a doctor, a magician, and according to some, a charlatan.  When a thoughtless indiscretion finds him caught in the crosshairs of powerful noble family, he is forced to flee his home.

Once he passes beyond the city borders, he finds that there are dangers ahead as well as behind. Strange mystical forces are gathering in the shadows.  Pursued not only by the affronted Stercza brothers, bent on vengeance, but also by the Holy Inquisition, Reynevan finds himself in the Narrenturm, the Tower of Fools.

The Tower is an asylum for the mad, or for those who dare to think differently and challenge the prevailing order.  Escaping the Tower, avoiding the conflict around him, and keeping his own sanity might prove a greater challenge than Reynevan ever imagined.

Oh Reynevan, part of me thinks that him and his entire lot needed a turn in the asylum.  After bedding a knight’s wife and apparently falling madly in love (which she clearly didn’t return), Reynevan sets off on a series of misadventures when he should honestly be fleeing the country.

This is a very historically dense book, with many names and details that bogged the pace down quite a bit.  That said, I don’t know a darn thing about the Hussite wars so I felt like I learned SO much, and it was interesting too to see why the wars started and how the church kind of just devolved into heretical “witch hunts” and went to the crusades.  There is more history than fantasy but it felt so real that I had more than enough to keep my imagination going.

The atmosphere felt appropriate too, these religious groups hated each other.  There is suspicion and people were encouraged to rat out their neighbors for clemency.  Someone is killing merchants, the Knights are on their way out, and wallcreepers are turning into humans and making dark deals.  I know a lot of people aren’t liking all the Latin left in the book but like the prayers weren’t spoken in English and do y’all really care what they say?  Even the bits left in sentences make more or less sense if you know anything about word roots, and if not, I doubt much is being missed.

I did just love the characters too.  Scharley had me literally CRYING I was laughing so hard during one totally fake exorcism scene.  I didn’t realize that Sapkowski had a sense of humor but the banter and conversations and occasional one liners from side characters are amazing, and I think David French did a great job bringing the characters through the translation.  Reynevan himself is a moron though, he got so much great advice and ended up ignoring all of it, captured, and imprisoned instead.  Riding through the towns and hearing the different townspeople’s interpretations of happenings and politics was interesting too.

I think this series is really going to heat up in book two, with the wars starting and a lot of the setting and exposition out of the way.  I will definitely be reading on when the next book comes out!

Thank you so much again to Orbit Books for the early copy!

Categories
Historical Fiction Paranormal Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Hollow Ones by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

QuickFacts:

  • Title: The Hollow Ones
  • Series: The Blackwood Tapes #1
  • Author: GDT & Chuck Hogan
  • Publisher & Release: Grand Central Publishing 8/4/2020
  • Length: 305pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⚡yes!

A huge thank you to Grand Central Publishing for the giveaway win! I received an early copy of The Hollow Ones by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and while I slightly missed the publication date I read it as soon as I could!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

A horrific crime that defies explanation, a rookie FBI agent in uncharted territory, and an extraordinary hero for the ages: an investigation spirals out of control in this heart-pounding thriller.

Odessa Hardwicke’s life is derailed when she’s forced to turn her gun on her partner, Walt Leppo, a decorated FBI agent who turns suddenly, inexplicably violent while apprehending a rampaging murderer. The shooting, justified by self-defense, shakes the young FBI agent to her core. Devastated, Odessa is placed on desk leave pending a full investigation. What most troubles Odessa isn’t the tragedy itself — it’s the shadowy presence she thought she saw fleeing the deceased agent’s body after his death.

Questioning her future with the FBI and her sanity, Hardwicke accepts a low-level assignment to clear out the belongings of a retired agent in the New York office. What she finds there will put her on the trail of a mysterious figure named Hugo Blackwood, a man of enormous means who claims to have been alive for centuries, and who is either an unhinged lunatic, or humanity’s best and only defense against unspeakable evil.

This book is everything I could ever want in a crime / thriller /paranormal / FBI / supernatural bundle of amazing ness. Maybe I have just been away from thrillers for too long but I read this in three sittings and have no regrets. From a modern day FBI agent who has to shoot her suddenly violent partner, to insane rampage killings across NY and NJ, to the 1960s bayou where one of the first black FBI agents is sent to help sooth tensions involving a racially charged series of crimes, all the way back to the release of The Hollow Ones… Then there is one mystical man who is summoned via a forgotten mailbox near Wall St.

I can’t speak for the editing in the final version but I can definitely speak for the action.  Told mostly in the present day, with a few flashbacks, from start to finish the action never stopped in this book.  I think there is a detachment from the characters which I really liked, that allows us to focus on the plot and evil at hand without really getting too involved in their personal lives.  We get enough background to empathize with them though, and I really did like ALL of the characters which is rare for me.  Odessa is in an impossible spot after having to shoot her partner.  Blackwood is a British tea drinker with an appreciation for old books, disdain for microwaves, and a sad task in life – or is it a curse? and Solomon… Oh Solomon I had so much respect for the way he handled the KKK and the situation involving the church.  There are a few racially sensitive themes in the book and I thought they were handled well by the authors. Solomon is just such a great character and commanded respect while dealing with both sides of the problem with grace. I also am now very interested in the early black FBI agents if anyone can recommend any reading, fiction or non?

There are some intense spots that made me cringe, because the Hollow Ones thrive on violence there are some pretty brutal killing sprees.  It throws a baby out a fifth story window and watches it splat, for example.  Other than that there is no language or sexual content involved, just violence and possession and talk of ritualistic religious practices.

There is something for everyone in this.  I definitely 100% recommend for fans of FBI thrillers, occult detectives, the supernatural, demon and spirit hunters, rogue agents, and some chilling themes typical of GDT.   Thanks you again to Grand Central Publishing for the giveaway win!

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment below!

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction

ARC Review: Call of the Raven by Wilbur Smith, with Corban Addison

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Zaffre Books for the ARC of Call of the Raven in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

This is a prequel book to Smith’s Ballantyne series, that introduces Mungo St. John and gives him a bit of an origin story.  While I have not yet read anything else by Smith, after reading this I am going to start keeping my eyes out for this other books!  I also mention this because while the book is superbly written, I can not distinguish what Smith vs Addison wrote.

Here is the description from Amazon:

The son of a wealthy plantation owner and a doting mother, Mungo St John is accustomed to the wealth and luxuries his privilege has afforded him. That is until he returns from university to discover his family ruined, his inheritance stolen and his childhood sweetheart, Camilla, taken by the conniving Chester Marion. Fuelled by anger, and love, Mungo swears vengeance and devotes his life to saving Camilla – and destroying Chester.

Camilla, trapped in New Orleans, powerless to her position as a kept slave and suffering at the hands of Chester’s brutish behaviour, must learn to do whatever it takes to survive.

As Mungo battles his own fate and misfortune to achieve the revenge that drives him, and regain his power in the world, he must question what it takes for a man to survive when he has nothing, and what he is willing to do in order to get what he wants.

An action-packed and gripping adventure by bestselling author, Wilbur Smith, about one man’s quest for revenge, the brutality of slavery in America and the imbalance between humans that can drive – or defeat – us.

I love historical fiction set in the Civil War and reconstruction era, although this is set a little earlier in the 1840s.   The slave trade has been illegal for maybe 30 years and it didn’t quite have the effect on slavery that the American leaders hoped – aka there is still an illegal trade, and breeding for profit became more prominent.  This is the setting to which Mungo St. John returns from Cambridge to his father’s Virginia plantation.  A corrupt banker has murdered Mungo’s father, seized the plantation and sold the slaves, and is about to visit even more atrocities on Mungo’s lover, Camilla.

“There is only one law on this Earth, the law that gives the strong and wealthy power over the weak and poor”

The book is amazingly action packed as soon as Mungo returns to America.  How does he exact revenge on the banker, Chester Marion? Through a complicated and somewhat diabolical scheme that entirely ruins Chester’s life.  Nothing seems to quite go Mungo’s way though and we get to see the anti hero develop.  Mungo does heroic things like set a whole ship full of slaves free, but then later on becomes a notorious slave trader after his original plan of harvesting ivory comes to a pretty tragic ending.  If he had known the entire time that Camilla was alive, I almost wonder if things would have been different?

“I am not cut out to play the hero”

“A man like you can play any role in life he chooses”

Mungo is a walking contradiction, one of those gray characters that I know I should hate, but ended up loving or at least appreciating. He is a hero but also an evil murderous bastard, with a quick temper and also a deeply routed sense of love and commitment. Or just a sense of revenge.  Revenge is the preeminent theme throughout the book.  Camilla is another interesting character, her choices and actions are interesting as ones that at times required some thought as well. I didn’t care as much for her chapters but she gives us the perception of a domestic slave with liberties once she gets to New Orleans.  Without her I would have had a lot less to think about, and honestly because of her, I wanted to be the one torturing Marion at the end.  She is one of the single things that gives readers a reason not to hate Mungo.

I know back in whatever grade that  I learned about the slave trade, but this book gave me a lot to think about that I either had forgotten or just never thought about.  Things like: how exactly are the slaves transported? How are they rounded up to begin with? Why were the African chiefs involved in selling out their own people? How were the slaves fed on the ships? How did the sailors entertain themselves while sailing and dealing with the deplorable conditions?  In what ways were the British involved in trying to put down the trade?

A lof of these questions are answered in ways that aren’t for the squeamish, but I mean I am pretty sure that 99% of it actually happened.  This is pretty well researched historical fiction and while the answers made me cringe at times, as we said, Mungo is no hero but he does the best he can.   One other reason that Mungo constantly made me think was that despite his actions, he really didn’t seem to see much of a difference between skin colors and was constantly able to use this to his tactical advantage when dealing with other white men.   I also love reading about piracy and pirates and life onboard ships, and Call of the Raven offers plenty of that as well.  Do we mention that Raven is actually the name of Mungo’s own ship that he eventually acquires for the ivory trade?

I loved Tippoo and Wisi as well and even Fairchild, the poor brute.  This book really boasts a great cast of characters and as I said, absolutely nonstop action.  Mungo VS Marion is going down as one of the best chase and arson and murder scenes I have ever read.  I really can’t wait to read the Ballantyne series at some point, it has been added strongly to my list.  If nothing else Smith and Addison are flawless story tellers and kept me compelled throughout the novel

I say definitely read it if you are a fan of historical fiction, but not if you have delicate sensibilities and can’t handle a morally gray/black character.  There are some parts that are hard to read but I don’t think that ignoring the atrocities of the time period does anyone any favors, and reading Call of the Raven was a great exercise in morality, critical thinking, and would offer a wonderful discussion in characterization if anyone is interested.

“What in God’s name-”

“God has no interest in this”

The book releases in April so preorder it now of it sounds of interest to you!

Disclaimer: all quotes came from an advanced reader’s edition and are subject to change prior to publication.  All quotes WILL be checked against a final copy and edited or removed as necessary at that time.  Thank you again to Bookish First and Zaffre books, all opinions are my own.

Categories
Fiction Historical Fiction

Today We Go Home by Kelli Estes

Thank you so much to Sourcebooks Landmark via NetGalley for the e-ARC of Today We Go Home in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

The description from GoodReads:

Seattle, Washington: Larkin Bennett has always known her place, whether it’s surrounded by her loving family in the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest, or riding on a dusty convoy in Afghanistan. But all that changed the day tragedy struck her unit and took away everything she held dear. Soon after, Larkin discovers an unexpected treasure: the diary of Emily Wilson, a young woman who disguised herself as a man to fight for the Union in the Civil War. As Larkin struggles to heal, she finds herself drawn deep into Emily’s life and the secrets she kept. Indiana, 1861. The only thing more dangerous to Emily Wilson than a rebel soldier is her own comrades in the Union. But in the minds of her fellow soldiers, if it dresses like a man, swears like a man, and shoots like a man, it must be a man. As the war marches on and takes its terrible toll, Emily begins to question everything she has been told about the freedom she is supposed to be fighting for.

So everyone that knows me knows that I am a huge Civil War reader, and this book was an obvious choice for me. I have read a few nonfiction books about women in the war, but nothing from a fictional perspective.

I honestly didn’t care much for Larkin, although she made a lot of excellent points about women in the military and society’s perceptions of them. I also felt like there was a statement about mental healthcare for veterans in the book, somewhere, as it seemed like a suicidal veteran shouldn’t have been discharged from treatment as early as she was, and/or the program she was in was lacking effectiveness. The themes of suicidal ideations, suicide in general, grief, loss, and coming to terms with traumas were handled fairly lightly as Larkin found an interest, purpose, and then connection to Emily Wilson – the Union army soldier. I thought Emily’s traumas were handled even lighter, I would have loved to know (as did Larkin) how Emily coped.

I loved Emily though, she was a spitfire. When she squared up and said she WAS a soldier, I just about put my phone down and clapped for her. I feel like the author got a lot of camp details right, but there wasn’t a lot of historical information in the book itself. That said, there is a fantastic annex of resources in the book for additional reading that I highly recommend checking out.

One thing that threw me off was how the historical time period was presented in the ARC: some times Larkin would be reading the diary, then sometimes the chapter would be written as if the Civil War period was present day. Otherwise I did find it to be a really quick and interesting read

I rated it 3 stars because I really loved Emily’s chapters, while feeling indifferent towards Larkin’s. I would totally recommend for anyone interested in women in the military, historical feminism, historical fiction, and good fiction in general!

Thank you again so much to the publisher, author, and NetGalley for the early read! The book released September 3rd so by all means check it out if it seems up your alley!

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Categories
Fantasy Fiction Historical Fiction

Athena’s Champion by David Hair and Cath Mayo

Title: Athena’s Champion

Authors: David Hair and Cath Mayo

Release date: 11/08/18

Rating: 4/5 ****

Thank you to NetGalley and Canelo for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I absolutely loved reading this book! I may be biased because my name is Athena and I love anything related to mythology and Greece, but this was also a great story.

The description briefly states that the book is “The first in a thrilling new historical fantasy series; Odysseus must embrace his secret heritage and outwit the vengeful Gods who would control or destroy him… “

Enter a snarky version of Odysseus, Theseus, the Gods and Goddesses in the authors’ unique interpretations, and a host of other characters and you have quite an interesting story. I especially loved how they portrayed Athena and Hades.

I had to suspend known mythology/history and take the story for what it was at times, but it was still terribly entertaining for me. I liked the splashes of Greek words and insults thrown into the dialogue, but wish they had kept to traditional insults vs bringing in so much modern day slang.

This book earns a solid 4/5 stars, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who likes a good history, mythology, or fantasy based read!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Historical Fiction

In the Far Pashmina Mountains by Janet MacLeod Trotter

Welcome back! I was thrilled to receive my first early reading copy for Kindle from the Goodreads giveaway! Thank you to Goodreads and the Author/publisher for the opportunity!

I rapidly devoured this book despite it’s length (544 pages). We follow the life of main character Alice over the span of about 40 years. It is a story of love and history, with a good deal of adventure, heartbreak, betrayal, beauty and horror, native culture, and so much more.

The characters are developed beautifully throughout, some we love and others – not so much. Whether a bad, good, or grey character, I feel like MacLeod Trotter captures the ethnicity, personality and also age of them in such a real way. Her writing is also vividly descriptive at times, when other times she gets lost in the history. As her author’s note suggests, an obvious mountain of research went into this book!

While I won’t pretend to know anything about the British invasion of Afghanistan and the tribal conflicts, I could feel the horror of the prisoners and stayed up until 0300 to reach the ending. I would have sacrificed some historical details in this part of the book to find out more about what happened to Alice at the end 😉 The ending was tied up very neatly and felt rushed but satisfying.

I would 100% recommend this to anyone interested in historical fiction or romance, or just a great read! It changes settings and introduces new adventures enough to stay very interesting!

As always, thank you for reading! I included a link to the author’s website below!

http://www.janetmacleodtrotter.com/