Category: Historical Fiction

“Norse Mythology” – Audiobook by Neil Gaiman

“Norse Mythology” – Audiobook by Neil Gaiman

Narrated by Neil Gaiman

Fun and fascinating! “Norse Mythology” is just what it sounds like, a retelling of the Nordic mythological tales. But it was so much more at the same time. This is my first adventure with Neil Gaiman and my first audiobook in way too many years, and I am now hooked on both. I do occasionally enjoy mythology and I was intrigued by this one because I was pretty much clueless about the Nordic myths. When I started listening I thought maybe I’d gotten in over my head because there were a lot of characters with names that I had no reference point for. However, the more I listened, the more the characters came together in my mind and the stories were just fascinating. The characters in these tales somehow seemed more human and less god-like than, say, the Roman or Greek gods. Of course there is Thor with his mighty hammer, but I found myself most fascinated by Loki, who can be quite devilish at one moment, and in the next be the one who has the perfect solution. There are some pretty violent scenes in these stories that might not be appropriate for younger children. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Neil Gaiman is a perfect narrator, not overly dramatic, but able to bring out the characters as individuals. You should give this one a try.

Alinefromabook’s rating:  4-5-star-rating  4.5 stars!

Happy Reading!

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“An Untamed Land” by Lauraine Snelling

“An Untamed Land” by Lauraine Snelling

Christian values and 1880’s Dakota Territory combine in this inspirational story. Roald and Ingeborg, Carl and Kaaren, two young couples from Norway emigrate together to America in order to take advantage of the homesteading opportunities in North Dakota. Just getting there almost costs Kaaren her life, but they have been researching and planning for this trip for years and are ready to hit the ground running when they arrive. Proving up a homestead is no easy task and finding the tools and livestock they need proves more challenging then they anticipated. The story follows these two couples through the first 3 years recounting their triumphs and tragedies, and demonstrating how their faith pulls them through.

I don’t normally read books in this genre but I was drawn to this one because the story takes place in the Red River Valley where I happen to live and I was looking for a change from my usual thrillers. The story did not disappoint. The pacing and creative of the storyline kept me well engaged. I think the author did a great job of bringing the realities of the homesteading life to the reader. My usual problem with this genre is that it can be quite preachy, but I did not find this to be true in this case. If this is a genre you enjoy then you won’t go wrong with this book. This is the first book in the Red River of the North series.

Alinefromabook’s rating: 3-5-star-rating  3.5 stars!

Happy Reading!

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“Scarred” by Michael Kenneth Smith

“Scarred” by Michael Kenneth Smith

Synopsis:  After fatally shooting the Confederate sharpshooter who killed his best friend, Zach Harkin’s sense of revenge changes to deep remorse when he views the dead man’s diary and photo. Haunted, suffering from post traumatic stress, and unable to serve, he is mustered out of service. With scant information, he begins an epic journey to search for the dead man’s family. He is captured, imprisoned, tortured, and thoroughly tested as a human being, but after escaping, he never expects to find love in the war ravaged South.

My thoughts: I found this story very moving. Zach Harkin is so damaged by his war experience and yet still all he wants is to return the journal he found on a Confederate soldier to the man’s wife. What he thinks will be a relatively simple task turns into a nightmare for Zach. I liked that even when his circumstances were at their worst, he thought of other’s needs before his own. It’s not often that I come across a story set in the Civil War, but this is a moment of history that has always piqued my interest so that just added to my enjoyment. I cannot recommend this story highly enough, a real gem. I am looking forward to more from this author.

Alinefromabook’s rating:  5-star-rating 5 stars!

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“The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds” by Selina Siak Chin Yoke

“The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds” by Selina Siak Chin Yoke

This story is a masterpiece! I’m never quite sure what to expect when I pick up a book set in a different culture and I was very pleasantly surprised by this story. The author has based this story on the life of her great-grandmother and she must have been an amazing woman. The story begins in 1878 and is set in Malaysia. Chye Hoon in born into a Nyonya household and is trained in the tradition. Her marriage is arranged for her by her parents and she is fortunate because they choose a handsome young man who will become not only her husband but her best friend. The newlyweds settle in Ipoh just before the turn of the century and their family grows right along with the town. They will have 10 children before tragedy strikes and Chye Hoon must find the courage to go on. She turns to her Nyonya training to support her family.

Chye Hoon shows great strength in the midst of a quickly changing world. She never learns to read or write but she manages to start not 1 but 3 successful businesses. She faces incredible personal losses but her family keeps her going. Her story is beautifully told in this book. Since Chye Hoon supports her family with her Nyonya cooking there is a lot of talk about food in this story and the author’s descriptions will have your mouth watering in no time. The author also does an excellent job of describing the culture and the tension between the white rulers and the Malaysian people. I am highly recommending this book, especially for readers who enjoy learning about other cultures. This could also be a great book club pick.

Alinefromabook’s rating:  5-star-rating  5 stars!

Happy Reading!

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A copy of this book was provided by NetGalley and AmazonCrossing in exchange for an honest review.

“The Other Einstein” by Marie Benedict

“The Other Einstein” by Marie Benedict

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

We all know who Albert Einstein was, but do you know Mileva Maric Einstein? Mileva was Einstein’s first wife and a physicist in her own right. They met while at University in Zurich and had 3 children together. There is controversy in the world of physics about whether or not Mileva played a role in the development of Einstein’s early theories. “The Other Einstein” is a fictional account of Mileva’s life that is very heavily based on the facts. Marie Benedict has beautifully crafted this story. I was riveted from the first page to the last. Reading this book shines a new light on Einstein, which is not always flattering, but may be closer to the truth than the view that we are typically given about him. Mileva’s story is a perfect example of how women of the time period often reduced their own ambitions so that a husband and children could shine brighter. Albert Einstein has been idolized by the world for his brilliance and the accolades are well deserved, but he was still human and susceptible to human failures. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and the author’s writing style make it approachable and easy to read. This book would be a great story for those who enjoy historical fiction or women’s stories.

Alinefromabook’s rating: 4-5-star-rating

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: “Constant Guests” by Patricia Nedelea

Book Review: “Constant Guests” by Patricia Nedelea

Isa has just found out that her parents are not really her parents. Her birth mother has been in a coma for 20 years and has woken up, only to die just as Isa sees her for the first time. Then Isa is attacked in the hospital bathroom by an unknown assailant. When she discovers a picture hidden in her mother’s watch she can no longer resist the urge to find out everything she can about this mysterious woman. Her quest will take her all over Europe, to big cities and small towns, and put her life in danger. Along the way she will uncover deeply guarded secrets and her strength will be tested again and again.

This is a fast-paced book with lots of twists and turns. Isa and Mark are well developed characters, but Isa is not the most likeable person. She’s brash and harsh and doesn’t trust easily but as her story unfolds her personality begins to make sense. Mark, on the other hand, is very likeable. He defends Isa from the first moment he sees her and before the journey is over will put his life on the line for her. I think this book will appeal to young adults but history lovers may also enjoy this book because of the historical context of the story.

Alinefromabook’s rating: THUMBS-UP!

Happy Reading!

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Review: “Victoria Crossing” by Michael Wallace

Review: “Victoria Crossing” by Michael Wallace

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction

“Victoria Crossing” is the story of Victoria MacPherson, a young Irishwoman who emigrates to the U.S. during the potato famine. After losing all of her family, she embarks solo on the arduous journey across the sea. On the way she meets Maeve, whose mother has died on the ship. Maeve is traveling on the hope that her brother will meet her in New York. When the promised brother is not there the girls are forced to make their own way in a city that is openly discriminatory against its Irish immigrants. But Victoria is driven to succeed in spite of all her setbacks. After being robbed of what little money she had on her arrival, the girls find themselves in a rat-infested tenement, but they quickly pick up sewing jobs and Victoria soon has dreams of owning her own shop. Along the way the make friends and enemies, who deliberately try to destroy them, and learn the ways of business. When Maeve’s brother finally appears the girls are encouraged, but tragedy soon strikes. Will this determined girl be able to start over and achieve her dream? Or, will the city beat her down?

I really enjoyed this story. I especially like the way the author was able to point up not only the difficulties and discrimination that the Irish faced when arriving in the U.S., but the conflict within the Irish community between the Catholics and the Protestants. Victoria and Maeve are very well developed as characters in the story. After reading the story I felt like I had a greater understanding of the impact of the famine and the political conflicts on the rank and file of the Irish citizenry. I also really enjoyed the author’s portrayal of the city of New York at the time. The rapid growth it was experiencing made for many opportunities for success but there was also treachery lurking not too far beneath the surface which made for very satisfying dramatic moments. Overall, this is a very enjoyable read especially for lovers of historical fiction.

Alinefromabook’s rating: THUMBS-UP!

Happy Reading!

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: “Children of Earth and Sky” by Guy Gavriel Kay

Book Review: “Children of Earth and Sky” by Guy Gavriel Kay

A journey fraught with danger, intrigue and political manipulations. That’s what you will find in “Children of Earth and Sky”. The story is inspired by events that took place in Renaissance Europe and is a marvelous piece of fiction.

Danica is looking for revenge for the family she lost. Marin is seeking to build his family’s fortune. The city-state of Seressa wants to spy on their neighbors. Pero is a young man desperately wanting to make a name for himself as an artist. Neven has been trained to be a soldier for the Khalif, but is that really who he is? These characters and others have lives that will intertwine with each other and influence world events.

I found the story and the characters to be complex and very well developed. The author has a style that draws the reader into the world he has created and keeps him engaged until the end. I enjoyed this story in part because it tells the story of ordinary people, as opposed to focusing on a royal family or a high ranking political figure. This epic story also highlights how something a person does, which may seem inconsequential in the moment, can have a long-reaching effect on the future. Top marks to Guy Gavriel Kay for this sweeping saga.

Alinefromabook’s rating: TWO THUMBS-UP!

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Project Gutenberg Pick!

Book Review: “Winesburg, Ohio: Intimate histories of everyday people” by Sherwood Anderson

Every once in a while I like to read something old but still good. This book was originally published in 1922 and is now available for free on Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org). I found the stories in this book to be delightful. Each story depicts the life of a different member of the community of Winesburg, Ohio. Winesberg is a rural community but also the county seat and host to the annual county fair. What draws the stories together is that each individual portrayed has some kind of encounter with George Willard, a young man whose parents run the local hotel. George works as a reporter for the local paper. The book is a work of fiction but I couldn’t help but think that at least some of these characters are based on real people. The individuals are male and female, young and old, and many are downright eccentric. They are wealthy and poor, and of high and low social standing. And there are plenty of scandals running through this group.

The author’s writing style is very readable and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories. If you are looking for something a little different to read, I would suggest this book. I find it can be refreshing to take a break from the drama that tends to characterize modern day books, and there are some real gems in these old books.

Alinefromabook’s rating: THUMBS-UP!

Happy Reading!

Get it on Project Gutenberg!

Book Review: “Finding the Way: From Prussia to a Prairie Homestead” by Alfred Wellnitz

Book Review: “Finding the Way: From Prussia to a Prairie Homestead” by Alfred Wellnitz

This is a powerful story of courage, perseverance, and good ole hard work. Karl is a young man, recently released from the Prussian army after fighting in the Franco-Prussian War. He has decided that he wants to follow some of his buddies and immigrate to America, where he can build a homestead and no longer be a peasant for a nobleman. With his family’s blessing he sets off on a journey he could never have imagined. He travels by ship to Baltimore where his money is stolen before he even gets through immigration. Karl meets up with Heinrich, another young Prussian who he met on the boat, and together they set off to make something of themselves. With a little help from fellow Germans they manage to find a place to live and jobs. After saving up some money they are ready to head west. They will make stops in Chicago, working at a meat-packing plant, and Deadwood, SD, running a saloon, before Karl can finally settle on his homestead.

The author obviously did a lot of research about life in 1800’s America, as the descriptions of the various places our heroes find themselves in put the reader right in there with them. The story is inspired by the experiences of the author’s family members when they immigrated, which also lends authenticity to the story. I found Karl’s story to be quite inspiring. Even though he has his money stolen, then gets conned out of more, he never lets his dream fade. He has to take on some pretty disgusting jobs in the process but continues to keep his “eye on the prize”. This would be a good book for history buffs and also for anyone he needs a little inspiration to keep going. I think it’s important to read this type of story so that we can be reminded of the kind of spirit that made this country so great in the first place. This book would also be appropriate for teenagers on up. I’m giving “Finding the Way” a definite thumbs-up.

Happy Reading!