Historical fiction

All posts tagged Historical fiction

The Coffin Path – Katherine Clements

Published February 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’t it all about?:

The Coffin Path is an eerie and compelling seventeenth-century ghost story set on the dark wilds of the Yorkshire moors. For fans of Michelle Paver and Sarah Waters, this gothic tale will weave its way into your imagination and chill you to the bone.

Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.

Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.

When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Headline publishers and Caitlin Raynor for allowing me to read a copy of this eerie, fascinating novel, set on the Yorkshire moors in the seventeenth century via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I love a good ghost story but haven’t read one in quite some time and definitely haven’t read one that gripped me as much as the story of Mercy Booth and her moors filled with sheep did. It’s an incredibly atmospheric novel and I could visualise the moors that Mercy lives on and the sheep that are in her care in full, glorious detail. The house that she lives in with her father and housekeeper becomes almost a character unto itself with the number of secrets it keeps and the strange noises that have started to emanate from a locked bedroom within the house, terrifying residents and visitors alike.

Our story begins with Mercy tearing out into the inclement weather to assist a ewe who is struggling to give birth to her lamb (more on this scene later) and from there we learn about Mercy’s life, an independent young woman who has taken most of the work of looking after her family’s flock from her father as his health, strength and mind begins to fail. She is determined, strong and fiercely loyal to her family’s business and probably knows as much or indeed more about looking after sheep than her head shepherd does. The novel follows her life as they take on a mysterious new worker, stranger to the town Ellis Ferreby, the family start to discover a number of mutilated sheep on the premises, precious things of her father’s go missing and there are aforementioned curious noises from the bedroom where a young boy once died. Meanwhile, all residents at the property are starting to get an odd sense that someone is watching them and wishes them ill. For what purpose? All will be revealed but the journey to get there might make you want to turn the lights back on if you’re reading this just before bed.

This novel has one of the most brutal and graphic beginnings I’ve ever read and although it doesn’t set the tone for what the rest of the book is going to be like (i.e. not so graphic) I’d seriously go into it with your stomach well fortified! Our main character, Mercy is birthing a lamb and in full, gory detail the process is described to the reader as Mercy struggles to save both the newborn and its mother. I’m lucky enough to have quite a strong stomach (must be the huge volume of horror tomes I’ve read in the past?), and as soon as I read this opening chapter I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Not so much for the content I hasten to add, but for the writing style, the setting and how Katherine Clements pulls you into Mercy’s world effortlessly, where not only can you visualise everything around her but you’re fighting her corner completely and hoping that she manages to save the animals from certain death.

The Coffin Path is very much a book that illustrates the sign of the times where poverty, superstition, rumours of witchcraft and fear of religion – that is to say, what would happen if you didn’t attend church are rife. The author portrays these attitudes and worries perfectly and it’s a fine historical account of what it might be like to live in England in these frightening times. Speaking of frightening, there’s passages of this narrative that I think will stay with me for a long time yet, it was incredibly creepy and disconcerting and there’s a particular fire screen that I don’t think I will ever forget! I loved the whole gothic nature of Mercy’s story and not only was her character written to perfection, instantly making me root for her but she was flawed, vulnerable and undeniably human which I adored. I’m not going to talk about the ending too much but let me just say, if you like being shocked you’re in for a treat here. Unfortunately, I kind of guessed parts of the “big reveal,” but luckily, not everything surrounding it and it was a fantastic way to finish off an engrossing and thrilling novel.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements was the eleventh book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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18 Books I’d Like To Read In 2018

Published February 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and welcome to a bit of a different post on my blog. I’ve already made some Bookish Goals/Resolutions for the year but I also made a little promise to myself that I would do a random post every month that I have been inspired to participate in from seeing it either on booktube or from a fellow blogger. A lot of the booktubers that I follow have been posting videos about 18 books they would like to read in 2018 and I thought I’d join in with the fun. So, without any further ado, here are the 18 books I’d like to get to this year!

1.) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Jane Eyre is tied for one of my all time favourite classics (with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen). My mum got me a beautiful clothbound classic for my birthday a couple of years ago and I’m definitely due a re-read so I’m excited to read it in this beautiful edition.

2.) The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I’ve read a few John Boyne books now and loved every one of them. I’m really trying hard not to buy hardbacks at the moment but when I read Renee’s @ It’s Book Talk review of it HERE, I bought it immediately. I’m actually reading this very soon as it’s part of the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club 2018 and I’m beyond excited.

3.) The Wisdom Of Psychopaths – Kevin Dutton

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a non-fiction book that I think does pretty much what it says on the tin. The reason I want to read it this year is that it’s been on my “to read soon,” shelf for too blinking long now. This needs to happen.

4.) Stasi Wolf – David Young

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I went to see David Young talk about this first novel in this series, Stasi Child at Guildford Library last year and was determined to read the second book in the series. Of course, life and other books got in the way but I’m going to make it one of my priorities this year.

5.) Midwinter – Fiona Melrose

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Midwinter was long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction last year and I always love to read some of the nominees for this fantastic prize, I find such interesting books are picked. This book got a lot higher on my list after I watched a video from one of my favourite book tubers Simon from Savidge Reads who loved this book and sold it to me incredibly well!

6.) The Rest Of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Patrick Ness is one of my favourite authors and I am shamefully behind with his books. That’s a good enough reason for me! I hope to get to his most recent book, Release as well but we’ll see how I get on.

7.) Everything But The Truth – Gillian McAllister

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is another one of those books that I heard rave reviews about last year and just didn’t get round to reading. I will this year!

8.) End Of Watch – Stephen King

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a no brainer for regular visitors to my blog. End Of Watch is the third novel in the Bill Hodges/Mr Mercedes trilogy and I’m really excited to see how the story ends. It left on quite the cliffhanger in the second book, Finders Keepers.

9.) Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King and Owen King

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Oh look another Stephen King book! This is Stephen King’s latest release that he wrote with his son, Owen and this cover does not do justice to how beautiful the book is in real life. My boyfriend bought me a copy to cheer me up after a rough year as I was trying to wait for it to come out in paperback. It’s a chunky beast but I’m so glad and grateful he got it for me, now I can read it even sooner!

10.) Charlotte Bronte – Claire Harman

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a non-fiction account of the life of Charlotte Bronte (as I mentioned before, Jane Eyre is one of my all time favourite classics/books). I have been neglecting my non fiction recently and this is another present from my wonderful boyfriend albeit a couple of years ago – oops. This is why I need to get to it this year!

11.) English Animals – Laura Kaye

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I had been aware of English Animals last year and the cover is obviously stunning but it was only after watching book tubers Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings and Lauren from Lauren And The Books give glowing reviews for this novel that I knew I had to make time for it this year.

12.) Her Husband’s Lover – Julia Crouch

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I met Julia Crouch at a bookish event a little while ago and she kindly signed my copy of this book and was lovely to talk to. I gave this book originally to my sister to read as she’s a big Julia Crouch fan but now I’m determined to read it for myself, especially after seeing Chrissi’s wonderful review.

13.) The House In Smyrna – Tatiana Salem Levy

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Confession time. This is a review copy that the lovely people at Scribe were kind enough to send me that I thought I had lost and have found recently. I remember why I was so excited to read it when it arrived and I’m definitely going to be checking it out soon.

14.) Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is another non-fiction book that I’ve had on my shelf for a long, long time and I keep meaning to read it but keep getting distracted by other books. It promises to change the way you look at eating meat so I’m intrigued. My boyfriend and sister are vegetarians but I still love the taste of meat…even if I feel very guilty about doing so!

15.) The Man Who Died – Antti Tuomainen

Why do I want to read it this year?:

My lovely blogger friend Stuart from Always Trust In Books sent me some wonderful books and I loved the sound of all of them but I’m especially intrigued by this one, just read his review to see why.

16.) We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Yes, it’s been on my shelves for ages. Sigh! It won a host of awards and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2014. Plus, I think my sister is quite keen to read it so I need to get started so I can pass it on to her!

17.) The Death House – Sarah Pinborough

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I can’t even remember buying this book (hangs head in shame) but re-reading the synopsis right now and hearing great things about this author from other bloggers I know that I need to start reading some Sarah Pinborough. As I already have this book this seems the perfect place to start.

18.) Miss Jane – Brad Watson

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I bought this book on the London Bookshop Crawl in Oxford last year which I went to with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. Of course I’m a sucker for a beautiful cover so it was that I have to admit that initially attracted me. However, the synopsis cemented the deal and I couldn’t resist buying it.

So that’s the 18 books I’d like to read in 2018! I’d love to hear from you guys, have you read any of these books? If you have, what did you think? What books would you recommend I get to sooner rather than later this year? If any other bloggers fancy doing (or have done) their 18 books to read in 2018 please leave your link down below, I’d love to check out what you really want to read this year.

Banned Books 2018 – JANUARY READ – Summer Of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

Published January 29, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Minutes before the train pulled into the station in Jenkinsville, Arkansas, Patty Bergen knew something exciting was going to happen. But she never could have imagined that her summer would be so memorable. German prisoners of war have arrived to make their new home in the prison camp in Jenkinsville. To the rest of her town, these prisoners are only Nazis. But to Patty, a young Jewish girl with a turbulent home life, one boy in particular becomes an unlikely friend. Anton relates to Patty in ways that her mother and father never can. But when their forbidden relationship is discovered, will Patty risk her family and town for the understanding and love of one boy?

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the first banned book in our series for 2018! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

FEBRUARY: Twilight-Stephenie Meyer 
MARCH: Fallen Angels -Walter Dean Myers
APRIL: Saga Volume 3 -Brian K.Vaughan and Fiona Staples
MAY: Blood And Chocolate -Annette Curtis Klause
JUNE: Brave New World-Aldous Huxley
JULY: Julie Of The Wolves -Jean Craighead George
AUGUST: I Am Jazz– Jessica Herthel
SEPTEMBER: Taming The Star Runner– S.E. Hinton
OCTOBER: Beloved -Toni Morrison
NOVEMBER: King & King -Linda de Haan
DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My Life– Charise Mericle Harper
For now, back to this month:

Summer Of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

First published: 1973

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2001  (source)

Reasons: offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Summer Of My German Soldier was first published in 1973, before I was born and it’s one of the older titles on the ALA’s top ten of banned/challenged books, challenged in 2001 which I still think of as fairly recent, I’m not sure about any of you? I was intrigued to read this book, especially when I found out that it was about a young girl and a German Nazi soldier and as with many of the books on our Banned Books list, I don’t agree with many of the reasons for challenging it. For example, I don’t remember any incidences of offensive language (perhaps I just glossed over them?) but I’m actually sitting here, racking my brain right now and I really don’t think there were any “bad words,” that shocked or offended me. Eye roll.

CHRISSI: I was really interested to see why Summer Of My German Soldier was challenged. As Beth mentioned, it is one of the older titles on the list. I didn’t find any of the language offensive in the slightest. There were some moments that were racist, but given its subject matter and the characters, it wasn’t really a surprise to me? I certainly don’t think it’s something that we should shy away from.

How about now?

BETH: As I mentioned, I still think of 2001 as being fairly recent (that probably shows my age!) but it was in fact seventeen years ago. I would have hoped attitudes have changed for the better in those years in that a lot of us are more tolerant and accepting and less racist but sadly, this is not true in all parts of the world or for all groups of people. In 2001, I would not have described this book as sexually explicit in the slightest and I certainly wouldn’t now. Excuse me while I rack my brain once again for even a slight mention of graphic sexual content because there wasn’t one! The only thing I am a little uneasy about in this novel is the racism, which I do agree is there and I don’t particularly like it or condone it. However, I think everyone should have access to all kinds of books, with some stipulations for younger or more sensitive children and in one way, it might educate people about how terrible people of another race were (and still) continue to be treated.

CHRISSI: I could kind of see why it would be banned or challenged but that’s not to say I agree with it. The racism did make for some uncomfortable reading. I know it’s not something that has been eradicated. Goodness knows we still have racism around in 2018, but it’s something that does make me uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s a book that should be banned though because it’s a good talking point and could potentially be educative. It just has to be used with sensitivity and with caution with impressionable readers.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  This is such a difficult one. Parts of it I really enjoyed, I loved Patty’s relationship with the housekeeper, Ruth and conversely, absolutely hated her relationship with her parents which made me incredibly uncomfortable and uneasy at points. The thing I had most problems with in this novel however was Patty’s relationship with the German soldier, Anton. She is twelve at the time when she meets him and he is twenty-two. She falls in love with him quite quickly, which is fine and he never outwardly reciprocates her love but there is hints that he feels the same way and that just feels very, very wrong to me. This book is also quite bleak at points so don’t go into it expecting a great resolution and a happy fairy-tale ending.

CHRISSI: Unfortunately, it’s not a book that I enjoyed. I didn’t like the relationships in this novel and it made me feel rather uncomfortable over all. I wouldn’t describe it as a pleasant reading experience!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me- I didn’t enjoy reading this book and I think there are better ones out there with the same subject matter.

 3 Star Rating Clip Art
Coming up on the last Monday of February on Banned Books: we review Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

The Green Road – Anne Enright

Published January 26, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

From internationally acclaimed author Anne Enright comes a shattering novel set in a small town on Ireland’s Atlantic coast. The Green Road is a tale of family and fracture, compassion and selfishness—a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we strive to fill them.

Spanning thirty years, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigans, a family on the cusp of either coming together or falling irreparably apart. As they grow up, Rosaleen’s four children leave the west of Ireland for lives they could have never imagined in Dublin, New York, and Mali, West Africa. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.

A profoundly moving work about a family’s desperate attempt to recover the relationships they’ve lost and forge the ones they never had, The Green Road is Enright’s most mature, accomplished, and unforgettable novel to date.

What did I think?:

The Green Road is (I think) my first novel by Anne Enright although I’ve heard a lot of great things about her other novels, especially The Gathering which won the Man Booker Prize back in 2007 and is on my radar to read. The Green Road came to my attention when I attended the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction 2016 shortlist readings as it was one of the short-listed books. After a reading from the novel, I was determined to check it out as the passage read was absolutely hilarious and made the audience howl. I’m eventually getting round to reading it (in early 2018 – shame on me!) and generally, I really enjoyed it but not quite as much as I was expecting to. This is a categorically Irish story about members of a typical Irish family and how the mother of this family copes when all her chicks fly the nest. It was gorgeously written and parts of it still play on my mind long after finishing, as do many of the characters.

Our story begins in 1980 and we follow the youngest daughter of this family, Hanna as a young girl. Furthermore, the following chapters follow a single character of the family in a different city at a particular struggle of their life. For example, the chapter immediately following Hanna is one of the sons, Dan in 1991, New York as he battles with the American way of life, finding a job and most importantly, his sexuality. Then we see the oldest daughter, Constance in 1997 as she is attending a very crucial hospital appointment, desperately worrying that she might have breast cancer. The penultimate chapter in the first half of the novel is the other son, Emmet in 2002 as helps the sick and injured in Mali, Africa and experiences difficulties in his relationship with a young woman. Finally we see the mother, Rosaleen in 2005 as she writes Christmas cards to her children, desperately hoping they will all come home for Christmas and worries that the relationships she has with them are all disintegrating. In the second half of the narrative, we see all the children back home with their mother for Christmas but realise how fractured their relationships and indeed their lives actually are.

Essentially, this is a quintessential family saga with all the major and minor dramas that large personalities in a family can bring. It’s written at points almost like a stream of consciousness, particularly when characters are speaking to each other with classic Irish phrasing and slang. I loved this latter part, it was so visceral I could almost imagine myself in Ireland, listening to people speaking but unfortunately the stream of consciousness part didn’t work so well for me, it was sometimes a bit difficult to follow and it made me want to skip entire parts of the narrative. However, I was surprised at the range of emotions this novel elicited from me. I felt such sadness for Constance when she was in the hospital and for Hanna as she struggled with alcohol, her relationship with her husband and being a mother of a young baby (potentially post-natal depression?).

I was also touched by Dan’s story as he was so horribly determined not to be homosexual in the beginning but ended up finding happiness, and of course Emmet and the good he did in Africa whilst never really managing to love anyone. As I’m writing this, I’m remembering how wonderful parts of this novel really were but unfortunately there were other parts that I didn’t love so much and just didn’t flow for me the way I wanted. Perhaps from the reading I mentioned early at the Baileys short-list event I was expecting this novel to be a lot funnier that it actually was and wasn’t anticipating the seriousness I discovered so was slightly taken aback. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this novel, I did very much but I think expectations are strange things and I am a bit of a slave to them, once I’ve made up my mind how I might feel about a novel prior to reading it. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the slow pace and the intricate character studies which I always appreciate in a good literary fiction.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

The Green Road by Anne Enright is the seventh book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Talking About How To Stop Time by Matt Haig with Chrissi Reads

Published January 25, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret.

He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him.

The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: We have now read a few of Matt Haig’s books. What did you make of this one compared to this others?
BETH: We certainly have. Previously I’ve read The Radleys, The Humans, Echo Boy and his amazing non fiction Reasons To Stay Alive. I think apart from the latter book I mentioned, which really effected me emotionally, How To Stop Time has to be my favourite thing he has ever written. It’s beautifully poignant, I love the characters, especially our main protagonist Tom Hazard and in almost every paragraph, there was a sentence I wanted to fix in my mind forever.
BETH: I fell in love almost immediately with the character of Tom. How well do you think he was drawn by the author?
CHRISSI: I absolutely loved the character of Tom. I think Matt Haig has done an exceptional job of writing his story and creating such an ever so lovable character. I immediately loved Tom and wanted the best for him. I thought he was such a thoughtful, insightful character who was desperate to find that love he once had, even though he’s governed by the rules by those that look out for him. Truly, Matt Haig has created a stunning character.
CHRISSI: Is Tom Hazard’s condition a blessing or a curse? Is a long life always a good life?
BETH: Great question! I think a lot of people would definitely see Tom’s condition as a blessing. He’s got to see some amazing periods of history and meet some fascinating people, William Shakespeare and Captain Cook to name a few. However, as soon as he joins the secret society for others like him, his life becomes even more restricted in a way. He can only spend eight years in a particular place, he has to carry out an assignment for the society after this time and he can never, ever get too close to people or fall in love. I don’t think long life is always a good life, especially if you’re suffering because of it.
BETH: How did Tom’s relationship with Rose suffer because of his condition?
CHRISSI: Tom’s relationship with Rose was my favourite relationship in this story. I think it suffered because Tom knew inevitably that Rose would pass on and he would have to live life without her. *sob* Tom was caught up on the romance with Rose as he wasn’t supposed to fall in love as per the rules of the Albatross Society. Rose was special to him because of their daughter.
CHRISSI: Matt Haig has said that this book was partly inspired by his own experiences of mental illness. In what way has this shaped the novel? What are the consequences for Tom of having a condition that is invisible to the outside world?
BETH: That’s very interesting and I’m such a strong advocate of speaking out about mental illness. Matt opened up and put so much personal stuff in his non-fiction book Reasons To Stay Alive that it must have been quite a difficult writing process and it was nice to see hints of mental turmoil in How To Stop Time. One of the trickiest things for our character Tom is that he is forbidden to get close enough to people to share what he is going through for fear of what people might do to him and indeed, who would ever believe him? At the same time, he has a horrendous time trying to cope, feeling completely out on his own without anyone to talk to and having to move on regularly to prevent people making comments on his lack of ageing.
BETH: The novel is set amidst multiple time periods, did you have a preference for Tom’s story in the past or the present?
CHRISSI: I don’t know what it was about it, but I preferred reading about Tom’s story in the present. I wanted to see what life was like for Tom now. I also loved him being a teacher, being a teacher myself, I always like to read about teachers. His wealth of knowledge as a history teacher must’ve been incredible! I’m envious! 😉
CHRISSI: What made this book stand out for you?
BETH: It was a lot of things I think. It was the gorgeous writing, the beautiful character development and how Matt Haig made me feel so much for Tom and for his situation. Then there’s the way it was set out as different chapters jumped around hundreds of years in Tom’s life where we get a real sense of how much he has seen and how much he has suffered.
BETH: How would you describe this book to a friend? Would you say this was a historical novel, science fiction, literary fiction or something else?
CHRISSI: Oh my goodness, that’s such a hard question because it really is a mixture of all of those things. It’s historical because of the elements of history within its pages. It’s also science fiction, again, because of some of the content. It certainly reads like literary fiction as well (and literary fiction) is not my thing. The something else? Just Matt Haig. Can he be a genre? No? Well, what I mean is that it’s just so lyrically written and so utterly quotable. It’s moving, unique and makes you think deeply about your own life. Written by a true master of his craft!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Without a doubt!
BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):
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How To Stop Time is the sixth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Conspiracy Of Blood And Smoke (Prisoner Of Night And Fog #2) – Anne Blankman

Published January 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The gripping sequel to Prisoner of Night and Fog. The epic tale of one young woman racing to save the man she loves during one of history’s darkest hours. For fans of The Book Thief and Beneath a Scarlet Sky.’

It’s terrifying and incredible to think how much of this story is true’ Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity on Prisoner of Night and Fog 

Gretchen Muller has three rules for her new life:

1. Blend into the surroundings
2. Don’t tell anyone who you really are
3. Never, ever go back to Germany

Gretchen Whitestone has a secret: she used to be part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle. When she made an enemy of her former friends, she fled Munich for Oxford with her love, Daniel Cohen. But then a telegram calls Daniel back to Germany, and Gretchen’s world turns upside down when he is accused of murder.

To save Daniel, Gretchen must return to her homeland and somehow avoid capture by the Nazi elite. As they work to clear Daniel’s name, they discover a deadly conspiracy stretching from the slums of Berlin to the Reichstag itself. Can they dig up the explosive truth and escape in time – or will Hitler find them first?

What did I think?:

Conspiracy Of Blood And Smoke is the second book in the Prisoner Of Night And Fog duology and if you like young adult historical fiction with a strong focus on Germany just prior to World War II, this is definitely the series for you. I’ve always had an interest in that period of history and love to indulge myself in a mixture of fiction and non-fiction so when I thoroughly enjoyed Prisoner Of Night And Fog recently, I was determined to find out what happened to Gretchen and Daniel in the follow up novel. Now, there’s always a worry for me that the second book in a series isn’t going to match the first but luckily Anne Blankman has written another stellar outing for our star-crossed lovers and it was wonderful to be back in Gretchen’s world once more, particularly when she returns to 1930’s Germany. The research the author has done into this period of time shines through in a believable, frightening and super atmospheric story that I devoured in about two sittings.

I’ll try to be kind of vague for those of you that haven’t read the first novel in the series yet but basically all you need to know is that Gretchen, former pet and golden girl of Adolf Hitler is forced to return to Germany with her Jewish boyfriend, Daniel after he receives a telegram in England that makes him worry for his friends and families lives. They return back to Germany in absolute secrecy and in disguise as Daniel is now a wanted criminal and Hitler is obviously very sore at the fact that his former Nazi protégée Gretchen is now in love with a Jewish man. Being discovered would mean certain death for both of our protagonists but they are determined to first of all, clear Daniel’s name for a murder he never committed, and to expose Hitler for the psychopath he is suggested to be to the British authorities before he can have the chance of ruling Germany and starting a war.

This series was recommended to me by my wonderful sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads and I literally jumped at the chance to read it when she told me the synopsis. You might know that I’m not the biggest fan of romance but for some reason, Gretchen and Daniel’s romance just touches my heart. I’m not sure if it was because she was raised by Hitler to hate all Jewish people and when she eventually met Daniel, she realised that Hitler’s propaganda was completely false and incredibly dangerous. I have to say, I am a bit of a sucker for a Romeo/Juliet type love story and this is exactly what this relationship feels like. However, I also adore that the author challenges normal gender stereotypes (especially in 1930’s Britain/Germany) by making our lead female protagonist quite the brave heroine that thinks nothing of risking her own life in order to save Daniel.

Another thing I love about this series is that not everything is tied up with a bow. We know as a reader, there isn’t necessarily going to be a happy ending, we realise from history that Hitler DOES end up becoming Chancellor of Germany and obviously, we understand that World War II did happen and a huge number of people lost their lives. The “bad guy,” cannot be vanquished in this case but Gretchen and Daniel do manage to carry out a great deal of good that alerts certain individuals to exactly how dangerous in fact Hitler really is. This novel feels for me like one big adventure with such fast-paced action that at times it almost left me breathless. Expect the unexpected, suspend your disbelief slightly and just enjoy the evocative world that Anne Blankman has created.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Conspiracy Of Blood And Smoke by Anne Blankman is the third book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest for the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Salt Creek – Lucy Treloar

Published January 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

THE TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

Salt Creek, 1855, lies at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. The area, just opened to graziers willing to chance their luck, becomes home to Stanton Finch and his large family, including fifteen-year-old Hester Finch.

Once wealthy political activists, the Finch family has fallen on hard times. Cut adrift from the polite society they were raised to be part of, Hester and her siblings make connections where they can: with the few travellers that pass along the nearby stock route – among them a young artist, Charles – and the Ngarrindjeri people they have dispossessed. Over the years that pass, an Aboriginal boy, Tully, at first a friend, becomes part of the family.

Stanton’s attempts to tame the harsh landscape bring ruin to the Ngarrindjeri people’s homes and livelihoods, and unleash a chain of events that will tear the family asunder. As Hester witnesses the destruction of the Ngarrindjeri’s subtle culture and the ideals that her family once held so close, she begins to wonder what civilization is. Was it for this life and this world that she was educated?

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the wonderful people at Gallic Press who got in touch with me via email and asked me if I’d be interested in reading a couple of their titles that they thought I would enjoy. The first title was Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar and caught my attention immediately from that beautiful synopsis that instantly made me feel like this book was begging to be read. Well, let me just say that Gallic Press have hit onto a real winner here with what they thought I might like, because I adored everything about this novel. Not only is there an absolutely stellar story within these pages but the novel itself is just so aesthetically pleasing with that gorgeous cover art and the fact that the jacket is slightly rough so you could almost believe you were running your hands through sand (which of course, connects with where our story is set!).

So I have to admit I was already inclined to like this novel on the outside but I’m not so shallow to believe that a pretty front cover is all it takes to make a fascinating story. Here is where I tell you that what is on the inside is just as good as the exterior. It is an epic tale of a large family who leave their home in Adelaide to live in a remote, isolated region of Australia near to some of the native Aboriginal tribes who call it their home. Stanton Finch and his family build their house from scratch, raise animals, live off the land and survive in quite harsh conditions as they enter financial difficulties, suffer their own personal tragedies and learn to co-exist with the native residents of Salt Creek in the mid to late 1800’s.

An integral part of the family is fifteen year old Hester Finch and we see a lot of the narrative through her eyes as she looks out for her younger brothers and sisters, tries to comfort her distressed mother (who did not anticipate leading such an impoverished life) and begins to learn a lot about the people on the land that seem to look so different and have different customs compared to her own family. It is during those years of hardship on their land and as the family’s fortune continues to dwindle that Hester begins to see a new side of some of the members of her family and realises that decisions she has made, in order to protect her family, may not be the best and healthiest decisions after all.

I’d love to say more but I simply can’t! The beauty of this novel is that you really don’t know where it’s going to end up and I was certainly surprised and delighted by some of the more obscure avenues that the author went down that I definitely didn’t expect. There is quite a slow pace at the start but please don’t be put off. Once the family become ensconced at Salt Creek and you get your head round the sheer number of characters in this family, you enter a world of gorgeous story-telling, worrying prejudices and unexpected events that have to be read to be believed. I loved the author’s description of the environment, it was so visceral I could picture everything that Hester sees in my mind and almost feel that oppressive heat on my back. At times, it made for quite tough reading, especially when our characters (either Australian or Aboriginal) go through difficult circumstances and I found some of the attitudes at the time particularly hard to stomach. By the end though, I left it supremely satisfied and almost as if I had gone through that journey myself with Hester and her family, which I can only give credit to Lucy Treloar for as it was she who provided such a rich and emotional reading experience.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0