Tag Archives: genre: historical fiction

Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin

Last Train to Istanbul

Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin

Published by: AmazonCrossing on October 8, 2013 (translation)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Selva is the daughter of a traditional Turkish man who disowned her when she decided to marry Rafael Alfandari, son of a prominent physician–and a Jew. As much as it pained her to lose the connection to her family, Selva had to follow her heart. And to get out of the shadow of disapproval from both sets of parents, Selva and Rafael relocated to France where they had a son and made a life for themselves. But things changed quickly when the Nazis invaded France and began seeking out and rounding up Jews. While Turkey, being neutral in the conflict, has been able to keep some of their Jewish citizens from being taken, they worry that they may not be able to protect them in the face of continuing extreme approaches by Nazi officials. In an effort to keep their citizens safe, Turkish officials arrange for a train to bring a single car of Turkish citizens home. But for people like Selva, whose community includes friends who are not Turkish but are clearly in danger, there’s a compulsion to take a risk to protect them. And it’s a risk that could lead to consequences for everyone…

This is a wonderfully-written and well-researched piece of writing that I am so glad I took the time to read. While this period of humanity’s history is challenging to approach and read about, I think it’s incredibly important that we don’t simply ignore it. And thankfully this story provides the contrast between those who acted with very little regard for others and those who are willing to risk themselves in service of doing what’s right. You’ll quickly become connected to these characters. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll enjoy an excellent story that embodies the better aspects of our nature.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Series: Untitled Series, Book 1
Published by: Del Rey Books on January 10, 2017
Rating: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Vasilisa (Vasya) lives with her family in the Russian wilderness, where the winters are hard and long but they work together to make it through. And one of the hallmarks of those winter nights is the gathering of the children around the oven to hear tell of fairy tales and legends from their history. They are stories that are being quickly left behind with the spread of Christianity throughout their lands. But Vasya knows there’s some truth to them. She can see the household spirits–the subject of several of the nightly stories. Vasya also knows that as people stop paying mind to these spirits, they become weak and lose their hold over the families land and the ability to keep them protected from more malevolent beings. And there is a danger lurking just beyond the trees waiting for the right opportunity to leap out from the shadows.

I struggle with where to begin with this story because I want to avoid spoilers as much as I can. I even feel like my synopsis above might be too much if it wasn’t for the fact that most of this information can be gleaned from the publisher’s blurb. But I will say this is an excellent fantasy title, referencing mythology of Russia with a strong emphasis on family dynamics. The characters are well written, especially Vasya who faces a number of challenges and moments of growth throughout the book. And the narration easily brings this world to life on the page.

This is the first book in what the author plans to be a trilogy–I certainly look forward to the next installment.

Man & Monster by Michael Jensen

Man & Monster

Man & Monster by Michael Jensen

Series: The Savage Land, Book 2
Published by: Buddha Kitty Books on January 4, 2017 (re-release)
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Cole Seavey knew it might not be the best idea to venture west on his own. But he needed to get away from his life back east and he figured he might see if he could catch up with his brother out on the frontier. But a run-in with a cougar as he tried to save a young child in the middle of the woods left him in the path of a much more dangerous and mysterious creature. And it also left him on the run without any of his supplies. He’s saved by a Delaware Indian name Pakim and he quickly finds himself pulled into the politics and drama of the local community. But the creature he encountered in the woods isn’t going away, and more people are going missing or reporting sightings of something strange in the forest. When it finally makes a move that could bring them all down, Cole and Pakim realize they might be parted–just when they’ve started to connect on a deeper level. Is this just Cole’s luck? Or is there a chance they will both make it out alive?

This is a very well-written historical m/m romance, which is a genre I absolutely think we need more of in the world. We know that there were certainly LGBT people during these eras in history, but because they had to keep their lives hidden most of their stories are lost to us. I love the idea of thinking about what life may have been like and filling in those gaps with good stories just like this one.

This is the second book in a series, but there is no need to have read the first book to dive into this one–it can live as a stand-alone novel. I’ve not read the first book, and I had no problems understanding what was going on or following the story.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles

Flight of Magpies

Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles

Series: A Charm of Magpies, Book 3
Published by: Samhain Publishing on October 28, 2014
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Life for Stephen Day has never really been what one would call normal. But things are getting weird even for him. The justiciary is still in the process of rebuilding their forces, and one of the apprentices may be going mad with power. Of course, this only adds to the stress between Stephen and his lover, Lord Crane. A stress that comes to a head over the investigation of a theft in which Crane finds himself the victim. Can Stephen help solve the theft, figure out what’s going on with the young apprentice, and keep his relationship afloat?

I have enjoyed this series; the combination of historical and paranormal always has a way of drawing me in. And the characters here are the same characters that I’ve grown to enjoy reading about during the previous two installments. I have to say that I do feel like there’s just a little bit too much going on in this one, though. There’s the case at the core, there’s the drama with the justiciary, there’s the short-staffing of the judiciary–it’s just so many layers and makes things suddenly more complex than I feel they have been thus far. Perhaps I just wasn’t ready for this turn. I still enjoyed this book, and I absolutely recommend it. It just didn’t quite hit the spot in the way I expected it would.

A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan

A Private Gentleman

A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan

Published by: Samhain Publishing on February 14, 2012
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Lord George Albert Westin (“Wes”) is incredibly shy and introverted. His stutter often makes people look down upon him, including his own family. He tends to stick to himself and his garden. But when he hears of an exotic orchid that he needs to see, he ventures out to the home of a fellow gardener. It’s there that Wes meets Michael Vallant. Wes is drawn to Michael immediately, but there are many things about Michael he doesn’t know. Not only is there the issue of Michael’s profession, but there’s a much darker secret that connects them. Can Michael help Wes come out of his shell more? And can Wes help Michael work through his past? And will Wes believe Michael if he tells him the truth?

A great and well-written historical. These two connect in a seemingly unexpected way, and the story that connects them through their history is even more out of the ordinary. I enjoyed their interactions even though their relationship developed in a rather unorthodox way. In some ways, I’m still not sure how I feel about the interactions with Wes’s family, but it does play into the history of both men. Overall an interesting read.

A Fashionable Indulgence by K.J. Charles

A Fashionable IndulgenceA Fashionable Indulgence by K.J. Charles

Series: Society of Gentlemen, Book 1
Published by: Loveswept on August 11, 2015
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Synopsis

Harry Vane is a freedom fighter, seen as a radical, pushing back against the monarchy in favor of democracy. It’s what he’s known his whole life. His parents were leaders in the movement, and it follows that he would carry on their legacy.

But there’s a secret of Harry’s past that he doesn’t know. He is descended from nobility. And he’s the heir to a title and a fortune. Those aren’t things that Harry ever set out for in life, but it does seem better than being arrested–or worse–if he refuses to go along with it and someone looks more closely at his activities.

Julius Norreys is assigned to help Harry make his way into society life. He’s to teach him how to dress, how to act, and who to know. Although it quickly becomes clear that Julius may be more interested in working with Harry on how to undress. And Harry seems happy to oblige.

But there are a few obstacles in Julius and Harry’s path. For one, Harry’s grandfather expects him to marry the woman of his choosing. And Julius has made it clear he won’t be kept on the side. And there’s also the issue of Harry’s past–and his radical friends–that he just can’t seem to escape.

Review

I have become quite the fan of historicals by K.J. Charles. There’s just something about the way the characters and the setting are written that pulls me right in. I can’t seem to put the books down (indeed, I read this one in one sitting).

This start of a new series is no different. There’s a rich world with a social context. There’s strong character backstory and even some unexpected conflict. I certainly give this one a strong recommendation.

 

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

The Wolf Road

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

Published by: Crown on July 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

When Elka wanders away from her grandmother’s house, the last thing she expects is to be taken in by a local hunter. But that’s exactly what happens. And, to her surprise, he treats her well–provides for her, teaches her skills. And he protects her.

Imagine Elka’s surprise when she learns the man is wanted for several murders. She wants to believe it’s not the man who has become her surrogate father. But before she really has time to do anything about it, she knows she needs to run. The ruthless magistrate is after her, too, assuming she’s somehow connected to the crimes.

Elka sets out on a mission to find her parents. Perhaps by finding them, she can disconnect herself completely from the one adult she’s trusted for years. And hopefully she can get there before either of the people chasing her–the Trapper and the Magistrate–catch up with her.

When I finished this book, I told myself it was a decent historical fiction novel. But then when I went back to start this review, I noticed it’s marked as “dystopian”. I guess there’s a reference in the blurb, but it didn’t really come through at all in the book. I just thought the lack of technology, homesteading, etc. was an element of the time setting.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.]

Native Wind by A.M. Burns


Native Wind

Native Wind by A.M. Burns

Series: Native Ingenuity, Book 1
Published by: DSP Publications on July 19, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After the murder of his family, Trey McAllister found a home among the Comanche. Not only did they give him a place to live and a tribe to support him, but his innate magical abilities led to him being taken on as a shaman’s apprentice. The new home also gave Trey the opportunity to bond more closely with his friend Grey Talon. And their relationship quickly became more to both of them than they might otherwise have imagined.

As part of a bargain made by the tribe’s shaman, Trey and Grey Talon find themselves on a mission to track down a dragon’s daughter. But it’s not just a simple tracking mission. It’s a task that may bring them face-to-face with people more vile and more powerful than they’ve faced before. The two of them will need to work together, and they’ll need to be willing to rely on any extra help they might find along the way.

There’s quite a convergence of genre here. There are elements of historical fiction when it comes to place and people. Then one will find some fantasy in the use of magic. There’s mythology with the mention of spirits of the elements and dragons. And the mechanical creations that show up early in the book bring in a healthy helping of steampunk. But comes together in a way that really works.

This is one that I finished in a single sitting. Not only is it a relatively easy read, but it’s engaging. I had no real desire to put it down and go do something else until it was finished. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but I am certainly looking forward to more.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Winterwode by J. Tullos Hennig

Winterwode

Winterwode by J. Tullos Hennig

Series: The Wode, Book 3
Published by: DSP Publications on October 6, 2015
Rating: 5 stars (★★★★★)

Robyn’s band is all back together. His sister, Marion, is back at his side. And he’s recovered the lost love of his youth, Gamelyn. Except Gamelyn isn’t just Gamelyn anymore. Guy of Gisborne, Templar, still resides in there somewhere. It’s an identity that can’t easily be shed. But Robyn is patient, and Gamelyn sometimes seems willing to try.

When a traveling minstrel informs the Shire Wode outlaws that the Queen Mother is essentially being held prisoner by Prince John, their relatively happy reverie is broken. Despite being branded outlaws, they’re too noble to let that stand. Of course, it helps that it’s an opportunity to stick it to the tyrannical prince.

There are a few problems, though. Not only do they need to sneak in and break out the Queen Mother. They will need to take her to Temple Hirst, thrusting Gamelyn/Guy right back into the Templar order. And to complicate matters even more, someone with knowledge of the Wode’s magic is on their trail. And he may just be a force to be reckoned with.

Can they pull off the rescue? And if Gamelyn rejoins his fellow knights, will he fall back into the life of Guy? Will Robyn lose him forever? And what would that mean for the Lady’s prophecy?

I’m such a fan of this series, and I’m so glad there are some additional books coming. It’s such a well-written retelling of the Robin Hood story. This history, the imagery, and the fantasy combine to create such a rich, dynamic world. And I’ve honestly devoured every page since I started the first book in the series.

There are some wonderful twists and turns in this book that certainly serve to keep readers on the edge of their seats. And the tension that exists throughout creates an incredible thread to pull you along. Writing of this caliber is a rare find.

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

The Line of Beauty

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

Published by: Picador Books on April 16, 2004
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

In early 1980s London, Nick Guest walks an interestingly fine line. He’s a postgraduate student lodging with the family of a member of parliament. He’s gay. And he’s not entirely closed off about it. But the family is accepting, so it all seems okay.

But even in the 80s, prejudice against gays was more than just the norm. Many of the guys that Nick finds are still closeted themselves. And Nick finds himself having to make some choices about the men he chooses to be with. Secrets aren’t uncommon in Nick’s world, but he’s not usually the one who is keeping them.

Add to that the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic, and Nick certainly faces some challenges. But he’s not going to let them hold him back from living his life.

But Nick might just find that when one lives in a house of cards, it just takes a light breeze for it all to come crashing down.

I saw the film version of this a few years ago, and I’m still trying to decide if I liked that or the book better. What I do like about this story is that it’s one that’s not usually told. Yes, there are plenty of historical novels that take place in London. And there are many m/m stories that take place in the 80s and address the AIDS epidemic. But I feel like this may be the first I’ve read that combines both. Most stories on that topic I’ve read seem to be US-based.

There’s also something about Nick’s tentative status as observer/participant that makes this one resonate for me. There are those moments in live where we find ourselves in a place where we’re not entirely sure why we’re there. We feel a bit out of our element. It’s not our world, but now we live in it. And at those times, it can be hard to figure out how to fit in. This is one of those stories.