Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

Book Review – Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

What I’ve recently finished:

**Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

What is it about?
What a fabulous beginning to a series!

Margaret Hope finds herself in England as World War II breaks out. She put her graduate program at MIT on hold to go across the pond from the United States to sell her grandmother’s house. Clearly trying to sell a home in a city where war is about to break out makes for a questionable housing market so she opens the house up to a few young women to be her roommates. We meet her a few months into the war and then the reader slowly starts to learn of her back story. Maggie was raised by her aunt who lives in the US after her parents’ death. This aunt is apprehensive of Margret’s presence in the UK because she fears Margaret will come across the truth about her childhood. I will stop there ;-)

Now let’s throw in some historical events! Margaret receives a job as a typist in the Prime Minister’s office (hence they book’s title). She was looked over for a job as a PM’s Analyst because that position was not suited for a females. As the PM’s office concentrates on the movement of Germany and wonders when the United States will be involved, the country starts to forget the IRA until they start conducting random acts of violence throughout the city of London! Thanks to Margaret’s wit and smarts she is able to break the codes she sees but the process of her doing that is really quite thrilling.

Why did I read this?
Honestly, I think I was wondering around Amazon one weekend and found it. Didn’t I say that last time? :-) It was available in Target one evening with I was there.

What impressed me about this book?
This was one exciting story with a very very likable heroine! This, I do believe, was my first spy book and I liked that it was fast-paced without getting overwhelming

What disappointed me about this book?
…but I will say, and maybe this is just a personal quirk, that I had a very difficult time keeping characters straight. And honestly, if that’s the only gripe I have about the book, then I say it is still a keeper.

Historical Relevance:
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Margaret, in a way….to be so smart but not be taken seriously whether it was in 10 Downing Street or in Britain’s security agency, Mi5. It didn’t take till the 1970s for women to be accepted as full officers in Mi5. Women held mainly secretarial jobs and did not do so for long. When they got married, they would be “encouraged” to go home to take care of their families. I found myself applauding Margaret throughout this book. She showed her intelligence in really smart ways. I can’t help but wonder how much of a typical woman of the times she was? I would venture that she definitely stood out from the typical woman of the times. And, because of that, I very much look forward to the next book, Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade?

Rating: ★★★★½

Book Review – Blue Asylum

Monday, May 21st, 2012

 

I’m a little back logged as far as books are concerned.

What I’ve recently finished:

 

**Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

What is it about?
OK Tell my why I seem to be drawn to books where women are thrown in insane asylums for crazy reasons? asks the uppity feminist of the 21st century, reading about women in the 19th and early 20th century. All I have to say, that while women still have a way to go in terms of achieving equality, at least we’ve come far away from that! I’ve read my fair share of books with this premise or I’ve marked books like this as “to read” and I just end up feeling so terrible for these women!
Anyway, this specific book is about Iris Dunleavy, a Virginia plantation wife who is sent to the Blue Asylum off the coast of Florida during the Civil War after she is found to be mad for disagreeing with her husband over ideas concerning human decency and property. Iris is sent to an insane asylum with “modern” techniques to “cure” her. As someone in the 21st century reading this, I could not help but see the differences in the definition of slavery in the 1860s vs now. At this facility, she meets a soldier, Ambrose Weller, who is reeling from his experiences on the battlefields of our nation’s Civil War

Why did I read this?
Honestly, I think I was wondering around Amazon one weekend and found it. Luckily my library had it as well and I was one of the first in my branch to read it :-D (It’s the little things, no?)

What impressed me about this book?
I’m not going to lie–excessive descriptions of settings is a personal pet peeve of mine. I pride myself on the visions of the story in my head. That said, this book is essentially set in a swamp area. While I’ve heard DC referred to one countless times (:-)) , even I can admit I’ve never been. The descriptions in this book were clear without being too verbose.

What disappointed me about this book?
One very abrupt ending – I felt like there was very little resolution for many of these characters. I finished the book and I can’t help but wonder: What happened? And not like when you finish a book and you wonder what happens to them afterward. I genuinely felt like questions were left unanswered.

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

Overall Grade?


Book Review – Revolution

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

In addition to my resolution to write more reviews, I have been finding all these great reading blogs, especially ones on historical fiction. YAY! My favorite so far is Historical Tapestry and I’ve certainly added some blogs to my Google Reader account.

So I’ve been finishing books more frequently and now I can share my review of “Revolution”

What I’ve recently finished:

**Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly**
**GoodReads**
**Amazon**

What is it about?
Seventeen year old Andi Alpers experiences the death of her younger brother and witnesses the unraveling of her family. Her father leaves and her mom simply can not handle it. Andi is left to take care of her very distraught mother while she works on her private school’s senior project. Because she’s angry and doesn’t know how to cope, her grades suffer to the point where the principal threatens to expel her unless she can develop an outline for her class’ senior project.
Her father steps in and tells Andi that she can work on this project while they’re both in Paris France. They stay with some family friends who are trying to prove that a heart they found belongs to Louis XVI, the son of Louis XV and Marie Antoinette through DNA testing. Andi comes across the diary of a woman two centuries prior who writes as the tragic events of the French Revolution are occurring. And she writes more specifically about her many failed attempts to rescue Louis as well. Andi develops a bond with this character, Alexandrine, who was almost a nanny to young prince. The readers gains an inside look at what the events of the French Revolution did to society’s “normal” folks.

Why did I read this?
My friend Carol recommended it.

What impressed me about this book?
The research!
The French Revolution always confused me in school. So to read a book that switched between two rather complicated teenagers during separate centuries, it had to be done well and Jennifer Donnelly did it fluidly. You can see how these two young girls were different but you can also see how Andi could relate to her. I won’t lie….there were times when I was googling a “French Revolution Timeline” so I can get some perspective but once I did that, I was able to appreciate the 18th century diary components and understand it better.
I also liked the character of Andi. This is a side note really but when she wasn’t being such a drama queen, she’s quite a funny kid! Teenagers will be dramatic teenagers, ya know?

What disappointed me about this book?
Ever watch a movie and say “great movie but if they only shaved a half hour off….?” Well, that’s the feeling I had about this book. It goes on for a while.

What reading challenge(s) did this book apply to?

 


Overall Grade?

What I’m reading and knitting…

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

No I did not die. Work picks up in the spring time for me…taxes…and hello surprise root canal…bad Laura is bad!

I recently saw a blog post where the knitter, Carole of Carole Knits, who also does a fair amount of reading, posted an entry about what progress she was doing on both. I thought–What a great idea!

Lately there has been a lot of balance between these to great loves of mine so why not share them? Goodreads is doing a contest on Book Bloggers and I’ve been checking out some blogs to add to my “reading” bloglist. I was quite drawn to the format of Reading with Tequila’s reviews. I think it might take some pressure away from me writing reviews and over thinking if the paragraphs flow well. (Yes. I still get that “I’m-writing-for-an-English-class vibe when I know that I want to write these )

What I’ve recently finished:

**The Birth House by Ami McKay**
**GoodReads**
**Amazon**

What is it about?:
Dora Rare is the only female born into her family in five generations of the Rare family living in Scots Bay near Nova Scotia in the early part of the twentieth century. Eyebrows start to raise at her mere existance because she’s the only female born to her family but also because at the age of seventeen she befriends Miss Babineau, a very experienced midwife who has had something to do with almost every birth in town (and some outside of it as well) When most of her family and friends are searching for husbands, she is given a very eye opening apprenticeship working with Miss Babineau. Working with her, she encounters abusive marriages, an overall lack of sensitivity to women in childbirth, unfullfilling marriages and sex lives, all during a time when no one discussed such things.

But wait–the plot thickens! Dr. Gilbert Thomas comes in and builds a maternity ward nearby and insists that he can assure a way for the town’s women to experience a “painless childbirth.” Granted I’ve never given birth but even I can see how that would make a woman say “You have my attention”

Why did I read this?
You know…thinking about it, I don’t remember…I think I went searching on Goodreads lists. It appealed to me because of its “in with the new/out with the old” quality it had.

What impressed me about this book?
As corny as this might sound, the bonds between the town’s women. At a time when the point of view of women was hardly listened to, you saw characters stand up for delivering their kids according to their own terms. And with some you didn’t. It was interesting to think about these women’s motivations for their actions.

What disappointed me about this book?
Her loveless marriage. It was pretty surprising for me to see a character who has experienced so much of bad experiences of marriage through assisting a midwife that she turns around and tolerates it from her own husband. I won’t say much but there was a satisfying resolution with this aspect of the book

Overall Grade? (out of five)

 

Now Knitting!

I picked up my Apres Surf Hoodie and not I simply can not put it down. It’s pretty funny because I started it over a year ago. Perhaps I might be able to wear it to MDSW?? Maybe?? That said I secretly mock people that wear ridiculous handknits for an outdoor May fesitval. Should you be proud as hell at yourself for steeking that fair isle sweater? Ab-so-lutely but come on…It’s been known to hit 90 degrees…not very bright.

Anyway, I’m quite proud of the progress:

Apres Surf Hoodie

This was taken over the weekend too…I’m more than halfway done with one sleeve too

Are you going to MDSW this year? I’d love to meet up!! :-)

 

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