Where a Miniature House Can Tell So Many Truths: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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The Miniaturist

By: Jessie Burton

Released: August, 2014 by Ecco

Length: 416 Pages

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction- 17th Century Amsterdam

Rating: Five Stars

Acquired: via publisher

What would you do, if at eighteen, you just get married to a man you hardly know? To a man who isn’t around? Nella Oortman is faced with those questions and more. When her husband finally returns from sea, he gives her the strangest wedding gift–a miniature replica of their house. Once a miniaturist is sought out to make the furniture, it is then secrets start to tally up. How does the miniaturist know? How does he or she predict these things? 

Taking place within three months in 1686 Amsterdam, The Miniaturist takes a deep look at what it was like for the working to high middle class at the time. Full of secrets, twists, and back-stabbing intrigue, this debut is not to be missed. Nella starts off as a small voiced, scared newlywed who is afraid of her older, much more out spoken sister in law Marin. With brilliant character development, and a more brilliant twist, the reader is taken on a surprise journey with these two women. Not to mention how the marriage goes! This book is full of plot twists that take you aback. You won’t expect a single thing that happens, which makes this book ever more engaging and fun to read.

Burton’s writing is fresh, imaginative,  and daring. With one of her plot twists, she goes there. Really, really goes there where most authors, established or not, would be hesitant or afraid to. But, not Burton. She takes it to the unexpected, especially for that time period. The way she did it was highly successful in my opinion. I was shocked, surprised, and not at all in disagreement with her choice. I was impressed with what she did, actually. That wasn’t the only plot twist where she pushed the envelope, either. She wrote one more thing, where in today’s time would not be too big of a controversy, but in 1686, big big big controversy. And, it worked! It wasn’t put in the story just to push our limits. It made complete sense.

I loved this book. I loved everything about it. The plot twists impressed me. The writing was astonishingly good for a first time author. The characters developed perfectly. The end was nicely open ended for the readers. There wasn’t a thing I could complain about. I was completely invested. It was hard not to be. The first page alone pulls you in by starting with a funeral for someone who apparently has no friends. You have to think who it is for. It’s that good. It pulls you in that fast. I’m going to say it. This book was one of my favorite reads of this year. It was that good. I can’t recommend it enough. It will pull you in; leave you wanting more. If there is one historical fiction novel you read this year, I honestly think this is the one you should read. It isn’t about Kings or Queens. Treason and the like. It is about people like us. Finally, a historical fiction novel we can relate to!

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Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Sharp Hook of Love by Sherry Jones

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The Sharp Hook Of Love

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By: Sherry Jones

[historical/biographical/literary fiction]

Release date: October 7, 2014
at Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books

384 pages

ISBN: 9781451684797

Author’s website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

“To forbid the fruit only sweetens its flavor”

Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.

But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Nôtre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.

*****************************

All it takes is a “chance” meeting and serenade to ignite a love affair so fierce and passionate, it would inspire many forbidden tales of love centuries to come. 

The Sharp Hook of Love tells the thought-provoking, captivating, heartbreaking, and intensely passionate story of world renowned eleventh century French philosopher Petrus “Pierre” Abelard  and his student,  Heliose d’ Argenteuil. Told achingly through Heloise’s point of view, the love affair begins slowly, until it morphs into a love so tragic it can’t be true. While erotic, passionate, and full of lust, something ever more devastating awaits the forbidden lovers.

Each chapter beginning contains a brief passage from the lovers’ letters. While I enjoyed reading them, most of them were written by Heloise. I had a small problem with this mainly because I felt the reader is already getting one side of the story, why not have at least the chapter epigraphs be alternating, so the reader can get a full sense of the relationship. I did savory each one, though. All so achingly beautiful. Matched the chapters perfectly. I just wish I could have read Abelard’s love letters, or just letters more.

Jones does a meticulous and wonderful job at incorporating parts of their letters into the narrative itself; which I found held me as a reader more. The voice of Heloise kept me interested; often taking me along with her. I felt her love, her pain, and her sorrows. Her journey from a young woman to where she ends in the story was written in such a cohesive way. I didn’t feel lost as the years skipped around a bit; I followed her through. What Jones accomplished, was making me want to be there for Heloise. Chastise her a little bit. Hold her when Abelard scorns her. Be there for her as no one really was for her. Not many authors can successfully do that in a novel, let alone a historical fiction one. I was completely moved.

Then the juicy parts. Oh, the eroticism that was there! My, for the eleventh century, they knew how to express themselves. There is a significant amount of love making going on in this book; this is not the book for you if you cringe and want to pass pages– you will miss something if you do. I enjoyed how passionate the lovers were; but, not just that, I loved how it translated to the page. It wasn’t x-rated in the way that every detail was written. There was no, he moved her this way, then that way. Yes, it was descriptive. It was erotic, passionate, and very realistic. Was it realistic for that century? That I don’t know. There are two or three scenes in where I felt the love making was more modern. I won’t go into details. I will say this though, it was not overly explicit, it was not just thrown in there at random times, nor was it always pretty. There was one scene that upset me, which I won’t spoil for you. A part of me hopes it was out of character, but after some outside research of the lovers, it does fit, which makes me sad.

This love story is tragic. I remember the tales of Tristan and Isolde; Romeo and Juliet. All the fallen lovers. The lovers who tried so hard to be together. Their stories, their made up stories are nothing compared to this true romance. I cried at the end. It was hard not to. Abelard says something to Heloise (that I will wish was true!) and my heart melted. There’s so much beauty and love in this story, yet the pain and, yes, brutality that occurs, somewhat taints it. It’s truly beautiful, no matter how devastating. I truly loved this novel. I hope that all the feelings were true. Pick this book up. You won’t regret it. It’s a love story that should be known and forever remembered. It’s a great example or discourse on what love was like back then, who was allowed to love, what the cost was, and what the reward was. Jones tackles the topic of societal norms and expectations of that era, without deterring from the lovers’ story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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SHERRY JONES is also the author of Four Sisters, All Queens;
The Sword of Medina;
and her controversial, internationally bestselling debut, The Jewel of Medina.

She lives in Spokane, Washington.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter , Google +, Pinterest, and Linked In

Subscribe to her newsletter.  Send her an email: sherry [at] authorsherryjones [dott com

Buy the bookS&S  |  Amazon  |  B&N  |  BAM  | IndieBound  | Kindle   | iBookstore  | Nook

And now for the giveaway…

Dollbaby, Dollbaby, Tell Me Your Secrets: Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

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Dollbaby

By: Laura Lane McNeal

Released: July 3rd, 2014 by Pamela Dorman Books

Length: 352 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction- 1960s Southern Fiction

Rating: Four Stars

Acquired: via publisher

 

After the sudden death of Liberty “Ibby” Bell’s father when she is around 11, her mother drops her off to stay with her grandmother she never knew. To a house full of secrets and wonderment. There she meets Dollbaby and Queenie, the two women that know how to keep the house running and take care of Fannie, the grandmother. But, they two have secrets meant for keeping.  

Taking place in the 1960’s during the civil rights movement in New Orleans, Dollbaby offers a fun take on a historical fiction novel. Both Dollbaby and Queenie have sass beyond belief. Ibby isn’t lacking any herself. Fannie is a delight, yet a little crazy and eccentric. The plot takes place in three parts, separated by four years each. The first part when Ibby is young, the second when she is in High School, and the last and shortest, when she is in college. Each section offers an authentic look at the civil rights movement and what it was like for a white person to have a black friend. Ibby’s best friend was Dollbaby’s daughter.

I loved this book. I feel the author did a fantastic job analyzing the civil rights movement during that period. She crafted fun, complex, intriguing characters full of life. There was so much to like and enjoy. Then, there were the secrets. My, was I not prepared for what I kept learning. Especially the reveal at the end. There is a tie in reveal that had me shocked for days. Days! Even thinking about it now, I’m back to being shocked. It’s major. Not just OMG major, but major to the characters and plot line. You just can’t believe it happened; and a little you can’t believe the author wrote it in. It’s that shattering. That big. I don’t know in a good way. It’s just big.

There is something about this book that will keep you wanting more. It’s one of those pieces of literature that is so good and fulfilling that at the end you want an unnecessary sequel just so you can read more. There’s no point. No real plot thatcan be continued, but I want it. I will definitely try to read more by this author. She really hooked me in. I hope you will check this novel out. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a little similar to The Help, but really only because there is “the help” featured. I find it can stand on its on far better. Just give it a go.

 

Take Me Back to Russia: The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

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The Firebird (Slains #2)

By Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Katherine Kellgreen

Released June, 2013 by audible.com

Around 16 hours

Genre: Historical fiction, Historical mystery

Four and a half stars

 Nicola follows a young girl named Anna who leads her into the past on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.

Susanna Kearsley’s The Firebird isn’t your typical historical fiction novel. Taking place both in the past and present, Kearsley takes you from London, England to Scotland, all the way to Russia where the story really takes off. This story maybe considered a sequel to The Winter Sea, but this novel does not have to be read in order to follow the story line of The Firebird. I actually haven’t read The Winter Sea, and I was able to still enjoy the novel.

The story focuses around a woman called Anna Jamison (among other last names) during the time where Jacobites were fighting to reinstate King James as the rightful owner of the crown. Yet, it is how the story focuses on her that is interesting. Nicola, and her companion Rob, both have the ability to see the past; Nicola by simply touching an item, the reason of the quest in the first place when a dying woman tries to sell a family heirloom known as the firebird; Rob’s is more powerful where all he has to do is concentrate. Ultimately, you are following two great story lines. You read about Anna’s past, but not exactly through her eyes per se. There is no I felt, this happened to me etc, only with Nicola’s present story line.

This novel kept me on my toes. And for all you romantics out there, the end is a douse. I can’t tell you why, but there may have been a long awe coming from me. I truly enjoyed listening to this. So much so, I know I probably wouldn’t have been as engrossed if I read it instead of listening. The narrator, Katherine Kellgreen was truly incredible. The accents she did were fabulous. They were spot on. Her Scottish ones were great. I couldn’t help but laugh at some of them. Although I haven’t been to Scotland yet, I have a feeling they were pretty accurate.

Every part of this novel felt real and authentic. As I have been to Russia before, it was great to “revisit” the country. Honestly, it is the second book I read this year about Russia. And, I’m not complaining. Both got really high ratings from me.

I would highly recommend this book. Although it started slow, once I hit part two, I was hooked. I listened for over nine hours straight! The second and last part were both are four- five hours give or take minutes. And, I enjoyed every single minute of it. And, if you are like me and love cultural historical fiction, this is one book you don’t want to miss. If you are more of a fan of love stories, still pick up this novel. Like I said, the end is a big awe inducing moment. I enjoyed everything I learned while reading this. I definitely think I would listen to this book again. Maybe skip some of the first part, to be honest. If you stick through the first fifty or so pages, all the rest you will breeze through. Really it all picks up once Rob is introduced and they start their journey together.

If you are an audible member, make this book your monthly choice. I did, and there are no regrets. With other audio sites, I am unaware of it is the same narrator. Check first is my recommendation. Katherine Kellgreen’s narration of this novel is not to be missed.

“Hiding the person you are,’ he said, ‘won’t make you happy. I never hide who I am. What I am.” 

Edgar Allan Poe was a romantic: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen Book Review

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Mrs. Poe

By Lynn Cullen

To be released October 1st, 2013 by Gallery Books (imprint of Simon and Schuester)

336 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Acquired by Netgalley

Rating: Four and a half stars

A writer and his demons. A woman and her desires. A wife and her revenge . . . 

Where Winter in New York City is desolate, freezing, and unwelcoming becomes center stage for this thrilling historical fiction novel about struggling poet Frances Osgood and Edgar Allan Poe. From the winter of 1845, when they first met, Cullen masterfully describes their relationship until Winter 1847.

It’s 1845, Mr. Poe’s The Raven has just been published to wide acclaim. Struggling poet Frances Osgood gets yet another rejection, and told by her publisher to write like Mr. Poe- terrifying stories for women. Frances Osgood wasn’t a fan. Dejected, she found nothing special about The Raven and, more so, the author himself. Yet, after a chance meeting at a literary conversazione, a spark is ignited. Frances Osgood wasn’t supposed to fall in love with Mr. Poe. She was married to a philandering husband where he was, unbeknownst to her,  living the life of a half way struggling artist with a divorcee in Cincinnati, Ohio. Poe, himself was married to his first cousin half his age. In the span of two years, the reader experiences the relationship alongside the ill-fated matched. Both married, their love could never be. It was one spouse in particular that is in the way, Mrs. Virginia Poe. Mrs. Poe takes a liking to Mrs. Osgood that leads to a more complicated relationship than either three were prepared for. Add in a somewhat crazy mom in law, and a simple romance takes a terrifying turn. And, that turn, you’ll only find out if you read this electrifying novel.

I never pictured Poe as a romantic. His stories are the poster children of macabre literature, and in general. There is darkness, death, pain. Yet, here he is, a romantic. Cullen includes poems the lovers sent to each other through his journal Tribune. I expected Osgood to be a romantic poet, considering her main subjects were always flowers that represent femininity, but Mr. sullen, dark Poe, never. The poems are beautiful. The love real.

Lynn Cullen does an excellent on depicting this love story, especially with Edgar Allan Poe. Mrs. Poe was a good character, but in the end there is one character who takes the cake. I was excited by this story after finishing two books I didn’t like very much. I loved this novel. It was fascinating, hearing Frances voice and the enfolding of her affair. I did not expect the thrill of an end; thus making me very satisfied.

The story reads like a story on its own, but then you remember it is heavily based on extensive research, making all that much satisfying and enjoyable. As much as I admired Poe’s work, I feel like we are on intimate terms. As Mrs. Poe calls him, Eddie. And, Frances Osgood is a great female “character” and person that I would have liked to meet. Through the whole novel she was strong, resilient, and a force to be reckoned with. How much really would one not do for real love?  I would highly recommend this book, even if you aren’t familiar with either or both writers. I also feel this novel is just for people fans of historical fiction; nor just for people wanting to read a love story. There are so many dimensions to this novel that I think many people would find enjoyable.

 

 

 

Not Your Average Princess Rescue:Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel book review

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Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel

Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel

By: Michaela MacColl

Published in 2013 by Chronicle Books

368 Pages

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Four Stars

London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza’s dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady’s maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servants’ world below-stairs and the rampant trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen? Meticulously based on newly discovered information, this engrossing novel is as rich in historical detail.

–goodreads.com description

A couple years back, I watched the film Young Victoria with Emily Blunt as young Victoria. I fell in love with that movie pretty much immediately. Emily Blunt was great in it; as well as an under appreciated actress in my opinion. I have always been interested in the British Monarchy for some reason. There is more intrigue and secrecy that has happened than we are aware. Hence my deep fascination with historical fiction novels, particularly British. So, as another great $2.99 nook find, I fell in love with this neglected book. I have no idea how long I have had it. On a whim of sorts, after failing to love the previous book I read, it was great to pick this book up and never want to let it go.

          What starts off as a novel about a spoiled brat coming to terms with her new station and position serving the Princess, comes a tale based on the true accounts of Princess Victoria’s rise to the throne and the conniving ways of her mother and her mother’s “lover” and confidant Sir John.  Michaela MacColl creates a believable girl to act as a chambermaid, part spy, and confidant to sixteen year old Victoria up until Princess Victoria’s coronation.  Recently orphaned  Elizabeth Hastings was forced out of her fancy London hotel with a large bill and no inheritance. As luck would have it, Liza is born; from spoiled girl just shy of entering her first season in society to the girl who saved Princess Victoria and her Queendom from Sir John Conroy and Princess Victoria’s more, the Duchess.

        I absolutely adored this book because it included many details and inside looks, the first and foremost actual journal entries from Queen Victoria’s journal she kept when she was younger with entries that detailed the first time she met her future husband, her cousin Albert. There were also actual correspondences written by Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess, when Victoria was getting closer to the throne. The novel felt very real and authentic. Even if you are unfamiliar with Queen Victoria and her life, this would be a good historical fiction starter novel. Mostly, because it does not just include Princess Victoria and her life’s activities, but an authentic representation of a working girl and how it life was for an orphan and/or one of lower class standings.

      In the back of this novel,  MacColl  talks about how she was able to portray Liza and young Princess Victoria’s life. MacColl even goes as far as writing about an actual woman who was a dismissed maid of Victoria’s and the maid’s downfall (her death).  I loved this book more after I read the author’s note. I felt that much closer to Queen Victoria and the struggles all women had to face. The details were vivid sufficiently, with details that I could relate to, even without being a princess or Queen.  Both Liza and Princess (Queen) Victoria were portrayed as personable, with struggles I could relate to, if not understand. There are plenty historical fiction novels that tackle England, and it’s Monarchy, but not many YA ones that are as impressive and representative as this book is.

Happy Reading!

-indie

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