Tag Archives: historical fiction

Book Review: The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

Knopf Children’s
TBP June 2nd, 2020
464 Pages

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) T years ohénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie).

When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.- Goodreads

I dnf this book at 53%. I tried. I really did but this book is all over the place and I am surprised (I shouldn’t be) that an editor allowed the book to go to the presses in its current state.

Nina (Black Cat) joins the Thieves Guild after her father sells her sister.  But before she joins she is set to steal an item that no one. . . I mean no one has been able to steal. From that moment one she is considered the best thief there is. Here is the first red flag. How? All the author mentions is that her father took her out of assignments. She is nine. She is accepted into the guild with no information no story-line of any form of training. This is crazy because the author makes mention to Nina’s nine year old self on more than one occasion.  The author completely skips any form of build up with Nina’s career as a thief.

The second red flag is that she is able to pull off another big heist to save her adopted sister. At this point in the book, she has pretty much forgotten how to save her biological sister. She did attempt once to save her and almost got her behind handed to her but shockingly enough in the hard streets of Paris a random stranger takes pity on her and saves her from getting beat down.

The third red flag is the pace of the novel and the transitions. One moment Nina is 9 years old next she is 16 (I think. The author doesn’t exactly specify). I almost thought I was reading a different pov. The transition into older Nina aren’t good. The book moved too fast and due to that there was a lot of key details missing in the first half of the book.

I wanted to like this book, which is why I read to 53% because I was going to stop at 20%. There is good foundation but there are too many questions the author chooses not to answer. And also that whole troupe of a character just being amazing without any work is a lot of crap.

1 Pickle

Book Review: Music from Another World by Robin Talley

Inkyard Press
TBP March 31, 2020
304 Pages

It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others—like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom—and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.- Goodreads

I loved how this story was written. I have a thing for letters and for the most part I feel that there is much more honesty when a story is written through letters.

With that being said, this is an emotional read. Tammy and Sharon both have a lot going on and also (because this book is historical fiction) does discuss the Gay Rights movement in San Francisco.  Despite the history and the letter writing style of the novel it does start off a bit slow and for a moment I was wondering where the author was going with the story.  What I mean by this is I wasn’t sure if it was going to the route of these two being together (I mean yeah that is the obvious) or if it was going to be a self-discovery. Granted this is a self-discovery book but there was several different ways the book could have went as opposed to the relationship route (I’m not saying that this is an issue).

The book focuses on Tammy and Sharon but has some strong characters that pull some deep emotions and makes you sympathize with each of the girls. Given the fact that this is taking place in 1977 and it was during this movement, I would have liked to see more diverse characters. When you talk about San Francisco and you talk about the anti-gay movement, I feel like there should be diversity and not just diversity in sexual preference.

The flow of the novel is great and the author put a lot of heart into this. I liked Sharon and that is because she was a bit more sure of herself than Tammy but they worked really well together and I freaking love pen pals.

Overall, powerful story and good read.

3.5 Pickles

Manga Monday: Light and Shadow by Ryu Hyang, Hee Won (Illustrator)

                Kakao

It’s a rude insult when lowly and headstrong servant Edna comes to marry Duke Eli, instead of the noble daughter he expected. But the ambitious maid hides an even bigger secret behind her obvious ruse – one that could change the kingdom’s very history.

Can the two find freedom, redemption – and love – without drawing their swords on each other?– Goodreads

TW: Rape (?)

Notice the question mark next to the trigger warning? I put that there because although I view it was rape, others may not (just a heads up)

This is a very straight forward, historical romance manga and I am glad that I finished it.

I was surprised with how much I loved this book and how easy going it really was. Its complicated but not by a whole lot (as it is a pretty short manga). Edna is way more than what she is appears to be as well as the Duke Eli. I have a love hate relationship with Duke Eli. He became a better character. . . a better person for Edna but that beginning was rocky and I was almost at the point of putting this manga down but I liked Edna and wanted to know her story.

Artwork was well down and bonus if you read the manga on Kiss Manga its in color :)

Previously, I had mentioned that it is straight forward . . . it really is. Things move fast. Situations become resolved with as little complication as possible. Are there some twists to give the read a bit of a thrill? Yes but I mean straight forward as in everything comes together without all the extra fluff/beat around the bush. It was actually a breathe of fresh air to not read a long winded manga, that is filled with a bunch of assumptions about what the other person is feeling. Granted I will still read those but this one was nice.

Pace was great. As mentioned before this is a short manga (I breezed through it in a night).

Overall,

4 Pickles

Book Review: Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz & Renée Watson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published Jan 2018
256 Pages

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights.

Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born. – Goodreads

I gave this book 5 Pickles and yes I normally give the rating at the end but this will be a short review as this read was perfect for anyone that wants to know more about Dr. Betty Shabazz.

Firstly, while reading this book not only do you learn about Dr. Betty and the struggles she went through as a child but you find out information about the African Americans and their struggle internal struggle. What I mean by internal struggle is African Americans have a huge huge spending power. The Housewives League went around the neighborhood to get people to commit to spending their money at Black owned businesses. The issue back then was Blacked owned businesses charged more than white owned business.

This exact ties into today. Granted due to online stores and cutting the middle man, Black businesses are on a rise but that is only for certain products. Brick and mortar stories are important and due to various reasons they are scarce within Black communities.

As much as I loved this book as it showed me more about who Dr. Betty Shabazz was as an individual and not just as Malcolm X’s wife, I wanted to know more about The Housewives League. I wanted to know more about what was done to unite Black communities outside of becoming desegregated from their white counterparts.

When the book begins it is at a turning point in Dr. Betty Shabazz’s life. It makes a whole lot of sense why it begins where it does as well as where it finishes. I want to know more about this woman and this book was a great starting point.

Again,

5 Pickles 

 

The Minis

These Precious Scars by Emily Suvada is the background information you didn’t know you needed until you read it. Listed as the 0.5 to the This Mortal Coil series it provides a quick story about how the kids came to be who we know and love. Does it add to the overall story? Not really. But it fills the time; not only the “I need a quick read in between reads” but the time in between books. Because This Cruel Design doesn’t release until the end of the month (October 30th).

3 Pickles

Capture by Beverly Jenkins was a random Kindle buy and it was because the author tweeted about this book on #nationalpriateday. I fell in love with the cover first and then with the summary. ” . . . a stunning young slave and a roguish privateer share forbidden passion on the high seas. (-goodreads).” The book itself was much more than I had hoped for. The history was rich and the author was able to dig deep into it without dragging the story.  Also there was a hopefulness and a need to look into the history of Black priates and just to see who, what, when and where. I fell in love with this book and although it is the third book to a series, it feels like a complete standalone.

4 Pickles

Legacy by Necole Ryse is like but unlike the stories you read where the kid who grew up without a silver spoon in their mouth gets sent to a elite school. The biggest difference is its an all Black Ivy League school. So you know I am here for this. What is great about this book is the mystery that pulls everything together. I didn’t care for Raevyn Jones, the MC, but everything else around her strengthen the story. Althought I wasn’t too invested in this book to contiune the series, it is a solid read.

3 Pickles

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab reminded me of A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano, which is such a good book that I am mildly upset the author didn’t make this into a series. But because I saw similaries with these two books, City of Ghost didn’t hit that paranormal spot for me. Yes, this is a middle school book and I have zero issue with this. I enjoy books for middle schoolers just as I enjoy books for young adult. So the intended age range did not bother me. I see why people love Ms. Schwab writing so much but I didn’t within this book. Between the MC talking in her head and a mind reading ghost responding as if she is talking almost every other sentence, it just wasn’t for me. However, it is a solid read that I can see many people enjoying. But if you liked this book, then you’ll love A Curious Tale of the In-Between.

2.5 Pickles

[YAY for mini reviews] <3

Book Review: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

HMH Books for Young Readers
Published July 4, 2017
388 Pages

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind. 

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up. -Goodreads

I’ve been sitting on this book for a while, unfortunately,  so when I actually began reading it, I was very pleased.

The Disappearances started off really well. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time for you to get to some big points in the novel. However, the first thing I noticed was how Aila acted. Although she is 17, her actions, the way she speaks and interacts with everyone makes it appear she is younger than what she is. It isn’t until she starts school… high school that you have a confirmation on her age. From there, how she interacts with others and what her own actions begin to shift. It was interesting to read because I thought she was 12 when I began the book.

Beyond that she was an alright character. I didn’t dislike her nor did I like her. I felt that she was one of those neutral characters that only saves the day because of how it affects her and her family and not necessarily because it may be the right thing to do or because she has that spark in her.

The love interest didn’t have enough chemistry for me to feel that it was truly genuine, which is unfortunate because it would have been nice. Half way through the book things staled a little as not a whole lot was really really going on. When some things did happen, it wasn’t the big explosion the book or even the summary made it seem it was going to be. It was disappointing the say the least.

But I kept reading the book even though my excited for it was dwindling. I couldn’t put it down because the author was very creative and it reminded me a bit of a movie I watch on Netflix called Perfect Sense (2011) featuring Eva Green and Ewan McGregor. It’s a decent watch with a lack luster ending, which surprisingly is exactly how I feel about the ending of this book.

Overall, I didn’t think it was a bad read and for the most part I enjoyed this book. But there were misses in the plot, backstory, romance and twists (the twist is not shocking at all). This book could have been amazing but for the most part, it was a nice between read.

3 Pickles

Book Review: You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Published Sept. 12th 2017
320 Pages

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story.

Tara’s family has just immigrated to New York from India via London. Her beauty draws everyone’s eyes, but she doesn’t let anyone truly see her.

Her younger sister, Sonia, is falling in love with a boy her mother can’t accept, cutting a deep wound in the Das family.

The daughter of a Bollywood star, Anna is both brilliant and shy, like the Bengal tigers she fights to protect.

Chantal is as fierce a dancer as she is a friend, student, and athlete. But will her wealthy new boyfriend be able to thrive in her shadow?

And Ranee, the center that binds them all together, is beginning to unravel.

As each Das woman decides which Bengali traditions to uphold in America and which to leave behind, one hard truth remains: some scars take generations to heal.- Goodreads

This was an interesting read for me. I wasn’t expecting much (tbh) and its not because of the author or the hype but a lot of contemporary books try so hard to reach someone that the flow and empathy to an issue is often is missed. In this read that wasn’t the case exactly.

It was written with care, respect and empathy towards several issues; colourism, stereotypes, family relationships, death, being bi-racial, racism and being an immigrant. A lot is going on and you have to pay attention to have a open heart in order to see the obvious as well as the underline. The author did a really good job to not over complicate things but to make it known that these issues are part of life and as easy as the author fit it in it is common in the lives of some people.

I really loved Tara and Sunny’s section of the book. Anna and Chantal come off more entitled then I would have liked but their lives is completely different from Tara and Sunny.

If you are expecting this book to be fast pace it really isn’t but you get wrapped into the lives of these girls and you come to live them, want to support them, relate and understand them. It is detailed without feeling like it is being dragged and it is complex without feeling as if the author is doing too much.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, the second half lost its spark for me but I liked how the author tied up loose ends.

3 Pickles

Revisit Week: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez

Carolrhoda Lab
Published Sept 1st, 2015
402 Pages

New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them.

“No Negroes, Mexicans, or dogs.”

They know the people who enforce them.

But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive. – Goodreads

This review will be less of a review but more of an emotional rant. I read this book when it was first released and it is still one of the most heart wrenching, emotional, empty out your tear ducts books I have ever read.

This book messed me up between anger and wtheck moments, I couldn’t put it down despite the emotional wreck I became. Ms. Perez created a realistic (that you cannot tell me is true in some form of way) story using historical references to tell a tale about a Mexican girl, her family and a black boy who falls for her. As simple as that description is that isn’t the whole story.

See the thing is there are some Mexicans that can pass for white and there are others who cannot. Ms. Perez made that “forbidden” topic such a big part in this book without actually saying it. I chalk this up to amazing writing. She was able to put so much into this book without slapping you in the face with it.

There was a sense of vulnerability within this book. It felt honest and open, which is why it touched me so much. The pace was perfect. You didn’t feel like you was missing something or that Ms. Perez was stretching the novel.

It was real from beginning to the most heartbreaking end, I have ever had to read. I thought this book was going to be extremely generic when I first started it but that thought quickly went away.

I highly recommend this book. Will I read it again? Probably not because I remember every details and I am emotional when I think about it.

Overall

5 Pickles. 

Book Review: Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra

Penguin Canada Published May 5, 2015 272 Pages
Penguin Canada
Published May 5, 2015
272 Pages

Leo was born into a family with privilege and in 1870 she is short of nothing. Living with her wealthy sister, Leo seems to have the perfect life. But an intense speech impediment (stuttering) stops her from speaking, causing her to mimic her aunt’s words in order to satisfy society’s curiosity.

Thus causing suitors to stay away from her except adventurer Mr. Thornfax. But why would he want a woman like her? And is he connected to the terror attacks plaguing the city with victims are taken over by opium fever? Leo must find out the truth and find her true voice. 

What I enjoyed about this book was the original idea. A woman during the 1870s with a stuttering issues, and no about of doctor visits can solve the issue. I liked how the author brought a different light to the “perfect” woman (protagonist). But this was a hard read as there wasn’t a whole lot of conversation due to obvious reasons. Therefore, the tone sounded the same for a majority of the book and that is a huge problem for me.

I didn’t have an issue with Leo as a character. But I did have an issue with her lack of personality. Although for some time she tried not to speak, I didn’t think that was grounds for making her a bit lifeless. I wanted some kind of spark, rebellion from her not when she needed to find the truth but from the beginning.

The pace of the novel was a bit slow. It takes a while for things to really happen and the beginning of the book doesn’t really get you involved in the book. I wasn’t sucked into this story at all, which is extremely unfortunate but it wasn’t a bad book but it wasn’t a great read either.

Overall,

2 Pickles