Tag Archives: history

A Haunted History of Invisible Women by Leanna Renee Hieber and Andrea Janes- A Review

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Interesting, informative, and sometimes insulting.

I am somewhat torn about this book. There were some things to love about it and some things to hate as well.

Being someone who is intrigued by the spiritual and historical and having read/enjoyed some of Leanna’s fiction work, the premise and authors of this book intrigued me and led me to want to read it.

Quite a number of the ghost tales were known to me—in fact, one of them was very well known as I spent a semester at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama in high school in a program called Step Ahead where incoming high school seniors could take two classes (for credit) in the summer. I was pleased that one of the first tales told in this book was about the red lady from there. That summer I lived on campus, we used to walk down to the dorm (Pratt Hall) where the poor girl supposedly died and talk about how tragic that was. A few times, it seemed there was a face at one of the windows on the top floor. Perhaps a flight of fancy since we were told the room had been boarded up. Nevertheless, it was nice to see the story in this book.

Clearly, the authors did a wonderful job fully researching the various stories they chose to share. The way the tales were sorted into categories made sense and the organization was well done. The book had a nice flow to it and a good variety of stories.

Some of the prose was a bit too woke and strident for me. There were also some places that it seemed as if the authors were lecturing or looking down on the reader. It was odd to me for them to basically attempt to shame the very demographic of people who would be attracted to reading the subject matter of this book. It was also strange since one of the authors owns a ghost tour company and the other one leads ghost tours. If you make your living from the industry, how can you legitimately look down on your customers? Seems a bit cynical to me. I almost stopped reading a couple of times because of this, but eventually picked it up again as the actual ghost stories and histories of the places were intriguing.

Overall, I enjoyed this one. I recommend the book for the stories and thorough historical research. Just skim over the parts where the writers’ judgment of the reader is problematic. I’m giving this one 3.5 stars for the historical detail and quality of the tales.

I received a copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. September 27, 2022 release date.

Rizzio by Denise Mina

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This story about the murder of David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary Queen of Scots was a quick read. A much fuller picture of what happened that night and the days to follow than I’d read previously

What the conspirators put the poor man through was brutal and violent. The terror he must have experienced was gut-wrenching even reading about it more than 460 years later. Queen Mary’s fear for her life as well as her child’s and the way her own husband tried to force her to have a miscarriage was awful. Imagine spending a whole night and day thinking you’re going to be killed any moment and there is no escape. And that your husband is part of the plot to kill you and your child. Such a savage era in history.

Of course, in some places, life can still be vicious and this retelling of the events of that night in 1566 reminded me that some people still live in places where such violence can be a daily occurrence. This reader counts herself lucky that she can read about such horrors without the kind of fear people face both in the past and in our time.

This killing boiled down to two things in my opinion—(1) an immature, jealous husband who was dissatisfied with his lot in life as consort, not king in his own right and (2) the greed and avarice of courtiers who saw this as their chance to take what they wanted and get rid of Mary. They played right into Darnley’s fantasy of being king and used that for their own ends with no intention of giving him his heart’s desire. A lot of nefarious people in Edinburgh.

The author here clearly researched the time frame extensively. I had not read about Henry Yair and his murder of Father Adam Black on the same night. That was an interesting part of the story I had not heard about before. Fanaticism seemed rife in that era for sure.

I can’t say I liked the book as it was a terrible, terrible time in Scotland’s history, but I did learn a lot and appreciate the author’s work in fleshing out this story. It was well-written and, as it was also brutally truthful, it was a heartbreaking read. 4 stars.

Bluebird by Genevieve Graham- a Review

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I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

This story starts out in Belgium in WWI. The heroine, Adele, is a nurse in an army hospital. These women were called Bluebirds because of their uniforms of light blue and white. Adele has been there for a while and has been able to keep her distance from the injured men she helps treat. The nurses are encouraged not to become personally involved with the patients and Adele works hard to not get attached..

Then a tunneler named Jeremy is brought in wounded severely and requiring a lot of care. These tunnelers were vital to the war effort and spent all their time underground setting explosives to aid their comrades who were fighting above ground.  Jerry’s brother, John is also a tunneler and saves Jerry from an explosion by the enemy and makes sure his brother is brought to the hospital. The nurse assigned to Jerry is Adele.

At first, due to his injuries, Jerry can’t talk. Adele spends time with him reading to him and chatting. They draw close, but eventually, Jerry heals and heads back to the front and they lose contact.

Both Jerry and Adele are Canadian and from the same general area of Ontario. When Jerry returns home with his brother, he tries to find Adele but is unsuccessful and fears she died in Belgium. Adele is likewise sure Jerry didn’t survive.

The story follows each of them as they rebuild their lives. This part of the book seemed to drag a bit. Honestly, a lot of the story was slow moving and it took me many days to get through that middle part.

The action eventually picked up after the two of them found their niches in the world. Adele went to work for a local doctor. Jerry and his brother entered the dangerous line of work of running illegal alcohol to the United States during prohibition. This was when the book picked up the pace.

Run-ins with a former friend turned enemy brought a sense of urgency to the plot and this reader enjoyed the new quicker pace of the tale.

It was obvious the author delved deep into research of the era, including the nursing corps of Canada in WWI, the tunnelers of that war and the prohibition era dangers to the smugglers and competitors in the business. There were a lot of intriguing parts such as the various ways the rum-runners got their liquor across the border to sell it, including all the ways they hid bottles in the automobiles. It was also interesting to learn about the way the restaurants in Canada offered free liquor if the patron ordered food as a way to get around the laws in place. This reader wasn’t familiar with Canada’s laws during prohibition, so a lot of the information was new. The author was deft at sliding in the historical details without making the story read like a history lesson.

Overall, the book was good and well-developed. Parts were slow, but I enjoyed the characters and the real history of the times being artfully inserted. I’d recommend this one. 4 stars.

Burke and the Pimpernel Affair by Tom Williams- A Review

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I enjoy historical tales and chose this one to review based on the year it was set. This book was part of a series, but it doesn’t need to be read in order in my opinion. It was easy to figure out who everyone was and the adventure in this story was self-contained. The setting was after the French Revolution era and into the times of the England/France wars with Napoleon.  The main characters, James Burke and his sergeant, William Brown, were sent from England to find the leak in the English spy network. Many of the agents working for England were going missing on the route from the channel to Paris.

Brown went into France with a group of French patriots whose mission was to sabotage certain enemy strongholds and one who was to distribute anti Napoleonic propaganda. They were to take the circuitous route into Paris, moving from safe house to safe house.

Burke followed behind them to be the lookout on the ground to figure out just where the leak or unsafe house was located.

Adventure ensues as the reader follows the route of the group as well as Burke. Some tense moments were in store on the road to Paris.

The story also contains scenes with the French spymaster, Fouche’ as he plots from his office and plans his tortures of any prisoners he can get his hands on. He’s especially interested in any spies from England.  

As the tale unfolds, dangers are around every corner. The action becomes intense and without spoilers, it’s hard to say much more. Suffice it to say, there were many times this reader was on the edge of her seat.

The author did an excellent job recreating the scenes of both the countryside and Paris of the era. I could almost smell the putrid streets of the city and the woods in the country. His descriptions of the interiors of palaces, cottages and the prison were also well done. The labyrinth of the office building/archives/prison was especially well done. The description of the darkness and many passages heightened the anxiety of the parts of the book that took place there.

A very immersive tale that I think was well executed and enjoyable even through the harrowing parts.  Four stars.

Over the Hedge by Paulette Mahurin, A Review

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This one was hard to read for a number of reasons. The main one, of course, was the brutality of the subject matter. This book was harrowing and, often times, turned the reader’s stomach as to the behavior of human beings who took joy and pleasure in harming other humans. The Nazi regime created many monsters. The one question that will forever haunt me on the atrocities of the acts on Jewish people is did the regime create these monsters or were so many already lurking in society and they were freed and allowed to run rampant based on there being no consequences (at least during those years when the evil was in power)?

The heroes and heroine of this true to life story were amazing and awe-inspiring. That two of them were Jewish themselves and risked it all to save children is admirable. They didn’t hide away, though who could have blamed them if they had? The fact they survived and made a difference as long as they did was remarkable. Henriette Pimental and Walter Suskind were truly angels on earth for the children they helped to escape and give a chance to live. Johan van Hulst, the professor who started it all, was also a brave man to not sit back and allow innocent lives to be destroyed. It’s terrible that they weren’t able to save more, but those they did save were reward enough. Every life that went on was a victory.

This was a tale that everyone needs to read even though the subject matter is tough.

The two faults I found with the book was it was hard to tell if it was a fictionalized version of facts or if it was a true and accurate telling of the actual events. The tale moved from almost reading like a text book to dialogue and dramatization. In places it was dry and then it would segue to an almost novel-like approach. The cover states it’s a novel, but it was hard to tell by the actual text. The other fault was the paragraph formatting. It may have just been in the ARC copy I have, but the formatting was disjointed throughout. Hanging sentences that joined up after an inserted return all through the copy made it hard to read properly.

I can’t say I enjoyed the book, but it definitely made an impression. The author did a good job in showing the reader just how awful and harrowing the residents of the Netherlands had it in WWII. What a terrible time and place for so many to have to endure. I’m sure it was hard for the author to write as it was definitely hard to read.

The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey

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This story set in the 1790s was intriguing and a solid read. The heroine (a widow) becomes a companion to a dowager marchioness when her nephews she was helping raise left for school. Her brother wanted her to stay on with him and his wife but the heroine wanted an adventure and the job was temporary as the dowager marchioness’ regular companion was recovering from a broken leg.

Our heroine definitely got her adventure. Pretty soon after she arrived at the home of the dowager, the current marchioness was found dead in her bed—strangled. And the kicker? The lady had been heard to be arguing loudly, in the middle of the night, with her husband, the marquis. The marquis ordered his carriage and horses shortly after the argument was heard and that morning when the body is discovered, he’s nowhere to be found. Maybe he absconded to France where he has a second home? Or did he run elsewhere after killing his wife?

The heroine, a sharp lady with a keen mind, sets herself the task of finding the murderer—she doesn’t know the marquis but with the family in disarray over their fears for his life if he’s found and convicted of his wife’s death—to say nothing of the scandal—she feels she needs to pitch in and assist the marquis’s younger brother in the task of clearing the marquis’s name.

The dowager is a plucky lady too and won’t tolerate anyone treating her as if she’s elderly and incapable of being in on the unmasking of the villain. She plays a big role in the book and I liked that she wasn’t shunted aside.

As the investigation ensues, the reader is caught up in the clues with the three main characters. I confess, I figured out who did it early on, but still enjoyed the story and how the author tied up all the parts and loose ends. A bit of romance thrown in as well made this an enjoyable read.

The Blitz Bus by Glen Blackwell

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I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

This middle grade book is a good one for children to learn about the London Blitz and WWII days of 1940. The main characters, Jack and Emmie are in modern day London and Jack is assigned to write an essay about the London Blitz and how a lot of children were evacuated to the countryside during that time. Meanwhile, in Emmie’s drama class, they are acting out the children leaving their parents.

Jack has a hard time envisioning the city at that time and is kept back at school that afternoon to finish his paper,, making him almost late to meet his friend Emmie. 

When they are finally on the bus headed home, they look out and see a shop they haven’t seen before.  In the window is a mannequin who has a gas mask.

Exiting the bus, there is a large unexplained bang. It’s raining and they take shelter at a tube station. Everyone is dressed differently than Emmie and Jack. There are cots set up in the station. The two children think they’ve stumbled onto a film set. Until very real bombs start falling and they find themselves in the middle of an air raid.

They make friends with a boy in the shelter, but don’t tell him they have somehow come from another time period.

The adventure really begins here. Jack and Emmie discover food lines, cratered buildings, rationing, bombs, anti-aircraft balloons, air raid shelters in yards, and, as well, have to hide from authorities. They fear spies are around and being taken for spies themselves with their modern items like Jack’s calculator. They find some help from their new friend, Jan, a boy from Poland.  

Even though I am nowhere near the age for middle grade stories, I enjoy them and this one was particularly good. The fact that the children were studying this era in school and couldn’t imagine how people were living and then were transported there is very educational—yet done in a fun way—A lot of interesting historical facts came through in a way that entertains and would have a younger reader on the edge of their seat worried about the two protagonists and how they would solve their problems as well as how they would be able to get back to their own time period.

The only thing I would have liked to be added to the story would be an epilogue of the children finding the friends they made in the 21st century when the friends were elderly. That would have been a fun ending. Overall, I was happy with the story and would recommend it to the middle grade age group as a history lesson full of interesting reading that will hold their interest.

The Romanovs- Simon Sebag Montefiore- A Review

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The author clearly is a scholar and spent a massive amount of time researching this book. It definitely shows in the prose that he’s made a complete study of the Romanov tsars and their world. Where I had issues was the densely written text that made the book tedious to read as well as the seemingly endless details about various battles and generals. The over-descriptive passages regarding clothing and various peripheral members of society also bogged down the text. I learned some things about the tsars that I didn’t know—especially some of the brutality that seems to have been glossed over in other texts that this author had no qualms about going into great detail over. Some of the descriptions in early reigns were particularly disturbing although they did paint a picture of a society that makes one wonder about the people of that particular era. Brutal death and bloody streets seemed to be the norm and it was viscerally brought home that those were terrible days to live in.

I also learned more about Alexandra and her mental state that greatly contributed to the downfall of the house of Romanov. Other books about the end of the dynasty focus more on Rasputin, but this book, with the excerpts of Alix’s letters to Nicky, showed she was unstable and he was deluded into going along with her thinking. He was, like most all of the tsars, anti Semitic and took joy in their mistreatment so it’s a bit hard to feel sorry for him, but the brutal murders and unrelenting behavior of the assassins was brought home particularly harshly in the descriptions in this book.

I’m giving it 3 stars due to the tedium of the prose and the unnecessary detail about the wars (that didn’t add much to the topic of the dynasty). The author clearly knew his topic but didn’t seem to know how to condense the text to the essential elements. I won’t try to slog through this one again, but I did learn some new information I hadn’t read before so I’m glad I took the time to read it.

New Release- Jillian Chantal- One Lonely Knight

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Jillian Chantal has a new release – a time travel story set in 1788. It is available in e-book and Kindle.

In 1788 Scotland, Rowena Maitland doesn’t realize how lonely and odd her life is, until, alone one night, she is surprised by an intruder dressed in medieval armor crashing around in her home.

The stranger, Pembroke Burroughs, is a large man, but seems harmless enough with his battered helmet causing him distress. Until she assists him in removing the helmet and he insists he’s from 1568 and was just engaged in battle with the Earl of Moray fighting against Mary Queen of Scots’ forces at the battle of Langside.

Worried about being alone with him and fearing he is deranged, she drugs his drink and prays her caretakers will return before he awakens. 

Her plan fails, and once he wakes, he questions everything in her life and she realizes her situation is decidedly strange. Maybe even stranger than a man claiming to be from two-hundred years ago.

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Edinburgh castle over dramatic clouds, Scotland, UK

New Release – Jillian Chantal

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A new Regency story from Jillian. This one has spies and adventure as well as romance.

Amazon link

Blurb:

Banished to the dower house by her stepson who believes she is after his fortune, the Dowager Duchess of Whittington lives a lonely existence during her year of mourning. Missing her husband and forbidden by the new duke to travel to London and stay in the ducal residence, twenty-two year old Hannah Otto despairs of ever getting out of the countryside.

Bored and somewhat annoyed at the restrictions placed on her, Hannah makes plans to visit a friend in London shortly before her mourning period is over.

Before Hannah has a chance to finalize those plans, her butler notifies her of a man in her courtyard. A bleeding, unconscious man slumped over the back of a fine steed. Feeling sorry for him yet glad for some excitement, Hannah has him brought inside.

But when he appears to be a French spy, she realizes the enormity of what she’s done.the-bachelor-and-the-dowanger-ebook-200x300-72dpi