Tuesday, December 27, 2022

CHALLENGE: Historical Fiction Challenge October - December

I wasn't very diligent on my blog this year, but that's okay. I do what I feel like, when I feel like it. I did like keeping track of the historical fiction books I read this year, and I plan to join Marg's Historical Fiction challenge again next year. 

There is a type of book that is kind of historical but more parallel or looking back. Do you consider these Historical Fictioin? The last few I read that were good were Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid about a tennis player who comes out of retirement, so the book follows her present day attempts to get back into competition alternating with the story of how she was champion fifteen years before. Now is Not the Time to Panic by Kevin Wilson was another of these parallel stories where the present day story is integral to the past story, and the narrative flips back and forth. This one kept my attention a lot and I couldn't stop listening to it as secret prank from two misfit teenagers comes back to life after twenty years. 


Bowlaway - Elizabeth McCracken 🎧
20th century Massachusetts
One of those sprawling, generational family stories, set in a bowling alley. Covers the history of bowling as well as the family which owns it. There is some magical realism stuff and mysteries. I know I liked it at the time, but I can't really remember too much.

Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel  🎧
16th century England
More in the Thomas Cromwell story, the second in Mantel's trilogy. Here Anne Boleyn is the queen, but not for long as Henry is already looking around. It's the story of Cromwell and the machinations at court. Makes stuff today look pretty tame actually. Mantel writes a good story, but if you've read any Tudor stuff, you know the story. I read this one soon after Hilary Mantel died, and I'll go for the third eventually. One of the rare trilogies where the books get shorter.


The King's Justice - Susan Elia MacNeal
WW2 England
My library finally got this book #9 well after I read book #10, The Hollywood Spy. This was probably one of Maggie Hope's better books, as Miss Pollyanna has finally been worn out by the evil of the war, and the deception of the spying. Maggie is still viewing her world with a modern sensibility towards homosexuality, PTSD. She's working as a bomb diffuser since she just doesn't care anymore, lol. Maybe I liked it more because the war was more of a background in this book, as Maggie is drawn into helping find a serial killer in London, as if the blitz wasn't enough to deal with.


Shrines of Gaiety - Kate Atkinson
1920s England
Atkinson went through a spell with some, I'd call, experimental books. There were a few, Life After Life, and A God in Ruins, that I tried as audiobook, but just couldn't follow. Then I read the paper book and loved. Transcription was a more straightforward novel, but still relied on the research she had done for WW2. Shrines of Gaiety reminded me more of her Jackson Brodie books, with a large cast of characters gradually being pulled in the center by the plot. Set in roaring twenties of London, life is fun and returning to 'normal' after the war, Nellie Croker, fresh out of prison, is controlling her large family of adult children as well as a series of nightclubs. There are missing girls, spunky girls who can't live a quiet life after the war, and police, both on the take and not. Really, there was a lot of fun in this book, just what I look for in a good historical fiction book.

Haven - Emma Donoghue
7th century Ireland
Oh, Emma Donoghue, what can't you write about? Her most famous book, Room, is present day, but all her other books are fantastic historical fiction and while I don't love all her books, she always writes great characters that draw you in, as well as setting the time and place so well. It's a small book here, as three monks take off, with one definite leader and two who will obey, to an isolated island off the coast of Ireland. (you will want to look up Skellig Michael, a real place that this story is based on. Add it to your bucket list). This type of devotion is frustrating to read with the fervent faith of the leader versus the practical thought of his underlings. Could have been very annoying, but Donoghue keeps her characters real and the reader very early hopes for the best for the likeable guys and that they can actually survive on more than God's love.

An Irish Yuletide - Patrick Taylor
1960s Northern Ireland

It's good to read a seasonal book and this novella in the Irish Country series fit the bill. While the most recent release, Taylor goes back a few years for the Christmas story. The medical issue throughout is chicken pox, the relationship issue is a prodigal brother returns, and all the characters of Ballybucklebo are present. Just delightful and a great series if you like a gentle book with fun stories. We are at the middle to late sixties, and there is very little of 'the troubles' mentioned.

Monday, December 26, 2022

CHALLENGE: Historical Fiction Challenge, July - September


The Lincoln Highway,
by Amor Towles
1950s Nebaska, New York

Two brothers try to start a new life together, possibly looking for their mother, after the older one is released from Juvenile detention. Unfortunately, they best get used to their plans being upended, with the arrival of two lads who self-released themselves and tag along with the brothers. It sounds like a light-hearted romp, but no. It wasn't as good as A Gentleman in Moscow, but it got better as it went on.

My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand
1500s England, sort of
I am loving these irreverent remakes of Jane stories by Cynthia Hand. This one is Lady Jane Gray who was Queen of England for a few days. Most of the basic story is here, but Hand has so much fun going in different directions, and these are definitely light-hearted. In this book, the 'extra' is that some people can shape-shift into their animal, and there is a continual issue of losing clothes as they become animals, and turning back to human naked. Pure foolishness!

An Irish Country Cottage, by Patrick Taylor
1968 Northern Ireland

Late 1960s Ireland and contraception and pregnancy are issues for Dr Barry Laverty and Dr Fingal O'Reilly. The local issue is a fire burns down a cottage and the village must get a new house for the family. 

The Deeds of Darkness by Mel Starr
1300s England 
The tenth in the Hugh de Singleton Chronicles follows the medieval life of a surgeon and bailiff near Oxford in England. These books follow a certain formula, and I enjoy them. If you've read all the Brother Cadfael books, this series might be for you.


 Mississippi Trial, 1955 - Chris Crowe 🎧
1955 Mississippi
Pretty good historical fiction account of the Emmett Till murder told from the point of view of a teenage boy, having issues with his family at the same time. The boy is dealing with his developing awareness of life around him, and the conflicts with the tradition and culture of Mississippi, which hasn't probably changed much but is pretty horrific looking in from the outside.


 The Strange Journey of Alice Pendelbury (ebook) - Mark Levy
1950s England, Turkey

I quite liked this story of a girl who lost everyone in WW2 making a journey to Turkey after hearing a message from a fortune teller. This was one of those Amazon Free World books. There was a friendship started in a rooming house, secrets, and life in Turkey for a while. I am particularly fond of Turkey having visited there while on a cruise years and years ago. It made an impression. It was a gentle, poignant story and worth my time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022



How can it be this time of the year already? As I was thinking about what to write for the Virtual Advent Tour, hosted most wonferfully by spritewrites since 2015, I was reflecting on how Christmas has changed in our house over the last 25 years. 

We had the crazy years when our three children were young and Christmas morning was a chaos scene. So much so that my father-in-law would drive in the thirty minutes to be at our house early (6 am) to see the children attack the presents. He was a little disappointed at how my husband and I contained the chaos - me writing down everything as it was opened, him staying on top and removing the paper and boxes immediately. But it was still fun!

Now as we have practically no teenagers, Christmas is a lot calmer. We do a lot of the same things still, but they have friends and social lives and we have to fit it all together. One thing that has not changed is we have my parents over on Christmas Eve for a nice supper and visit. 

In 2020, we re-enacted a picture from when everyone was much younger - my parents and my children.

Christmas Eve 2003

Christmas Eve 2020

We are so lucky to have been able to recreate this after seventeen years.

Thanks for stopping by for my stop on the Advent Tour. If you would like to contribute a post, visit spritewrites and let her know you'd like to be a part of this. We'd love to have you!

I'm pretty sure I am having comment problems and I have no idea how to fix it, so if you can't comment, I'm sorry. 

In 2021, I shared my gumdrop woes, and cake recipe
In 2020, I rambled a bit about Christmas in a pandemic, and an Adam Sandler song

In 2019, I shared the extra things that make Christmas sparkly

In 2018, I shared several posts:
    - a look at some Canadian history on December 6th that I always remember
    - a look at advent calendars through my years

In 2017, I shared a song by local sister singers on a charity album
    - in a second post, I shared how I decked the halls with physics haikus with my class

In 2016, I shared the lights of my town, and a recipe for Spumoni shortbreads
In 2015, I shared my Christmas decorations in our new home
In 2014, there was no tour

In 2013, I shared a Christmas series of novellas by Anne Perry that I listened in audio
In 2012, I posted some favourite Christmas mystery  books
In 2011, I posted a 'recipe' for fruitcake that my grandmother had given me.

In 2010, I took a humorous look at some local events on Prince Edward Island.
In 2009, we played 'guess the carol'
In 2008, I played a game of 'guess the movie', and my favorite Christmas picture ever.
In 2007, it was the original 'guess the carol' game, with your vocabulary tested, and my whipped shortbread cookie recipe.