Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Blog Tour – Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs, #1)

Title: Maisie Dobbs

Author: Jacqueline Winspear

2003 – Fiction – Mystery/Historical Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Source: TLC Book Tours

The Story: Years after World War I, Maisie Dobbs opens her door to clients who need answers in their lives. Her first client is a husband afraid that his wife is having an affair. But what Maisie finds is much deeper – a young woman grieving the loss of her first love. A suspicious home for wounded veterans known simply as “The Retreat”. And always, the memories of war lurking in the background.

The Opening Line: Even if she hadn’t been the last person to walk through the turnstile at Warren Street tube station, Jack Barker would have noticed the tall, slender woman in the navy blue, thigh-length jacket with a matching pleated skirt short enough to reveal a well-turned ankle.

Review: Sadly, this is one of those books that I stumbled upon years ago, banished to my ever-growing, looming TBR (to-be-read) list, and pretty much forgot about. I’m happy to report that now my TBR list is one book shorter and that this truly worthy book no longer languishes unread.

I love mysteries, and the historical fiction genre is one that continues to grow on me. Turns out, the two pair quite well, especially in the hands of an author like Winspear, who deftly weaves a narrative that leaves no loose ends or plot holes to infuriate the reader. Every last nugget of information felt well-earned, and I came to care about Maisie on such a deep emotional level. With each new added bit to Maisie’s story, I felt my heart twist in sympathy or leap with joy.

With, what, something like 12 books (?) in the series now, I was prepared to read this novel and be done. I mean, 10+ books is a  big commitment. But after finishing Maisie Dobbs, I think I’ll keep reading, keep getting to know these characters and be a part of their lives. This book is a masterpiece, something to read and treasure and think about long after you’ve finished.

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RIPX: The Quick Readalong

thequickRAL

One of my favorite things about being part of this community is joining with other bloggers to participate in a challenge or read-along or some other sort of bookish project. I especially love read-alongs because they often expand my reading horizons and I get to answer discussion questions. I love discussion questions! For R.I.P. X, the lovely ladies at The Estella Society hosted a group read of Lauren Owen’s The Quick.

What genre (or genres) would you say THE QUICK falls into? What genre or author influences do you see in this book?

Well, definitely historical fiction, as the book is set in Victorian England. I would also place it under horror/supernatural/gothic. Even though I didn’t really find it scary, there isn’t really a better category. As for influences, maybe Anne Rice?

Emily Richter figures into many of the book’s most pivotal early scenes. How much do you think she knows or doesn’t know about James and Christopher, and about Eustace’s change?

I really like Emily as a character, and I think she knows way more than she lets on. In fact, I think she knows everything, but she’s way too smart to bring that to everyone’s attention. I just wish we had seen more of her, that she didn’t just kind of fall away as the book progressed.

Did you notice the repetition of owls? What’s up with that?

A little bit, and I have no idea.

Characters agree to the Exchange for different reasons. Are there any reasons that would tempt you to join the Aegolius Club?

Absolutely not. It seems despicable to me. Yes, they may be influential, but they care nothing for scholarship or learning. And they aren’t really doing anything. They mostly hang around the club and drink.

Why do you think Mrs. Price turns children? How does their group compare to other family units in the book?

I think children can get away with a lot more than adults can, depending on the circumstances. Especially in Victorian London, they would have been more inconspicuous. Also, free labor. Why hire someone to pass messages and run errands when you can just turn a child? For comparison purposes, I didn’t actually see them as a family group. There’s not the same level of bonding and attachment and commitment that you see in a family. I think I mostly saw them as a motley crew that banded together out of necessity.

Why do the Club members refer to the living as the “Quick”?

You know, my roommate asked me what the phrase refers to, but for the life of me, I just can’t remember. Their blood runs quicker? Their hearts beat faster? They can move about in daylight and don’t face the same restrictions? Please, someone remind me.

How does Mould change over the course of the book? Do you think he remains a man of science to the end?

I honestly didn’t see too much change, except he seemed a little more willing to please and hop on board at the beginning. But as the years pass, he realizes he’s just being used by the club? I don’t really remember him grappling with morality or anything like that. I also think he starts to go a little mad. Like, at the beginning he was in it for the science, but the methods he uses starts to seem more like torture.

Charlotte’s quiet life is altered drastically by the book’s events. In what ways does it change for the better?

Although definitely more dangerous, Charlotte is no longer sitting at home uselessly. That’s one of the things I hate about history, that women were expected to be part of polite society, and when they weren’t, they should be at home tending to household. But when Charlotte leaves for London, she gains autonomy. She makes new friends. She takes control of her destiny.

Had you heard of a priest hole before reading THE QUICK? Why do you think Owen chose to begin and end the book there?

It sounds familiar, but I can’t place where I’ve heard about it before. I think Owen was foreshadowing with the beginning of the book, placing James in the priest hole for an extended period of time, which was quite a traumatic event for him. So to end it there as well was just fitting.

The ending of THE QUICK seems to beg for a sequel. What do you think about it?

Eh, this wasn’t my favorite book ever. But I’ll certainly read the sequel. I do have to know what happens, after all.

 

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Review – The Winter People

The Winter People

Title: The Winter People

Author: Jennifer McMahon

2014 – Fiction – Suspense/Horror/Historical Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Won audio book in Books on Tape giveaway

The Story: When Ruthie’s mother disappears in the middle of the night, Ruthie searches the house for clues to the disappearance. In her mother’s room, she finds a boarded up closet and a loose floorboard concealing two wallets, a handgun, and the diary of Sara Harrison Shea. Everyone in the town knows all about Sara Harrison Shea, how she lost her daughter to a horrific accident, how Sara was later murdered and skinned. And how Sara supposedly brought her daughter back from the dead. As Ruthie becomes engrossed in the diary, she begins to make horrifying connections between the town’s lurid past and her mother’s disappearance.

The Review: I won this audio book back in May, but I specifically saved it for this time of year – the season when days are shorter, nights are colder, and the wind whistling through colorful, falling leaves provides an eerie backdrop to any novel. I love reading spooky stuff in October – if you believe the folklore and legends passed down over centuries, it’s this time of year when the veil between worlds becomes a little thinner. There is magic in the air and I can almost believe that what I’m reading is true.

It didn’t take much for me to get sucked into this story. It begins with a disappearance and a local legend, and only gets spookier from there. This was especially good on audio, as the story surrounded me and pulled me in. I remember heading to game night one evening, listening on the way over and getting to a really suspenseful section. On the way home, however, night had fallen and the story twisted in a way that I never saw coming. I just couldn’t listen anymore, and had to switch my radio over to a nice, cheerful music station. That was the whole timbre of this novel. If not outright scary, the suspense never let up.

The dual narrative between Ruthie’s story in the present and Sara’s story in the past are interwoven beautifully. The reader gets tantalizing chunks of story that are presented as a carrot on a stick, always leading forward with no chance but to helplessly continue to fall under the novel’s spell. With several different perspectives and characters to follow, there was never a shortage of information. I just lacked the ability to put it all together, which to me is a mark of a well-written suspense novel.

By the end I was anxious and terrified, eager for a resolution that made things all better. I’m obviously not going to tell you what happened, but I will say that it wasn’t a nice, neat, happy ending where everything was all sunshine and daisies. And just like I look at showers differently now because of that one scene from Psycho, I will never see an innocent closet the same way again.

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