The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd Book Review

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Publisher: John Murry Press, Two Roads

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publish Date: 6 February 2020

Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

A truly wonderful book that moves the heartstrings and leads you to question the climate issue of the present. Glasfurd has chosen to write a historical novel about the year known as, the Year Without Summer: 1816. In the Sumbawa Islands, Indonesia, Mount Tambora stood at14,100 feet but the 1815 eruption reduce its hight to 9,350 feet while also killing over 71,000 people and throwing so much ash into the atmosphere it leads 1816 to be known as a year without summer. Crops failed, livestock died and famine became widespread in North America and Europe. The eruption of Mount Tambora was a super-colossal explosion, the worst in modern times with the eruption of Krakatoa coming in second.

It is during this year that Glasfurd has written 6 stories, the majority based on living persons, that show how the year without summer affected their lives. Starting with the most famous; Mary Shelly. Mary during 1816 is traveling with her future husband Percy Shelly and Claire Clairmont to meet with poet Lord Byron and his doctor, Polidori, in Switzerland. This meeting in Switzerland leads to one of the literature greatest moments. The “incessant rainfall” and unusual summer would led to a competition over ghost stories that would see the birth of Frankenstein. Next is the famous artist John Constable who saw his life change drastically in 1816 due to bereavement, marriage, and painting. Sarah Hobbs is much less known. In real life, she was the only woman condemned to hang for the Ely and Littleport riots of 1816 but her sentence was commuted. The riots concerned farmers, grain costs and unemployment. Although the issue was bubbling away on the back burner the 1816 crop failure acted as the spark that led to the riot. In the book, Sarah mimics real Sarah’s life but it is very loose. Cleverly, Glasfurd doesn’t just concern herself with 1816 she also writs a narrative based on the account of the Captain of the Benares. In this narrative the ship’s Doctor, Henry, records his mission first, to discover the cause of a sound, believing it to be pirates, to then discover the immediate aftermath of the Mount Tambora’s eruption. This account is quite graphic and heart-wrenching! Next a fictional character and narrative. An American Preacher settled in Vermont, Charles Whitlock, stands firm and convinces his flock of farmers to remain and weather the storm when they were preparing to leave, thereby leading to disastrous consequences. And Lastly, Hope Peter, a returning soldier from the Napoleonic Wars who finds the remains of his home.

All six narratives interested me deeply, I know from reading some other reviewers’ reviews that they could have done without some and could have had more of others, but I felt that all the narratives played a part in what the author ultimately wanted to achieve. An example of what a natural disaster, that has an enormous effect on climate change, can do to all types of people at different stations and situations. It wasn’t until recently that 1816 could be connected as a consequence of the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 and that the 1 to 2 degree chill effect had impacted the world through famine, politics and social unrest. A lot of parallels can be drawn from 1816 and today – but as the author questions, what does this knowledge give us?

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an E-ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau Book Review

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Star Rating 4/5

Publish Date 16 January 2020

The book cover of Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau was the first thing that captured my attention. With a figure, I first assumed falling through the air it immediately invoked thoughts of Alice in Wonderland. This was helped along with silhouettes of the tops of circus tents I was sure this would be a book for me. The description went on to explain that the book is a historical fiction mystery involving the hedonism of Coney Island in 1911, one of America’s richest families and a web of deceit and lies as well as a few dead bodies.

I don’t know much about Coney Island apart from it being an amusement park playground mixed with nature’s oddities. But I soon learned that Dreamland was one of three amusement parks and unfortunately was destroyed by fire and was never rebuilt. The story is set in the final months before this fateful fire happened. A leading family of New York is holidaying in Coney Island at the request of a potential fiancée to one of the girls. It is not a destination the family would normally choose but the potential suitor is a rival in fortune to them and this marriage is a priority, therefore the family will dance to any tune the eccentric suitor wishes. In the middle of all this is Penny, a daughter of the leading family who wants to distance herself from the family and be an independent woman. She’s only here at her sister’s request and her family’s threats. However, Coney Island provides more freedom than she would have expected and the weeks she spends there, change her from the inside out. Soon bodies start to appear all over Coney Island, there is a murderer among them, but how close?

I enjoyed this book even though I was expecting a lot more hedonism and nature’s oddities from the time. More of an illusion I guess? However, Coney Island was simply the backdrop to the story and not the story. This does not diminish the actual story as the book is well written, with greatly developed characters and a very enjoyable read. It moves at a good pace and having put the book down I wanted to pick it back up again. Unfortunately, life kept getting in the way.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced electronic reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Two Amazing Historic Fiction Books Out Today: The Other Bennet Sister and The Lady of the Ravens

Today, 9 January 2020 marks not only my best friend’s birthday (Happy Birthday Amy!) It also marks the release date of two amazing Historic Fiction books that I devoured within days of receiving them. First up:

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

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Star Rating: 5 Stars

I read this book during the festive season and it fitted in perfectly! A book about not fitting in, being an underdog, becoming a swan and true love, while under a blanket with a cup of cocoa and the Christmas tree lights twinkling set a romantic atmosphere.

The title says it all, The Other Bennet Sister, is the story of the least popular and outgoing Bennet sister from Jane Austin’s’: Pride and Prejudice. If you’ve been following my blog then you’ll know underdogs are my kryptonite! Until this book, I hadn’t spared a thought for Mary. She was always in her charismatic and beautiful siblings’ shadow and this is how the book starts. The first part is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Mary’s point of view and we discover a lonely character who has distanced herself and tries too hard to have her own qualities to stand upon. There is a beautiful heartbreaking sentence in this part of the book that describes it perfectly.

“Her hard work and effort had brought her the expertise she longed for, but it had been achieved at the cost of a simple enjoyment she once loved” Kindle Location 209.

This quote is appealing as I think we all have felt overshadowed and taken something we loved to such an extent that we lose sight of why we loved it to begin with. In this part, we also learn about the approval Mary desperately wishes for from her parents and how their marriage destroyed Mr. Bennet’s ability to bond with the younger girls and ultimately was to shape Mary’s view on marriage. Thus the book is set for Mary to learn about other marriages and to decide which model she believes to be the best.

The middle part is consumed with the Collins’ marriage. Poor Mary and Mr. Collins find friendship only to have Charlotte Lucas become jealous. Charlotte got my heckles up in this book, I was rooting for Mary to become Mrs. Collins especially as Collins’ depiction in this novel is so loving and Charlotte’s so cold.

The last part is where the novel comes into its own. Mary becomes a swan and emerges from her shell. So much so that she becomes caught in a love triangle. One suitor is steady and loving while the other is exciting and impulsive reminding the reader of echos of Darcy and Wickham. Luckily, Mary’s aunt has sound advice.

“The man who declared his affections most readily is not necessarily the man who feels them most profoundly.” Kindle Location 5237.

But, does Mary listen?

A truly wonderfully written tale of the novel Pride and Prejudice and I would highly recommend it.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an E-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson

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Star Rating: 4 Stars 

The Lady of the Ravens is a great idea for a book and I really enjoyed reading it. I’ve long been a fan of the Tudor Historical Fiction genre and got excited when I came across this book. The legend of the Ravens of the Tower is famous: it is believed that the Ravens are the guardians of the Tower of London. As long as the Tower of London stands so will the rule of the kingdom. The legend is so important that the Ravens are still looked after in the tower to this day and you can visit them. They have their own carers who look to their every need and to date they have never left the tower.

This legend is weaved into this novel. King Henry VII has won the throne of England, the country is trying to heal itself and soldiers don’t like ravens. We follow Lady Joan Gildford nee. Vaux from her time serving Princess Elizabeth of York after King Henry VII’s victory, to the alter and beyond to when she rises to the position of Maid of Honor. Joan is the Lady of the Ravens. She is enchanted by them and is a supporter of their survival and comfort. She knows of the Raven legend and the soldier’s dislike of them. They are used as target practice for archers and Joan makes sure that their bad opinions of them are changed. Beautifully, the ravens near misses coincide with troubles on King Henry VII’s throne, thus reinforcing the legend.

I’ve given this novel 4 stars as I felt some storylines felt incomplete and brushed over important issues. One of King Henry VII’s biggest threats was the presence of Perkin Warbeck, the Pretender. We don’t meet him in the book, he is only ever talked about yet he is talked about at great length. I expected more from this storyline as there was a lot of potential in the way this book is written; but the second half of his story, especially the capture, imprisonment, and execution was more of a footnote. The same can be said for Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick. My other gripe with the novel is that it ended too soon. Prince Arthur and Queen Elizabeth were still alive at the end of the novel but Joan’s life became more dramatic after their deaths. Joan went to France with Princess Mary for her marriage to the King, she was part of King Henry the VIII’s great matter and she married a second time, to a youth she looked after in the novel. Perhaps a sequel to the book is coming… I hope so for there are many stories still to go and I’m very found of Joan and the Ravens.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an E-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Hollow Queen by Sherry D. Ficklin

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Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing

Release Date: 23rd September 2019

Star Rating: 4 Stars

It’s starting to snow outside!… Well, it’s sleet but there are definitely some snowflakes. Anyway, it put me in the mood of a historical fiction novel and that novel is The Hollow Queen by Sherry D. Ficklin. I read this a few months ago, but it’s set in snowy Russia, in the past and glamourize as well as dramatic.

The Hollow Queen is the fifth novel in the Stolen Empire Series by Sherry D. Ficklin. When I received this book I didn’t realize this and I haven’t read the previous titles but I am happy to say that this book can be read as a stand-alone and I really enjoyed it. My historical reading has centered mainly on British and European medieval and renaissance themes and I hardly know much about the Russian royal Romanovs, with the exception of the final royal Romanovs who sow the dynasty end. This novel follows the daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth, after the death of both her parents which strips her of her estates and title in favor of her half nephew to the Tsar. I found this story to be engaging and moved at a good pace. I liked the character of Elizabeth a lot and her thoughts regarding placing duty above her personal interests and it has given me a desire to know more about the other Romanovs. I am greatly looking forward to the continuation of Elizabeth’s story in the next book. My interest has been aroused due to the taster of Empress Anna, who is only briefly mentioned, but intriguingly, she has inherited the madness of her father, Ivan V. I will not google any of the historical characters until after the series finishes, to avoid spoilers and continue the bliss of ignorance. Luckily, while I wait for the next installment, I have four previous books to catch up on.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Clean Teen Publishing, for an advanced electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.