Historical Fiction

Escape to a Future: Review

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When I first began reading “Escape to a Future” by Brian Wigley, I didn’t think I would be able to get into the story or enjoy it much. Yet, by the end of the third chapter, I found myself immensely curious as to what would happen next with the main character. Despite not truly liking a lot of the aspects of the book, on the whole, I didn’t have any trouble finishing it and was fairly pleased with my reading experience

The story follows the adventures of Jonathan, or rather the misadventures and then subsequent good fortunes of Jonathan. Jonathan starts out as a lowly farmhand, working the fields with his father, but is soon transported to the big city of London where he works to better himself. When the city is plagued by sickness, Jonathan flees to the coast where he then is caught up amongst events out of his control (mostly) that send him around the world. Jonathan deals with everything thrown his way, regardless of how dreadful it may seem, and somehow always comes out of things with a spring in his step. One thing to note when reading this book is that, although it seems like everything happens within the span of months, the story actually spans multiple years. Just keep that in the back of your mind when reading because I found myself wondering how so much time could have passed throughout the story, I obviously wasn’t paying enough attention to subtle clues as to the passing time.

The main character, Jonathan, drove me absolutely bonkers. I didn’t really mind him at the beginning. He just seemed like a basic character, nothing too deep or confusing about him. But by the end of the story, I absolutely hated him. By about a quarter of the way through the book Jonathan started acting like an entitled and spoiled brat. He seemed to forget his humble roots very quickly and expected to be treated better than everyone else, regardless of his situation. He made the point of stating (many times) how lucky he was and grateful, but then he’d turn around and act like an entitled jerk. I strongly disliked him.

The writing in this book is just alright. I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style. In fact, I found myself getting annoyed at times. The author has a habit of posing questions at the end of paragraphs or chapters. While this does make some sense, as the character is likely thinking these questions as he goes through life, I found the questions throughout the story grating and annoying. Wigley’s writing also isn’t very eloquent. Wigley writes in a very straightforward and simple manner, which while not a bad thing just isn’t my style. If you’re into books that are straightforward, without a lot of description or details than this story is a good choice.

Now although it might seem like I have a lot to complain about within this book, my overall experience wasn’t bad. I was genuinely curious as to what would happen next to Jonathan, which kept me reading right up until the last page. The simple writing style also allowed this book to be read extremely quickly- making for a relaxing weekend read. Bottom line- I enjoyed this book, and although it wasn’t my favorite, I would recommend it for those looking for some simple and enjoyable historical fiction.
I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Safe Room: Review

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I was invited to read and review this book by the publisher. Needless to say, when I got the email inviting me to read The Safe Room I was super excited. I had read The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and really enjoyed it, the opportunity to read her newest book (or so I thought) was thrilling. I was a little dismayed when I logged onto goodreads and noticed that the original publication date was 2002, hmmm must be a reprint. But that does not change the fact that The Safe Room was a really good read and a book I would highly recommend.

This story starts out following the life of Lee, an idealistic 27 year old who lives with her grandmother in an old house in Lexington that was a pivotal point in the underground railroad many generations prior. This book also tells the story of Sarah, the daughter of an abolitionist, through her diary entries. The two women’s stories begin to intersect part way through the book with the introduction of a (possible) ghost in Harden House; that of Silas- a runaway slave living in Harden house and awaiting the fate of his two brothers (also runaway slaves).

It took me until about 26% of the way through this book before I was really into it. But once more of the plot was introduced, I was hooked. I read the rest of the book in a day because it was so difficult to put down. I still can’t decide if this was a truly masterful work, as it wasn’t quite as polished as The Art Forger but it is still a book I would highly recommend.

The Safe Room deals with issues of race throughout the story, but does so in a way more unique than that of the typical pre-civil war era story. The race issues dealt with in this book were also that of modern day. There are parallel race issues going on throughout the story between Lee, in the present day, and Sarah, in the 1850’s and 60’s- whether all white people are the same in their racism towards blacks. I won’t reveal anything more about the race issues in the story, as they are truly what make the story beautiful, but just know that there is a lot more than meets the eye in terms of race in this book.

The characters in this book were really quite wonderful. I felt by the end of the book as if I truly knew the characters, especially Sarah and Lee. Although there were times when I thought the characters reactions were not exactly realistic or that they were not acting the way I expected them to, I realize now that is what made the characters all the more dynamic. The relationships between the characters were also quite beautiful and there were a few relationships (I won’t give anything way), that I wish could have ended differently.

The writing in The Safe Room was consistent with the Shapiro’s style, although not quite as polished. There were a few times where the perspective would shift from Lee to Trina in the middle of a chapter and I would find myself confused as to who’s perspective it was. This occurred more at the beginning of the story as once I was able to recognize the character’s style of thinking, shifts were easier to follow.

In the end, The Safe Room by B.A. Shapiro is a truly beautiful take on a ghost story that deals with serious issues and portrays characters that are extremely likable and easy to relate to. I would highly recommend this book for those with an interest in the underground railroad, tasteful ghost stories, or just beautiful stories.

I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Lazarus Curse: Review

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A fantastic mystery set in London that masterfully blends natural science, the cruelties of slavery, and voodoo into a heart pounding adventure that will leave the reader chilled to the bone.

The Lazarus Curse follows Dr. Thomas Silkstone as he finds himself smack in the middle of a deadly adventure when he asked to catalogue the specimens brought back by an ill fated expedition to the new world. When an important journal disappears and the only remaining member of the expedition party is murdered, Silkstone is thrown into a mystery that will expose him to the cruelties of slavery and the cruelties of people that spans the world.

This story is one that will haunt the reader long after the pages have finished turning. Exposing the reader to not only the cruelties of slavery in England, but to the wickedness of the human being, The Lazarus Curse is a book that will have the reader turning away from the story in horror and eagerly awaiting more in equal parts.

This is the first book that I have read by Tessa Harris and I have to say that I really enjoyed her style of writing. She writes in a manner that is descriptive, without being overly so. Her descriptions of London and the horrors that befell the characters were vivid and easily pictured, yet it was easy to imagine all of the extra pieces without her having to explicitly state what everything looked like exactly. Harris also writes passages of immense action in a smooth and easily followed manner. At no point during the story was I at a loss as to what was going on, the author definitely understands how to paint a clear picture with her words.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in fascinating stories that masterfully blend the world of natural science with that of slavery and voodoo. The Lazarus Curse is a fast paced story that will not disappoint.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight: Review

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The title and cover of this book caught my eye while cruising through the library today. While I normally don’t read children’s books, this one certainly caught my eye and I’m glad that I read it.

The plot of Twelve Minutes to Midnight is rather original. A young girl, Penelope, is a writer but she must keep it a secret as the story takes place during a day and age when female authors were rather uncommon and frowned upon. Not only is Penny a writer (and publisher), she also gets caught up in a mysterious investigation involving inmates of an asylum who are writing mysterious phrases at 12 minutes to midnight. Penny sets out to solve the mystery, with the help of a few of her friends.

While the storyline seems relatively predictable at first, I can guarantee you that there will still be some plot twists and that you will realize by the end, that the author thought the story out way more than seems apparent at the beginning. I definitely enjoyed this thriller for kids as it wasn’t too intense and scary, yet it still held some good intrigue and edge-of-your-seat moments.

Edge writes in a style that meshes nicely with this type of story. He writes in a manner that is suspenseful, without being too scary or intimidating. His writing is also easy to read and understand. Another aspect that I liked about his writing style is that he doesn’t hesitate to use a few words that kids might not be as familiar with, yet it was easy to tell within the context what the words meant.

I would definitely recommend this book to those with kids ages 9+ who are looking for a good mystery, especially one that is set in the past, yet still relates to the future. After reading this book, I might just have to check out the next book in the series.

Sting of the Drone: Review

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This book, while dealing with an important issue, is also a great, action-packed thriller. 

The plot of this book is really great. The story revolves around multiple sub-plots that all come together at the very end. This book kept me on the edge of my seat right up until the very end, waiting to see what would happen next.

This book deals with the issue of drones, although at times it is hard to tell whether the author is in support of drones or not.Sting of the Drone presents the issue from both sides, that of the people controlling the drones and that of the people living in the aftermath of drone attacks. This book, while not exactly changing my opinion on anything, definitely gave me something to think about and educated me better on the use of drones around the world.

The characters in this book were mediocre. While I don’t think the author set out to create outstanding characters, rather than inform the reader on an issue, I found myself not caring at all about the characters. While I did feel that the characters always seemed to act in a realistic manner (so props to the author on that one), I didn’t feel a connection with any of the characters, making this book feel more like a nonfiction read than a fiction read.

The writing in this book was pretty good. I found that once I picked the book up, I had a hard time putting it down, which for me is the mark of a good author. The author does a good job of writing technical information in a manner that the reader can understand and keeping the information exciting and relevant.

The one thing that I didn’t like about this book was the formatting. Each chapter, usually, takes place in a different location with a different set of characters (although they are all connected). While it was stated at the beginning of each chapter where the chapter took place in, I found that I had to flip back a few pages to occasionally remind myself where the chapter took place in. It took me about half the book before I really got in the habit of paying close attention to where the chapter took place in.

In the end, I would say this is a pretty good book that brings to the light a touchy subject. This is definitely a good book to read if you’re looking for a fiction book that will still teach you something about a current issue.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Invention of Wings: Review

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The Invention of Wings is one of the best fiction books that I have read in a long time. In fact, I think it’s one of the best fiction books that I have ever read.

The story alternates perspectives between that of Handful, a slave, and that of Sarah, the slave-masters daughter. Along with the stories of those two girls, the reader also is exposed to stories of other slaves, stories of Sarah’s family, and stories of the abolitionist movement, all through the eyes of two women.

The story itself is fantastic. The Invention of Wings is a powerful story that gives a human element to the tales of slavery and the abolitionist movement. This is definitely one of the better books that I have ever read about slavery. While there isn’t much too much action within the plot of this book, what there is instead is real-life trials and challenges for the characters to face, regardless of whether they are held captive by slavery or just by their own mind.

The characters in this book were all exceptional. Handful, especially, was a remarkably dynamic character and I loved reading the chapters that were from her perspective. All of the characters seemed realistic and it was easy to imagine them as actual people. Their reactions to the situations they were faced with, while not always what I wanted them to do, were exactly what I would expect a normal person to do.

The characters also showed remarkable growth throughout the story. Growth in characters was always something that teachers talked about in school but I never understood or read an example of until I read this book. Each of the main characters in this book grew in some manner, whether it was just expanding on traits they already had or finally moving away from the traditional role, each character greatly moved forward.

The writing in this book was absolutely wonderful. The author does a fantastic job of writing descriptive phrases throughout the book. It was so easy to visualize what the characters were seeing and what they were talking about that I almost felt as if I were watching the story rather than reading it. Also, her tone of writing for each of the characters completely matched what I would expect the character to sound like if they were telling the story, making this book a true joy to read.

This is definitely a book that I would recommend to anyone looking for a heartwarming book about friendship and strength through slavery. I would also recommend this book if you’re looking for a fantastic fiction read, this is definitely one of the standout books of the year.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley. 

Fatal Enquiry: Review

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A novel reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, but with much more flavor, Fatal Enquiry is sure to give any mystery reader a thrill.

Set in Victorian London, Fatal Enquiry follows enquiry agents Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn as they set out to thwart arch nemesis Sebastian Nightwine before he can complete his evil scheme. The only problem is, Barker and Llewelyn are wanted men, framed for dastardly deeds by Nightwine himself, in his attempt to stop them from stopping him. Along the way Llewlyn and Barker meet up with some interesting characters and demonstrate remarkable detective enquiry skills. 

The plot of this book is remarkable. While showing some similarities to the Sherlock Holmes novels (mainly in setting), this book offers so much more in terms of action and an engaging plot. This book kept me on the edge of my seat wondering whether the Barker and Llewlyn would be able to get themselves out of whatever mess they found themselves in and be able to stop Nightwine in time. This book was full of action and kept me guessing until the very end; definitely a marvelous plot.

The characters themselves were very engaging. Llewlyn, especially, is a very dynamic character and I found myself interested in his life story (I will obviously have to read the first 6 books…). Llewlyn (and the other characters) were relatively easy to relate to, despite the fact that they were experiencing things I have never experienced.

Will Thomas writes in a style that is pleasant to read and easy to understand, making Fatal Enquiry a joy to read. Thomas writes simply, will still giving enough details and descriptions to avoid leaving the reader fumbling around in the dark. I found his writing style easy to just dive into and begin reading and then difficult to stop reading. 

Overall I truly enjoyed this book. I think that anyone who loved the Sherlock Holmes novels will find something that they enjoy about this book and anyone who is interested in mysteries (especially taking place in Victorian London) will greatly appreciate this story.

The Tyrant’s Daughter: Review

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I really enjoyed this book. When I started reading this book I was unsure of what to expect, but this book pleasantly surprised me and exceeded any expectations I had.

The storyline of this book is really unique. A young girl, her mother, and her younger brother are brought to America after the assassination of their father/husband (who had been the ruler of their country). The young girl, Leila, is extreme culture shocked once in America. While her brother adapts easily and seemingly forgets his old life, Leila struggles with the different culture in the United States. On top of that, Leila is dealing with some new (and extremely troubling) information she discovered about her father and the way he ruled the country (don’t worry, I won’t give anything away). Leila’s mother is also expected to do some things for the government in exchange for her being granted political refugee status, and Leila is drawn into that task as well. There were so many different challenges piled onto Leila that I found myself glued to the pages, wondering what she would do and how she would cope with the situations at hand.

The characters in this book were absolutely exceptional. Leila was an amazing main character, her reactions and perceptions seemed so realistic that it was easy to imagine her as an actual girl in that situation. Leila’s family was also very interesting. Her younger brother thinks he is the king (was the prince before his father died), and his mother does nothing to deter him from those perceptions, even though they have been exiled from their country. His reactions and the way he dealt with his new situation seemed very realistic and believable.

The writing in this book was really exceptional. Although the book was written in a simplistic manner- it was very tasteful. It truly felt as if the story had been written by Leila. As a reader, I felt that I could feel Leila’s emotions just seeping through the pages. When Leila was overwhelmed, the tone of the writing felt overwhelming, allowing me to feel what she was feeling.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this book. Although it wasn’t my favorite book, I felt that there were many parts that made this book a great read. I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking to read a book about a different culture (and the clash of cultures) or a book with an exceptional main character.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Sekret: Review

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This book is a really fantastic young-adult novel.

The plot in this book is absolutely fantastic. The action starts right at the beginning of the book and doesn’t stop until the very end. There’s one strong plot in this book, that of Yulia trying to survive, but there are also smaller sub-plots that deal with the Russian government and the race amongst countries to be the first into space.

There are some fantasy elements present in this book. When the mind-reading element was first introduced into the story (right at the beginning) I didn’t quite know what to make of it, but it was presented in such a realistic and believable way that I found myself able to go along with it. Things got a little harder for me to go along with once the other characters with abilities were introduced, but they were presented in such a believable manner that I was able to keep reading and truly enjoy what the mind-reading aspects brought to the story (they’re basically the basis of the entire story).

I truly enjoyed the history that was present in this book. While the fantastical elements of this story are really the focus of this story, there is still a lot of information in this book that deals with history. A lot of emphasis is placed on the hardships faced in communist Russia, like having to wait 8 years to visit the doctor. Having never previously learned much about life in communist Russia, other than things were tough and communism doesn’t really work, this book did a wonderful job of exposing me to the facts of what life was like during that time period.

I also really enjoyed all the characters in this book, especially the main character, Yulia. The characters are all very realistic and display real and relatable emotions towards situations and each other. The relationships that the characters all had with each other were also very realistic. While there was some romance between the characters, the relationships seemed very realistic and were not  like your typical young-adult story romances.

The writing in this book was really pleasant. The author does a fantastic job of bringing the world and the characters to life. She also does a fantastic job of describing things without over-describing anything and dulling the story. While there wasn’t anything about her writing that was truly exceptional, it was still very easy and enjoyable to read.

Overall, I would have to say that I truly enjoyed reading this book. I will definitely be on the lookout for this authors name in the future, so I can enjoy any other books that she writes.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.

Willow: Review

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Willow is a story written for young readers, but this book is perfectly suitable for all ages.

The storyline in this book is really quite nice. There is enough excitement to keep the reader entertained, while still allowing ample room for character development. The story follows a young, educated, slave girl, Willow, as she faces challenges on the plantation she lives. Willow spends time each day writing letters in a journal to her long dead mother. One day when out writing at her usual spot; Willow sights some escaped slaves as they cross through the plantation she lives into the North. Then the story really takes off…

The characters in this book are really phenomenal. All of the characters are easy to relate to and understand, but Willow is especially so. All of Willow’s emotions just seem so real and true. It’s easy to image her as an actual young, slave girl living on a fair plantation.

The writing in this book is very pleasant. The author does a really good job of writing dialogue in an easy to understand manner, even when the accents are heavy. The dialogue is also written in a very believable manner, making it easy to imagine the characters actually conversing. The author also does a really good job of writing for a younger audience. The vocabulary isn’t as intense as it would be in an adult book, but the story doesn’t lose anything because of it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. While it wasn’t one of the best books I’ve ever read, it was certainly an enjoyable (and emotional) young-adult story that does a fantastic job of bringing a face to slavery. I would highly recommend this book to any young readers (or teachers) looking for a book about slavery and the true meaning of being free.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.