2017 Book #93 – The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

51tiXx5s2yLTitle: The Second Mrs. Hockaday
Author: Susan Rivers
Date finished: 11/10/17
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Pages in book: 254
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

All I had known for certain when I came around the hen house that first evening in July and saw my husband trudging into the yard after lifetimes spent away from us, a borrowed bag in his hand and the shadow of grief on his face, was that he had to be protected at all costs from knowing what had happened in his absence. I did not believe he could survive it.”

When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away?

Inspired by a true incident, this saga conjures the era with uncanny immediacy. Amid the desperation of wartime, Placidia sees the social order of her Southern homeland unravel as her views on race and family are transformed. A love story, a story of racial divide, and a story of the South as it fell in the war, The Second Mrs. Hockaday reveals how that generation–and the next–began to see their world anew.

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I was provided with this copy from BookBrowse and will be participating in an online book discussion, feel free to join us and participate in the discussion! This book tells the story of a courageous woman named Placidia. Placidia was still so young when she married, and after 2 days of marriage her new husband (Gryffth) is called back to the front lines of the Civil War. Placidia is then left with a massive homestead and farm to oversee as well as a young stepson. Barely able to keep her head above water, the corruption inherent in human nature becomes evident in the pillaging and thefts that Placidia must endure. And then after two years apart, Gryffth returns home to rumors that his wife bore a child while he was away. Only the timing doesn’t add up, as the baby was born over a year and a half after he saw his wife last. And the baby is now buried, having died in an unexplained accident. Gryffth charges his wife and persecutes her to the full extent of the law, wanting to bring justice for her crimes both against him and the defenseless baby. But things aren’t always as simple as they appear.

Overall I loved this book. It was heart-wrenching and an engaging read. I loved the author’s language and writing style, it was beautifully written and very touching. This was a perfect example of a haunting love story, the ending really created a tumult of emotions within me that I find hard to describe. There are definitely some tough parts to the book, Placidia was one of the bravest character’s I’ve ever encountered and endured so much for the sake of her family and some pieces of the book were traumatic to get through. But it really was so touching to see such a deep love exist between her and her husband Gryffth. The book is set up as journal entries and letters, and as I’ve mentioned on this blog before the epistolary style really appeals to me as a reader. I didn’t want to put this one down and each time I picked it up I was sucked right back into the story. I would definitely recommend this one!

The bottom line: I loved this book, this book was haunting and touching and great and I loved it! Definitely a super engaging read, I would recommend!

Favorite Quotes from the book: 

“Our enemy is (a bad guy, don’t want to give it away) and all the people like him, who never question their motives or doubt their desires. They are put on this earth to cause misery, because what they take so freely for themselves comes always at great cost to others.”

“That was the first time I felt pity for Father. He showed me what a fine line divides love from misery. Sometimes, in fact, there’s no line at all.”

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

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2017 Book #4 – Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

51frawx0hul-_sx328_bo1204203200_-1Title: Victoria
Author: Daisy Goodwin
Date finished: 1/14/17
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Pages in book: 416
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Drawing on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin―creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria and author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter―brings the young nineteenth-century monarch, who would go on to reign for 63 years, richly to life in this magnificent novel.
Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world.
Despite her age, however, the young queen is no puppet. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.
“I do not like the name Alexandrina,” she proclaims. “From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.”
Next, people say she must choose a husband. Everyone keeps telling her she’s destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.
On June 19th, 1837, she was a teenager. On June 20th, 1837, she was a queen. Daisy Goodwin’s impeccably researched and vividly imagined new book brings readers Queen Victoria as they have never seen her before.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I received this book from Book Browse in order to participate in an online book discussion on the book. If you’ve read it please come join the discussion! This book tells the story of Victoria, Queen of England in the mid 1800’s. The book begins before Victoria is queen, when she was still Alexandrina, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. Controlled for her whole childhood by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend/advisor (Conroy), Victoria becomes Queen when she’s barely 18 and relishes the freedom this provides. This book chronicles her Victoria’s life between the ages of around eighteen and twenty as Victoria comes into her place in the regency. As a young woman she has a lot to prove though, and with so many people who’d like to control her or use her power to their advantage, she has to be careful who she trusts. As Victoria navigates through her first couple years as Queen, she makes mistakes and falls in love and causes some scandal but all in all she stands her ground, makes her own decisions, and follows her heart.
Overall I did enjoy this book. Victoria was very interesting as a main character and the story line was interesting. There were parts of the story line that I thought could have been dug into more, like the discussions of  the poor people in London and how Victoria was spoiled with riches while there were children starving in the streets.And if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t like the way the story ended. I didn’t like Victoria’s second love interest, I wanted her to end up with Melbourne despite the age difference. That probably was the thing that bothered me most about the book. Also it seemed like everyone wanted something from Victoria, which I’m sure is normal for a book about a Queen but I have to say is kind of depressing for a book about a young woman. This was a good and interesting book though and I would recommend it.

The bottom line: I liked this book a lot. Victoria was extremely interesting as a character and the book included a good deal of dramatic tension, conflict, and romance as well as political intrigue. I didn’t really like the ending but overall I thought the book was very well written. I would recommend, especially for fans of books about royalty.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #81 – Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

51I2zhJVSNL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Circling the Sun
Author: Paula McLain
Date finished: 8/29/16
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May 31, 2016 (Paperback)
Pages in book: 400
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.
Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.
Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.
Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I received this book from Book Browse in order to participate in an online book discussion on the book. If you’ve read it please come join the discussion! This book is about Beryl Clutterbuck, who later became Beryl Purves and then Beryl Markham. This book’s story is inspired by the true story of Beryl Markham, famous aviator, with some fictionalizing. In the book (and some of this stays true to her real life story), Beryl was brought to Africa with her family at a young age, but left alone there with her father when her mother decided to move back to England. Her father is not an overly sentimental man and does the best he can in raising her, though in doing so he makes her a more wild woman than society is used to seeing. Trying to curb that in her early teens, he sent her away to school but she rebelled until she was returned to the home that she loved. The book follows Beryl’s life through her childhood, teens, and eventually into her adulthood. She marries multiple times, has a handful of affairs, and also blazes down any open trail without any trace of fear. Many times in the story she is set back to where she began career-wise and has to start from scratch. She does it though, again and again, always wanting to be successful and most important, to do what she loves. For most of the book this means training horses but eventually it encompasses flying as well.
Overall I just loved this book. Beryl’s character was rough but it had a vulnerable side that made her so easy to related to. I loved her fearlessness and how accomplished she was. She never let anything beat her down, she managed to turn her career around time and time again with nothing but her friends’ support and her own hard work. The other characters in the book were entirely engaging and the story line was so interesting, I didn’t want to put the book down for fear that I would miss something. McLain’s descriptions of the African terrain was just amazing, I felt transported just through reading her words, as if I was actually in Africa standing by Beryl’s side through the story. And I love the way McLain writes and how much emotions were put into the story, I could feel them coming off the pages and it was just wonderful. This one is a must read, I would most definitely recommend it.

The bottom line: I just loved this book. It was extremely engaging and amazingly transporting. I felt like I was there in Africa beside Beryl throughout the whole story. The story line was interesting, I just couldn’t put this one down. I would definitely recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #40 – The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman

51R28ASP9AL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Fair Fight
Author: Anna Freeman
Date finished: 5/1/16
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Pages in book: 469
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE:I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Moving from a filthy brothel to a fine manor house, from the world of street fighters to the world of champions, The Fair Fight is a vivid, propulsive historical novel announcing the arrival of a dynamic new talent.
Born in a brothel, Ruth doesn’t expect much for herself beyond abuse. While her sister’s beauty affords a certain degree of comfort, Ruth’s harsh looks set her on a path of drudgery. That is until she meets pugilist patron George Dryer and discovers her true calling—fighting bare knuckles in the prize rings of Bristol.
Manor-born Charlotte has a different cross to bear. Scarred by smallpox, stifled by her social and romantic options, and trapped in twisted power games with her wastrel brother, she is desperate for an escape.
After a disastrous, life-changing fight sidelines Ruth, the two women meet, and it alters the perspectives of both of them. When Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition, Ruth pushes dainty Charlotte to enter the ring herself and learn the power of her own strength.
A gripping, page-turning story about people struggling to transcend the circumstances into which they were born and fighting for their own places in society, The Fair Fight is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention, and fighting one’s way to the top.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I received this book from Book Browse in order to participate in an online book discussion on the book. This book is about a number of people, whose lives all end up being connected in sometimes unusual ways. Ruth is the daughter of a madam, and she lives at the brothel with her husband Tom and her sister, Dora, who is the mistress of Granville Dryer, whose friends Perry Sinclair and George Bowden have a intimate relationship, and Perry’s sister Charlotte marries Granville and later becomes friends with Ruth, her husband’s mistress’s sister. The strings of relationships get a little convoluted but I liked that the book started out separate and then the story lines all seemed to merge toward the middle of the book.
This book also takes an interesting look at how females were treated in the 18th century. At one point the doctor says to Charlotte something about her sex having weak temperaments and that one line alone took me back a step because it was so rude and sexist. Readers can really see how poorly women were treated in the 18th century, though many of the injustices Ruth suffered I think were due to ethical/moral injustices related to the person’s character that she’s dealing with rather than the time period she lived in. Mr. Dryer, for example, did many injustices to Ruth and while they may have been influenced by the time period he lived in, it mostly had to do with who he was as a person.
Overall this wasn’t my favorite book. I had a little trouble staying interested in the story while I was reading it, though I enjoyed the story line when it did hold my attention. Also there were parts of the book that I didn’t want to put the book down and the story line was very thought-provoking and I think will make a great book for the book discussion group. The relationship between George and Perry was one that really caught my attention because of how abusive and awful it was. Perry was really kind of messed up in the head and kept threatening to commit suicide if George left him, which would eventually guilt him into staying. There were many thought-provoking situations and relationships, all of which make for a great book club read. While this wasn’t one of my personal favorite reads, I would still recommend it, especially for book clubs.
The bottom line: I didn’t particularly find this one riveting but a lot of other people have. This turned out to be a slow read for me but I still think this would be a great book club pick since its very thought-provoking.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #27 – Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor

51yNVF+3b+LTitle: Good on Paper
Author: Rachel Cantor
Date finished: 3/30/16
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Melville House
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Pages in book: 295
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: I won it! On Reading with Robin’s Facebook page

Blurb from the cover:

Is a new life possible? Because Shira Greene’s life hasn’t quite turned out as planned. She’s a single mom living with her daughter and her gay friend, Ahmad. Her PhD on Dante’s Vita Nuova hasn’t gotten her a job, and her career as a translator hasn’t exactly taken off either.
But then she gets a call from a Nobel Prize-winning Italian poet who insists she’s the only one who can translate his newest book.
Stunned, Shira realizes that—just like that— her life can change. She sees a new beginning beckoning: academic glory, demand for her translations, and even love (her good luck has made her feel more open to the entreaties of a neighborhood indie bookstore owner).
There’s only one problem: It all hinges on the translation, and as Shira starts working on the exquisitely intricate passages of the poet’s book, she realizes that it may in fact be, well … impossible to translate.
A deft, funny, and big-hearted novel about second chances, Good on Paper is a grand novel of family, friendship, and possibility.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I won this book on the Reading with Robin Facebook page in a contest. This book is actually going to be discussed with the author on her Facebook page tonight at 8pm so be sure to check that out if you’ve read the book! And here is a listing of future books selected for the page’s book club in case you’re interested in participating in any of those. Anyways, so this book tells the story of Shira Greene, who lives in Manhattan with her daughter, Andrea (Andi), and her best friend Ahmad, who has been helping Shira raise Andi since birth. Shira is offered the chance to translate for Nobel Prize-winning Romei, much to her surprise. She accepts even though this action alone forces her out of the comfort zone in which she’s been living for years, never really having to strive to any potential heights or success.
After she gets engrossed in the story though, she begins to realize things she didn’t know about herself, her daughter and her odd little family she’s formed. And Romei isn’t exactly what she expects. Many pieces of his work are hitting a little too close to home, reminding her of things that she’s written in the past herself. To help her figure out what Romei’s all about, she enlists the help of Benny, a bookstore owner/Rabbi across the street. In the end though, this work of Romei’s ends up being more for Shira than she realizes.
Overall I honestly loved this book. The author did an amazing job of crafting the words just so, it felt almost like I was reading a 300 page poem because it was crafted so wonderfully. While I really enjoyed the book, I do have to admit that I had some trouble connecting with Shira’s character. She basically drops out of grad school in her late twenties (I think I’m remembering the age correctly) over a guy and lets her life basically fall apart after she finds out that he hasn’t been honest with her. That to me was completely baffling. There were a couple other things that didn’t sit right with me about Shira’s character but it definitely did not detract from my enjoyment of the story. Just the opposite, Shira was one of my favorite (and least I guess) parts of the book. The way she discussed literature was profound and moving and being able to insert myself in those conversations throughout the book was one of the most interesting aspects of the story. Overall this book had a sweet ending but what really captured me about this book was the character’s flaws and also the intense psycho-analytical discussions on literature. This was a great read for anyone who loves reading!

The bottom line: This book was just wonderfully well done. It was magical to read, the author honestly did an amazing job of stringing words together to make the text almost lyrical. I loved the in depth discussions included in the conversations between characters. Really just a lovely book to read, I would most definitely recommend.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page