Quick Book Review: Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Time for a random book review! I’ve read several good books already in 2018, so I’ll start my reviews with the latest from Bernard Cornwell. Cornwell is well known for his Sharpe series as well as Uthred in the Saxon Stories. Though still historical fiction, Fools and Mortals is a bit of a departure from his normal writing. Here, Cornwell gives us a behind the scenes look at Shakespeare and his company as they attempt to make a living putting on plays during the time of Queen Elizabeth I. 

Richard Shakespeare is a struggling actor, overshadowed by his older brother William. Richard is approached about stealing a manuscript from his brother (original plays are quite valuable). Since William refuses to give Richard any manly parts in his plays (Richard is quite good at playing the parts of women), this is tempting for him on several levels.

Having just learned about the page 69 test (https://killzoneblog.com/2018/03/have-you-ever-tried-the-page-69-test.html), let me read to you from page 69 and you can decide if this book is for you.

“I thought he would say more, but he went back to his writing. A red kite sailed past the window and settled on the ridge of a nearby tiled roof. I watched the bird, but it did not move. My brother’s quill scratched. ‘What are you writing?’ I asked.

‘A letter.’

‘So the new play is finished?’ I asked.

‘You heard as much from Lord Hunsdon.’ Scratch scratch.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream?’

‘Your memory works. Good.’

‘In which I’ll play a man?’ I asked suspiciously.

His answer was to sigh again, then look through a heap of paper to find one sheet, which he wordlessly passed to me. Then he started writing again.”

Does this excerpt from page 69 intrigue you? Since this book started a little slow for me, maybe this would have been a better place to start–but, no, I believe the beginning was necessary.

You can listen (or read) an interview from Cornwell done by the Folger Shakespeare Library on the writing of this book.

https://www.folger.edu/shakespeare-unlimited/bernard-cornwell-fools-and-mortals

Cornwell does not seem to have any plans to turn this into a series, but I, for one, would be glad to read more of Richard Shakespeare if he should changest his mind.

 

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Coal River by Ellen Marie Wiseman A Book Review

“On the last day of June, in the year when the rest of the world was reeling from the sinking of the Titantic, nineteen-year old Emma Malloy was given two choices: get on the next train to Coal River, Pennsylvania, or be sent to a Brooklyn poorhouse.”

First of all–great first sentence. Need to keep this one for future study.

Second–though I won this book in a goodreads giveaway (which means I had to enter to win it)–upon receiving it, I confess I was not overjoyed at the prospect of reading something which looked to be rather grim reading. I don’t know much about working in a coal mine, but I know enough to know it was (and is) a far from pleasant life–especially in 1912. So, I reluctantly began my reading, but was soon drawn into the story of Emma and her rather tragic life.

Wiseman tells a difficult story well and manages to make it entertaining. Emma is forced to live with her aunt and uncle when her parents die in a fire. Her relatives see her as a burden, (though her free labor is a bonus), but that is not the worst part of Emma’s life. Seeing how the miners and their families are forced to live and how poorly they are treated by the owner of the mine as well as those under him (such as Emma’s uncle) tears at her heart and makes her determined to try to find a way to help them.

Doing what she can for the miners and their families, Emma puts herself in very dangerous situations as she not only tries to help them, but also to let the world know how the miners, especially the children, are being treated. In spite of laws having been passed to protect children and other workers, these laws are being ignored by the owner of the mine.

As ever when I read a book of historical fiction, I am interested in why the writer chose their subject and how much of it is based on fact and true events. Wiseman says she has long been “fascinated” by coal mining, but learning of the breaker boys made it “a story that needed to be told.” I agree and can highly recommend this book.

Wiseman has written three other books of historical fiction, and I look forward to checking them out. How about you? Have you read any of Wiseman’s books?

Book Review: “Then Sings My Soul” by Amy K. Sorrells

Nel Stewart hasn’t been home in years when her mother’s sudden death brings her back to Michigan from Arizona. Her father’s deep grief and oncoming dementia causes Nel to stay longer than she originally intended. Together, Nel and Jakob work through their present pain as well as learn to deal with their past griefs.

Using alternating story lines, Sorrells tells Jakob’s story of his escape from the Jewish pogroms in the Ukraine, a story Nel never knew. We also learn Nel’s story of why she left home and the significance of Jakob’s hobby of the lapidary arts.

I was immediately drawn into this book because of the historical descriptions of a time and place I know little about (the Ukraine and the Jewish pogroms). The use of the lapidary arts was also an interesting addition, giving insight to the characters–their backgrounds and their interests.

From the title, I thought it was going to be a book about the song, “How Great Thou Art”, but it’s not; exactly. The author explains the meaning behind the title at the end, so make sure you read that. Highly recommended!

 

 

Beneath a Golden Veil by Melanie Dobson

20161207_114254In Sacramento in 1853, the gold rush is on and people are coming from all over the country to try their luck. Isabelle runs a hotel and seems to be successfully overcoming a secret in her past, in spite of the loss of her beloved aunt. When a man enters her hotel in search of his slave, Isabelle becomes involved in helping and hiding slaves in this state which has no clear laws on the issues of slavery.

From Virginia, comes Alden with a twelve year old slave, Isaac. Isabelle recognizes Alden from her past, but he does not recognize her. Soon, another man from Isabelle’s past arrives in Sacramento, and Isabelle has no doubt that this man means her harm. Isabelle becomes caught between wanting to help others who are trapped in slavery and needing to save herself. Her aunt taught her to trust in God, but can she trust Him to deliver her from this evil?

This is my first book by Melanie Dobson though I have read good things about her books and have had a couple of them on my TBR for awhile. Receiving this Kindle edition gave me my excuse to read Dobson’s newest book, and I was not disappointed. I don’t remember ever reading before of California’s stance during the time of slavery or hearing of their own underground railroad, so I found the history interesting and appreciated the details Dobson brings to her story. There is romance, suspense, and colorful characters–all helping to bring together an entertaining story. I gave this book five stars on Goodreads.

Though I received a free Kindle copy through Goodreads, the review is my own.

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Mary Rothschild
The Improbability of Love
by Hannah Mary Rothschild

Patricia Gilmer‘s review

Sep 29, 2016  ·  edit
really liked it

bookshelves: library-book

Read from September 23 to 29, 2016

 

A many layered tale about a painting that a young chef, Annie, buys on a whim from a junk shop in London. Though she is working for two art dealers, she has no real interest in art, but is soon persuaded to try and find out the origins of the painting.
Meanwhile, a powerful art dealer, who built his family business as a German Jew who survived WWII, begins to desperately seek for a painting he had given a lover who unexpectedly died. Though his daughter doesn’t understand why this painting is so important to her father, she begins to search for the painting and begins to uncover the history of the painting, as well as that of her father.
Suspense, a bit of romance, an array of interesting characters, and the history of an 18th century French artist all add up to make an entertaining tale.

The Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

scribe's daughterThe Scribe’s Daughter is listed as a fantasy, but not the type of fairies and dragons. It reads like historical fiction, but the lands and their people are the creation of the author.

This book tells the story of 17-year old Kassia, whose mother has died and whose father has been missing for some 3 years. Kassia and her older sister are doing what they can to survive and to keep the terrifying landlord from the door, so when a stranger appears and asks Kassia to take on some metalwork, she agrees though she knows this is beyond her qualifications.

Taking on this job leads to danger and Kassia finds herself involved in political intrigue and ends up fleeing for her life. She meets new friends who help her to safety and to discovering why she is of interest to anyone.

It took me a bit to get into the story, but I enjoyed getting to know the characters and learning of their various backgrounds. The book ends with a satisfactory conclusion yet gives hints of more to come; most specifically, learning what became of Kassia’s sister. I’m hoping that there is a sequel in the works.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/5518302-patricia”>View all my reviews</a>

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

 

2015-05-22 19.14.46

I picked up Secrets of a Charmed Life because I have read other books by this author and have always enjoyed them. When I realized it was “another WWII novel”, I almost put it away for another time. Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre, and I have read and enjoyed my share of WWII novels, but lately, there just seems to be a glut of books taking place in this time period in both my reading and my TBR pile of books. However, I’m very glad I decided to go ahead and read this novel. It may be “another WWII novel”, but it has its own charms (sorry!).

The story is told as an older woman looking back and telling her story, for the first time ever, to a student reporter. So, it begins in present day Oxford, but mostly takes place as a flashback to the war and the effect it had on two children who were among the ones evacuated from London to protect them from the coming Blitz.

This is a story of two sisters who are caught up in a war, their separation, and the trials they go through to find each other again. It’s a story of motherhood, sisterhood, forgiveness, and learning to live with and through our mistakes.

It’s a story of history; both personal and worldwide. As one character says of history: “What good is remembering an event if you don’t remember how it made you feel. How it impacted others. How it made them feel. You would learn nothing and neither would anyone else.”

I highly recommend this book by Meissner as well any other book she has written. Check out her other books on her website: susanmeissner.com