historical fiction

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See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

He was still bleeding. – Opening sentence A massive thanks to Georgina Moore who sent me a proof copy of this book after I felt like the only book blogger who hadn’t read it yet! I don’t know if this is just me, but I hadn’t heard of the historic Lizzie Borden case before reading this book, so the poem on the back sort of gave it away a little bit: Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one (Apparently this is quite famous and well-known, but I’ve been living under some sort of rock.) For those of you who are also unfamiliar with the Borden case, here are the quick facts: On 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden were discovered by their daughter, Lizzie Borden. Both had been violently murdered with an axe.…

Skintown by Ciaran McMenamin

I am always grateful when I get sent a free book to review. I consider it a dutiful honour each and every time. However, it does sometimes present a dilemma, and in the case of Skintown I had to do something I really don’t like doing – abandon it. Skintown is the first novel by Ciaran McMenamin, and has a really interesting backstory. Based on true events, Skintown follows the story of a character called Vinny, growing up in ’70s Ireland when the IRA were at their most terrifying. Vinny is having a bad Saturday night. All he wanted was a Hawaiian burger from one of the choice joints on Chippie Street after a few pints. Just a few hours later, after a mindless act of kindness, Vinny finds himself wedged into the back seat of a shiny black Ford Fiesta, with two prime cuts of under-the-influence thuggery watching him from the front.…

Human Acts by Han Kang

‘Looks like rain,’ you mutter to yourself. – Opening sentence Before Human Acts, I had never heard of the Gwangju Uprising of 1980. Now, I’m sat here wondering how a massacre can go forgotten, and how many others have I never heard of. Just because I live on the other side of the world, does that mean it is right for something so horrific to be unreported? Or is it irrelevant? I might not have known about the Gwangju Uprising, but I grew up learning about Stalin’s and Hitler’s mass murders. I watched the Twin Towers fall on my parents television set, too young to fully understand but aware that hundreds of people had died. As you can probably tell, Human Acts isn’t the most upbeat of books. Han Kang tells the story of the Gwangju Uprising through multiple characters over a period of thirty years. Human Acts may be a work…

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjon

The October evening is windless and cool. – Opening sentence I didn’t really have any expectations for Moonstone. I’d heard good things about it, and because it was set in Reykjavik, Iceland, where I was heading for a long weekend – I picked up a copy from BookBridgr. I certainly didn’t expect to be confronted with a graphic sex act on page one. It kind of made me want to hide what I was reading, in case people knew. And because I knew nothing about Moonstone beforehand, I didn’t know if it was some sort of erotica novella. Back in the hostel, in the privacy of my room, I continued reading. And I’m glad I did, because what I read wasn’t erotica, but one of the most deeply moving stories I have ever read. Based on true events that happened after the war in 1918, Mani Steinn is a boy…

In a Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca Mackenzie

My name is Henrietta S. Robertson. – Opening sentence I received In a Land of Paper Gods as part of a blog tour, where I did a short Q+A with author Rebecca Mackenzie. In a Land of Paper Gods follows the story of Henrietta S. Robertson, better known as Etta. That’s her English name, anyway. Her Chinese name is Ming-Mei (but her teachers do not approve of Chinese being spoken at the school). Born in China, Etta is the daughter of British missionaries and spends her time growing up in a boarding school tucked away in the mountains of Lushan, while her parents follow their calling and spread the word of God. Etta, 10, is the smallest in her class, and faces the usual struggles any 10 year old girl must face; standing up to the class bully, avoiding getting into trouble with her teachers, and learning to become a good Christian woman.…

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola

Through her left eye she could see nothing now. – Opening sentence I received an intriguing-looking proof copy of The Unseeing from @TinderPress a few months ago, and was immediately drawn into the mystery. I knew The Unseeing was based on a true Victorian crime, which intensified my expectations. I know how the Victorians were quick-to-judge and unjust (compared with our standards) in their methods and treatment of prisoners, so I had a rough idea what to expect. I have to admit, however, I initially struggled through the first chapter – it didn’t grab my full attention from off. But I kept reading, and after the first chapter I got into it and from there it flowed naturally for the rest of the novel. The Unseeing follows the stories of Sarah Gale, a woman with a death sentence for the murder/dismemberment of her ex-lover’s new fiancé, and Edmund Fleetwood, appointed…

The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot, his Wonderful Love and Terrible Hatred by Carl-Johan Vallgren

Apart from having a ridiculously long title, this book is a one-of-a-kind that you will either love or hate. Set in a fictional Victorian-inspired era of Europe, our hero Hercules Barefoot is born deaf, dumb and horribly disfigured. However, Hercules Barefoot also has the power to read people’s minds, and it’s this power which is both a gift and a curse in his long and miserable life. Described as a love story, the majority of the book follows Hercules Barefoot searching for his one true love, Henriette, who he was dramatically parted from when she was ‘sold’ to a man in their youth. Along the way the reader bears witness to the extreme prejudice, bullying and torture that Hercules Barefoot suffers as he struggles to be treated as an equal among his peers. But Hercules Barefoot is not equal, and it is is the curse that he must endure that…

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