Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts

Monday, December 12, 2022

Review: The Good Wife of Bath by Karen Brooks

The Good Wife of Bath by Karen Brooks
William Morrow and Company
Publication Date: January 25th, 2022
Paperback. 560 pages.

About The Good Wife of Bath:

"In the middle ages, a famous poet told a story that mocked a strong woman. It became a literary classic. But what if the woman in question had a chance to tell her own version? 

England, 1364: When married off at aged twelve to an elderly farmer, brazen redheaded Eleanor quickly realizes it won't matter what she says or does, God is not on her side--or any poor woman's for that matter. But then again, Eleanor was born under the joint signs of Venus and Mars, making her both a lover and a fighter. 

Aided by a head for business (and a surprisingly kind husband), Eleanor manages to turn her first marriage into success, and she rises through society from a cast-off farm girl to a woman of fortune who becomes a trusted friend of the social-climbing poet Geoffrey Chaucer. But more marriages follow--some happy, some not--several pilgrimages, many lovers, murder, mayhem, and many turns of fortune's wheel as Eleanor pursues the one thing that all women want: control of their own lives."

The Good Wife of Bath is a truly remarkable historical fiction story following the fictional life of The Wife of Bath herself from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Although it will likely enhance the reading experience, I do not think it is at all necessary to have read The Canterbury Tales in order to enjoy this book. I absolutely adored this book and would easily consider it a favorite. This is a genuinely absorbing tale full of ups and downs. My heart was filled with joy at many different moments, as well as completely broken at far too many moments as well. 

The Good Wife of Bath begins following the life of Eleanor at the age of twelve when she is first married off to an older tenant former at the age of twelve. From this point, we follow Eleanor through the years and through her marriages to a small array of very different men, all of whom bring something new to Eleanor's life, whether for better or worse. This story follows Eleanor through the many events in her life, from her rise to success as a businesswoman (of sorts) and close friendship with Geoffrey Chaucer, to her pilgrimages and attempts to wrest control of her own life. 

Eleanor has easily because one of my favorite protagonists. She headstrong, intelligent, and always up for something new and stimulating to do. She's also one of the strongest women I've come across. From the age of twelve when she is first married off, to her later years after she's been through multiple marriage and hardships, Eleanor somehow always manages to maintain a sense of determination and (as much as I hate to use the word 'plucky' sometimes) sheer pluckiness that makes her a consistent force to be reckoned with. 

I can't say enough how much I loved following Eleanor throughout her life. Things aren't always that happy to read about, but they are so full of the realities of life and the struggles and hope that come with that. Some of the biggest themes of The Good Wife of Bath are around Eleanor autonomy and how her life seems to constantly be controlled by men–and her trying to figure out how she can run her own life while under the restraints of said men. Watching Eleanor navigate her life while married to such a wide variety of different men was fascinating and surprisingly mesmerizing as well. Although only a twelve year girl at the start, she shows her ability to be observant and learn from the world and people around her quickly, and through this we see her adapt better to her environments and learn how to best communicate with any variety of person she meets, whether a future husband, a neighbor, or someone business-related. She shows her worth as having a shrewd eye for business with her first marriage, and this leads to many different paths later in life for her, both good and bad. She learns the difference between love, lust, and duty, and makes some truly wonderful and close friends along the way. 

I read the The Good Wife of Bath in audiobook format narrated by Fran Burgoyne and it was phenomenal. It's very clear that Burgoyne put a lot of care into capturing the voice of Eleanor, and she does so excellently. I think being able to exhibit Eleanor's personality throughout her life is ac challenging task due to how much she grows and changes and all the difficult times she goes through, and I really loved how Burgoyne captured so much of the emotion and change over the course of the story. Whether you're a seasoned audiobook listener or just getting into it, you cannot go wrong with the quality and narrative excellence of The Good Wife of Bath

Lastly, I wanted to add that Karen Brooks has a wonderful author's note at the end of this book that covers many of her choices and thoughts on the historical period and how shoe chose to write the story as she did. For instance, she explains thoroughly why she chose to stick to historical accuracy and begin the story with her main character, a young girl of twelve, marry an old man and include everything that comes with that. She is never explicit or writes for shock factor, but rather writes for what is accurate for the story. Brooks also includes an excellent list of books used for her research for further reading if you find yourself wondering more about the time period. 

Overall, it's an easy five stars from me for The Good Wife of Bath! This is a not a book that I'll be forgetting about anytime soon. 

Buy the book: Amazon |

Monday, April 5, 2021

Review: The Widow Queen by Elżbieta Cherezińska

The Widow Queen (The Bold, #1)

The Widow Queen (The Bold #1) by by Elżbieta Cherezińska, trans. Maya Zakrzewska-Pim
Publication Date: April 6th, 2021
Hardcover. 640 pages.
About The Widow Queen:

"Elzbieta Cherezinska's The Widow Queen is the epic story of a Polish queen whose life and name were all but forgotten until now.
The bold one, they call her—too bold for most.
To her father, the great duke of Poland, Swietoslawa and her two sisters represent three chances for an alliance. Three marriages on which to build his empire.
But Swietoslawa refuses to be simply a pawn in her father's schemes; she seeks a throne of her own, with no husband by her side.
The gods may grant her wish, but crowns sit heavy, and power is a sword that cuts both ways."

The Widow Queen is an ambitious start to the story of Świętosława, as well as a variety of other players set during the time period of 984 CE - 997 CE in and around Poland. This is a fictional story based off of true historical events, which includes Vikings, Polish history, and more of the area, which I thought made things even more engaging and exciting when reading this book.

This book took me a long time to read, not only because it's fairly long (~600 pages or so) but also because it's fairly dense in content and there are a lot of characters and plot details to follow. All that being said, however, I never really felt that lost while following. There's definitely some necessary info-dumping at times in order to help set the stage and background for understanding events that are both occurring and will occur, but it didn't necessarily feel overwhelming for some reason. I love history, so I have appreciate how much this book has told me about the time period and the wars and politics of the period, as well as how much it has inspired me to look up more about the characters and places mentioned on my own. I always think the mark of an especially good book is when it inspires readers to look into more information about something on their own.

The Widow Queen is told across a variety of perspectives including Świętosława, members of Świętosława's family, and other prominent players in her family's life, but Świętosława remains the central protagonist of the story. Świętosława is a character that I personally found myself really enjoying getting to know, and her journey was compelling and full of so many new people, places, and intrigue. Świętosława is often referred to as 'the bold one,' and I honestly can't think of a better way to describe her or her personality. I particularly liked how well she always stood her ground in any situation, and even if she did find that she said something wrong or made a wrong move, she always acknowledged it while maintaining her position and not allowing herself to be forced to back down by anyone. Świętosława may not be the most warm or welcoming person, but she knows how to survive and how to stay in power by playing all of her cards in the ways she knows best. Świętosława  is the main reason that I am most excited to continue on with this series, because I am immensely curious to find out what will happen next in her life (and, quite frankly, I'm very interested in what will happen in her lynxes' lives as well--because yes, she has two lynxes!).

The rest of the cast of characters are full of varied and colorful characters that added a lot of depth and excitement to the story. All of these characters are based on real historical figures, and although I don't really know much about this time period or these people, I could tell that Cherezińska took time and effort to create them in an as authentic manner as possible, and I really felt like these were real people. I liked how she managed to convey how intertwined so many of these characters and their relationships were with others, both political and personally, as well as how the different countries interacted in varying ways.

Since this is a translated story, I'm not sure how much the translation plays into the pacing and writing style, but I will still discuss my thoughts on the writing as its presented in this book. This is one of those books that has both fast and slow pacing at the same time, and I both enjoyed it while I also found it a little dragging at times. Events themselves can happen unexpectedly quickly and unpredictably, but some scenes and/or situations seemed to drag on a bit too long. The writing itself also feels rather sparse in ways--for instance, the dialogue is short and a bit clipped in ways, but in a way that felt enjoyable and authentic. The plot itself felt slightly meandering at times as well, but if you are interested in the characters and the time period then it never really feels like it's a bad thing; conversely, if you're not enjoying the characters--for instance, there were a couple POVs I didn't care for--then some areas might be a bit harder to get through. Świętosława's POVs were always enjoyable for me, though.

Overall, I've given The Widow Queen four stars! This book is a perfect read for someone who loves historical fiction, strong characters, and a compelling narrative.

 *I received a copy of The Widow Queen courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.* 

Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Review: Rhapsody by Mitchell James Kaplan


Rhapsody by Mitchell James Kaplan
Gallery Books
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Hardcover. 352 pages.

About Rhapsody:

"One evening in 1924, Katharine “Kay” Swift—the restless but loyal society wife of wealthy banker James Warburg and a serious pianist who longs for recognition—attends a concert. The piece: Rhapsody in Blue. The composer: a brilliant, elusive young musical genius named George Gershwin.
Kay is transfixed, helpless to resist the magnetic pull of George’s talent, charm, and swagger. Their ten-year love affair, complicated by her conflicted loyalty to her husband and the twists and turns of her own musical career, ends only with George’s death from a brain tumor at the age of thirty-eight.
Set in Jazz Age New York City, this stunning work of fiction, for fans of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, explores the timeless bond between two brilliant, strong-willed artists. George Gershwin left behind not just a body of work unmatched in popular musical history, but a woman who loved him with all her heart, knowing all the while that he belonged not to her, but to the world."

Although I've read a few books set during the Jazz Age of New York City, I've never read anything that includes the lives of the musicians Katharine "Kay" Swift and George Gershwin. Actually, in general, the only person I'd heard of prior to this book was Gerswhin, and I had no knowledge of Kay or her husband's roles--which of course made me that much more intrigued by the premise!

The narrative largely follows Kay and starts off in 1924 before jumping back to 1917 to begin Kay's story anew. Kay is a woman that I would describe as being rather complex and ambitious, as well as someone with an abundance of passion and passion for what she loves. I loved learning about her connection to her music and about her past before meeting Gershwin and beginning their rather tumultuous and controversial affair. 

We get to meet such a wide variety of characters, both well-known and not, and I loved how dynamic this cast was and how much it brought the entire setting to life. The dialogue and interactions between characters felt very fitting for the time period and I found myself becoming interested in almost all the characters we meet, whether main character or side character. In particular, it was of great interest to get to know Kaplan's depiction of Gershwin and Kay's husband, James Warburg, through their interactions and relationships with Kay and the world around them.

I don't personally know all that much about the figures presented in this book, but it seems apparent that Kaplan put a great deal of time and research into developing this story and portraying his characters. Kaplan also does an excellent job of creating an immersive atmosphere of the time period, especially when Kay visits various places and explores the Jazz Age of the period. Something that I always love and hope for in any historical novel is getting to hear about current issues of the time through the lenses of whatever characters, class status, or setting we follow in the main narrative, and I was so pleased to get these glimpses with this book as well. 

It took me a little while to fully get into this book, but once I got to know the characters and setting I found myself full captured by this story. Kaplan has an oddly unique style of writing in that there's something about it that feels slightly elevated and also very poised and exact. The author clearly knows what they're doing and also knows how to craft a narrative style that matches the tone of the book and the characters and themes explored within, and I really enjoyed how much this helped to cement the atmosphere and setting of the novel.

Overall, I've given Rhapsody four stars! If you enjoy historical fiction--especially learning about lesser known historical figures--then this is absolutely a book I would recommend!
 *I received a copy of Rhapsody courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.* 


Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Review: The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister

The Arctic Fury
The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister
Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: December 1st, 2020
Paperback. 408 pages

About The Arctic Fury:

"A dozen women join a secret 1850s Arctic expedition—and a sensational murder trial unfolds when some of them don't come back.  

Eccentric Lady Jane Franklin makes an outlandish offer to adventurer Virginia Reeve: take a dozen women, trek into the Arctic, and find her husband's lost expedition. Four parties have failed to find him, and Lady Franklin wants a radical new approach: put the women in charge.  

A year later, Virginia stands trial for murder. Survivors of the expedition willing to publicly support her sit in the front row. There are only five. What happened out there on the ice?  

Set against the unforgiving backgdrop of one of the world's most inhospitable locations, USA Today bestsellng author Greer Macallister uses the true story of Lady Jane Franklin's tireless attempts to find her husband's lost expedition as a jumping-off point to spin a tale of bravely, intrigue, perseverance and hope."

The Arctic Fury is a surprisingly beautiful, moving, and intense story of an unexpected mismatched group of women who embark upon a journey of a lifetime. I'll be honest when I say that this book ended up being pretty much not at all what I expected or what I initially wanted, but it still ended up being a story that I couldn't put down and kept me anxiously awaiting every new twist.

In 1845, the ships Erebus and Terror, part of the infamous Franklin Expedition, and their crew were lost to the ravages of the Arctic. The Arctic Fury tells the "what-if" story of what might've happened if Lady Jane Franklin, wife to Captain Sir John Franklin, decided to hire a band of women to take a new expedition to the Arctic to discover the true fate of her husband and his crew. As a huge lover of survival stories, exploration stories, and Arctic/polar settings, this sounded like everything I could have possibly wanted and more--and for the most part, it was! There were just a couple plot points that weren't quite what I expected.

There are twelve women hired to embark upon this expedition with guide Virginia Reeve as their leader. Although we get occasional instances of various POVs from other characters throughout the story, our main perspective comes from Virginia and captures the many obstacles that occur as she agrees to lead this expedition, both major and minor. Virginia was an especially interesting character to follow because she's not exactly the most likable or charismatic person, or even the best leader, to be frank. However, there's still something compelling about her and her determination and commitment to her job as leader. Virginia is not one to take unnecessary risks, nor is she going to do anything that knowingly puts the rest of the expedition in danger, and I really came to respect Virginia for her actions despite the fact that her inexperience at leading and dealing with a group of women who have plenty of conflicts and individual needs often fell a bit short. I think a big part of this story in general was observing how a group of women with individual strengths can work together--or not--for a bigger adventure than any could have managed.

The rest of the characters were all surprisingly distinct from one another and I managed to mostly remember who each character was (and for a cast of twelve characters, that's kudas to Macallister!). I enjoyed how truly diverse this group of women was and how Macallister managed to give a believable, compelling background to each one. Some of the women had attitudes that I could hardly stand, while others were much meeker, but all of them were unpredictable and brought something special to the story. I appreciated that each character really seemed to have a useful role in the story, which avoided the 'extraneous character' issue that often pops up with large casts.

As mentioned in the summary, the story also alternates between the time of the expedition and the present where Virginia is now on trial for the "murder" of one of the women who did not return from the expedition. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this split timeline, but it ended up being surprisingly riveting. I didn't really like that this of course meant that we mostly know who survived the expedition, but I did enjoy how Macallister mirrored the messy falling out of the trial with the messy disaster of the expedition. I can't go into too much detail about some points, but I felt that overall this split timeline created a stark contrast in narrative that allows the reader to experience the tense, chaotic, and brutal chapters in the harsh Arctic with the equally tense scenes at the court trial--there are similarities, but the tone in each is overall so different that it felt like a bit of a breather when switching between either section.

Some of my problems with this story mostly arise due to my own expectations, so they aren't really things that make me want to actively lower my rating, but they are still prominent and/or frustrating enough that I feel I should mention them. There are a couple, but I'll highlight the two biggest issues in this review. The first is that the entire setup in which Virginia is hired by Lady Jane Franklin to find Sir John Franklin was just so odd. By the end of the story, it's explained why it was setup in the way it was, but I think from the start it set up this expedition to be a bit of a disaster. Lady Jane Franklin essentially demands anonymity on her part and refuses to have her name attached to this expedition in any way, and Virginia is basically given a list of women who will be in her crew (along with two empty spaces for her to choose her own) with no say or background knowledge of them. For an expedition of this magnitude or dangers involved, this makes no sense to me at all if you actually want it to be successful. 

My next issue has to do with the characters themselves. I understand that when you throw together a group of strangers there are going to be conflicts of personality and interest, but one would think that people going on a journey to a brutal place where countless people have lost their lives would consider that unity and working together would be one of the single most important things to ensure. Yet there is constant strife that derails this journey on more than one occasion in a myriad of different ways. I felt that this spelled doom from the start, whether they ended up being "successful" or not (which I won't spoil if they were or not, I promise!) and left me feeling a bit frustrated. I wanted to see what an actual  trip to the Arctic with an all-woman crew might look like and how they might succeed and/or fail in ways different than the other expeditions lacking women. But because of the weird setup for the expedition and the strong conflicts that were pre-existing between some of the women, I feel like I never got to actually explore that idea and therefore missed out on a potentially incredibly story. 

I know the last two things I mention are fairly negative, but despite those I really did enjoy this story and would still highly recommend it. My frustrations were present throughout the book, but at the same time I was able to put them aside and enjoy this book with an open mind that allowed me to thoroughly enjoy it. The pacing is steady, if a bit slow at times (it really takes forever to even get started on the expedition), and Macallister has a beautiful form of prose that is at times bleak, at times beautiful, and altogether stunning to read. I was particularly moved by the last couple of chapters and felt some deep stirrings of emotion at her writing. 

Overall, I ended up giving The Arctic Fury four stars. I know I had quite a few issues with the plot itself, but in the end I really did like this book and I look back on it with a strong sense of enjoyment and appreciation for the messages Macallister included. It's not what I expected or necessarily wanted, but it was still a fascinating story and exploration of a premise that I didn't even know I desperately wanted.  If you're looking for a book that really focuses on the survival aspect of traveling into the north, this is not it. But it is still a great story of resilience, struggle, and adventure. Pick this one up if you like tense court trials, adventures, and high stakes!

Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

New Release Spotlight: The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis

 Today I am excited to share a new release spotlight with you all featuring Fiona Davis' historical fiction novel The Chelsea Girls! The Chelsea Girls was released in hardcover last year, and today marks the release of the wonderful paperback edition! The publisher, Dutton Books, recently reached out to me to offer an e-copy of the book and I am so excited to dig into it over this winter season. There's something about the colder months that always seems to fit well with historical fiction for me--anyone else feel the same way? You can find some more information about the book below, as well as some links to retailers to check it out! And if you've already read it, let me know what you thought!

The Chelsea GirlsABOUT THE BOOK:
Author:  Fiona Davis
Pub. Date: December 8th, 2020 Publisher: Dutton Books
Pages: 400
Pick up a copy: Publisher | IndieBound | Amazon | Book Depository

“The bright lights of the theater district, the glamour and danger of 1950s New York, and the wild scene at the iconic Chelsea Hotel come together in a dazzling new novel about a twenty-year friendship that will irrevocably change two women's lives. Spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s, The Chelsea Girls deftly pulls back the curtain on the desperate political pressures of McCarthyism, the complicated bonds of female friendship, and the siren call of the uninhibited Chelsea Hotel.

From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City's creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home—a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red Scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine's Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom."

Praise for The Chelsea Girls:“Davis tells a very good story and deserves all the praise she won for her other books set in famous New York landmarks… a tale that is intricate and subtle, unpredictable and exciting.” —The Washington Post
“Davis, who has given juicy supporting roles to New York landmarks in The Masterpiece and The Address, uses Chelsea as a metaphor for the grandeur that was within reach but spirals into a much darker place.” —Associated Press
“Another spectacular novel… Davis needs to be celebrated for this. Sure, she gets the history right and does a magnificent job of bringing the Chelsea’s special magic to life. Beyond that, she is an exquisite writer, who captures the essence of people and times.” —The Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ)
“The glitz and glamour of the Chelsea Hotel provides a perfect backdrop for Davis's story of friendship, ambition, and behind-the-scenes theatrical intrigue… both a sharp-eyed commentary on female friendship and a vivid glimpse into the life of a New York City icon.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“A fascinating and wholly immersive celebration of friendship, love, loyalty, and courage during a turbulent and often underrepresented period in American history… Richly detailed and transporting, historical fiction fans will love this one!” —Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of When We Left Cuba

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Goldilocks by Laura Lam & The Library of Legends by Janie Chang

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

Goldilocks by Laura Lam
Publication: May 5th, 2020
Hardcover. 352 pages.

"A gripping science fiction thriller where five women task themselves with ensuring the survival of the human race; perfect for readers of The Martian, The Power, and Station Eleven. 

Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation. 

It's humanity's last hope for survival, and Naomi, Valerie's surrogate daughter and the ship's botanist, has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity like this - to step out of Valerie's shadow and really make a difference. 

But when things start going wrong on the ship, Naomi begins to suspect that someone on board is concealing a terrible secret - and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . ."
This sounds like the perfect sci-fi thriller to keep my attention right now! I love space exploration so much and this just sounds like it hits a lot of my favorite marks, so I can't wait to check it out!

The Library of Legends
The Library of Legends by Janie Chang
Publication: May 12th, 2020
William Morrow
Paperback. 400 pages.

"“Myths are the darkest and brightest incarnations of who we are . . .” 

China, 1937. When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of students, faculty and staff must walk 1,000 miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the refugees who are at risk; Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure: a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends. 

The students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends creates unexpected bonds. Lian becomes friends and forms a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is arrested and another one is murdered, Lian realizes she must escape before a family secret puts her in danger too. Accompanied by Shao and his enigmatic maidservant, Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai in the hopes of reuniting with her mother. 

During the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. This revelation comes with profound consequences, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits who embark on an exodus of their own, one that will change the country’s fate forever."
I've been meaning to read Janie Chang's books for so long now--maybe I'll finally get around to doing that with this book! This sounds beautiful and so interesting, hopefully I'll have a chance to check it out sooner rather than later. :)

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Review: Hannah's War by Jan Eliasberg

Hannah's War
Hannah's War by Jan Eliasberg
Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2020
Paperback. 320 pages

About Hannah's War:

"Berlin, 1938. Groundbreaking physicist Dr. Hannah Weiss is on the verge of the greatest discovery of the 20th century: splitting the atom. She understands that the energy released by her discovery can power entire cities or destroy them. Hannah believes the weapon's creation will secure an end to future wars, but as a Jewish woman living under the harsh rule of the Third Reich, her research is belittled, overlooked, and eventually stolen by her German colleagues. Faced with an impossible choice, Hannah must decide what she is willing to sacrifice in pursuit of science's greatest achievement. 

New Mexico, 1945. Returning wounded and battered from the liberation of Paris, Major Jack Delaney arrives in the New Mexican desert with a mission: to catch a spy. Someone in the top-secret nuclear lab at Los Alamos has been leaking encoded equations to Hitler's scientists. Chief among Jack's suspects is the brilliant and mysterious Hannah Weiss, an exiled physicist lending her talent to J. Robert Oppenheimer's mission. All signs point to Hannah as the traitor, but over three days of interrogation that separate her lies from the truth, Jack will realize they have more in common than either one bargained for."

I know I'm a broken record here, but I really mean it this time when I saw that this book, Hannah's War, is probably going to be the last World War II-era book that I read for a good long while because they are just too common. I keep getting sucked into reading them because of an interesting plot even though I'm tired of them, and this book was one of those with such a fascinating storyline and I received an ARC of it so I thought...why not?

Hannah's War follows two main characters: a Jewish physicist Hannah Weiss, who plays a vital role in the development of the atom bomb; and Major Jack Delaney, whose duty is to catch a spy who is sending classified information to scientists working for Hitler. This premise is where our story takes off, with Jack arriving in New Mexico to investigate all of the scientists working at the lab and where Hannah becomes his prime suspect. I thought this entire premise was fascinating, especially since we got to explore the figure of Hannah, based off of a real woman in history who played a similar vital role, and I was really excited about seeing her actions in this story. Similarly, I was excited to see how Jack planned to figure out who the spy was and to figure out why they were leaking information and how that tied together with Hannah's role. Unfortunately, I found that this story seemed to be lacking something that would make it compelling and live up to the epic story it sounded like it would be.

My main issues with this book lie in my lack of connection to the characters or the plot. The characters were lacking in development and personality and weren't presented in a way that really made me care that much about them or become invested in their role. This story is told mainly in the present 1945 timeline, but it contains intermittent flashbacks to 1938 when Hannah was still in Germany, and in what is a rare bookish event for me, I actually enjoyed the flashback portions of Hannah's life in 1938 far more interesting than the present day timeline. I think that this is partially because I felt like we were able to get a little closer to Hannah and her true personality and motivations in the flashbacks, whereas int he present day I couldn't quite figure out her motivations or why she acted the way that she did a t certain times.

The other major issue I had with this book was the writing style. The individual sentences of prose were lovely and well-written with a nice philosophical edge at times, but the story as a whole suffered from what seemed ot be a lot of content gaps. Some of my frustrations centered around the fact that I would often start a new chapter or scene and feel like I had to have somehow missed some vital part of the story because I felt really confused about whatever was happening. There was a decent bit of missing information that frustrated me, partially because I"m not sure if it's supposed to be missing or if it was just an oversight in the book. For instance, I don't think it was ever mentioned how Hannah actually made it to the United States from Germany in the first place, especially since she was Jewish and therefore it was incredibly difficult to get out of Germany--they even had to essentially attempt to smuggle another Jewish character out before she left.

Despite my frustrations, this really wasn't a bad book The concept and themes of scientific achievements and other larger ideas were really interesting to explore and I think those are what really carry this book. I'm not sure if this book just wasn't for me since it seems to be getting fairly positive reviews otherwise. Regardless, it just didn't click with me. Overall, I've decided to give Hannah's War 2.75 stars. If the premise sounds interesting, then I'd encourage you to maybe pick it up from your library or read and sample and see if you like the style--if so, then definitely check it out! It didn't work for me, but I have no doubt it could click for others.

*I received a copy of Hannah's War courtesy of Little, Brown in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Review: The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst

The Illumination of Ursula Flight
The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst
Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: May 3rd, 2018
Hardcover. 416 pages

About The Illumination of Ursula Flight:

"Born on the night of an ill-auguring comet just before Charles II's Restoration, Ursula Flight has a difficult future written in the stars. 

Against the custom of the age she begins an education with her father, who fosters in her a love of reading, writing and astrology. 

Following a surprise meeting with an actress, Ursula yearns for the theatre and thus begins her quest to become a playwright despite scoundrels, bounders, bad luck and heartbreak."

The Illumination of Ursula Flight is easily one of the most delightful and charming books I've read all year. It's engaging, unique, distinct in its voice, a little bawdy, and incredibly meaningful. This physical book is also unbelievably gorgeous and whoever designed this beauty deserves a raise.

This story follows Ursula Flight, a passionate young girl with a love of writing and theatre, as she moves through the tumultuous events of her life. Ursula is one of the most captivating and vibrant characters that I've had the pleasure of reading in some time. She is constantly exercising her creativity through her writing and inner dialogue, both of which I loved exploring, and as much as she is a mostly kind and interesting girl, she is full of flaws as well and makes plenty of mistakes that grounds her in reality in the most fulfilling way. She is extraordinarily willful about her desires and actions, but also has the common sense to learn from her mistakes and to make the most of any situation she is in, no matter how dreadful it may be. She's always full of hope, and I think that's one of her most endearing qualities.

The historical backdrop of the seventeenth century was equally vibrant and intriguing to explore. The time period was obvious in the mannerisms of the characters and the realities of what life was like in those times--especially for women--but I loved how Crowhurst still managed to make this time period feel so alive and exciting. It honestly made me want to learn more about the time period and King Charles and more about the theatre during that time period.

Within this delightful background and historical period are a myriad of equally colorful characters that constantly had me laughing, cringing, and everything in between. Every person, no matter how minor their role may be, has something distinct about their personality that brings them to life and adds a certain level of charm to the story that I couldn't help but love. It is also largely Ursula's narrative that makes everything so enjoyable due to of her sharp mind and penchant for making jokes or comments about different characters and events that I loved.

Even though this book is full of delights as I've been describing, it still manages to handle some extremely serious topics, albeit in lighter ways that make these topics somewhat easier to handle. I can't really go into details about these, unfortunately, because to do so would give way to spoilers, but suffice to say that the plight of women in this period is explored to the fullest extent in a way that makes you laugh slightly and nod along in commiseration, but also makes you sit back and consider these topics yourself and how things have or haven't changed over time. I find Ursula entirely inspirational and an incredible role model in relation to the idea that a woman can do anything, no matter what circumstance she may currently be in.

I loved Crowhurst's writing style, which embodied an appropriate seventeenth century style without being too stuffy and was instead vibrant and authentic. There are also excerpts from Ursula's various writings (plays, journals entries, etc.) littered throughout that provided some wonderful breaks in the narrative and allowed for some wonderful insight into Ursula's thoughts and writing abilities. These parts were some of my favorite!

Overall, it's an easy five stars from me. I cannot wait to see what Crowhurst writes next, though I'm not sure anything could ever take the place I have in my heart for this charming book.

**Please note that the above are affiliate links!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Review: Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

Mistress of the Ritz
Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin
Delacorte Press
Publication: May 21st, 2019
Hardcover. 384 pages.

About Mistress of the Ritz:

"Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the hotel's director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests--and each other. 

Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For the falsehoods they tell to survive, and to strike a blow against their Nazi "guests," spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish. 

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone--the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself. 

Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war."

There is a seemingly endless supply of books set somewhere and sometime during World War II, which makes it rather difficult to find stories that take a new approach to the setting and are able to introduce something that hasn't been seen before. Mistress of the Ritz was a refreshing take on this time period and I truly enjoyed following the characters in this book as they navigated the tensions and struggles associated with the Nazi regime. I don't generally read that many WWII books anymore because I got so burnt out on them, but I'm glad I decided to give this book a shot!

Mistress of the Ritz follows married couple Blanche and Claude Auzello as they learn how to live through the Nazi regime--and more importantly as the Nazis both take over control of the famed and luxurious Ritz hotel as headquarters and take over more and more of France and surrounding countries. I absolutely loved the hotel setting (pre-Nazis, of course), and this was part of what first enticed me to read this book. The cameos and appearances of famous figures and celebrities were exciting and felt rather like inside jokes at times, which I appreciated, and the descriptions of the goings-ons and regular routine of the hotel were such an interesting component. I loved the behind the scenes look of how luxurious things were and also how things slowly changed over time as the Nazis remained at the hotel and essentially dictated how everything was handled there. It was a tense, melancholy sort of atmosphere that permeated at many times and led to a really interesting narrative. Even with this atmosphere, however, the story still remained fairly upbeat and steady as the characters handled various obstacles and learned how to take new steps to adapt to their surroundings while also remaining true to their morals.

Much like in the previous book I read by Benjamin, The Girls in the Picture, the protagonists were heavily flawed, but also relatable enough that I found myself drawn to them and eager to see how things worked out for them. Blanche felt like the main focus of this book and I really loved seeing her character develop from someone rather flighty and carefree to someone who really makes an effort to change her ways and do things that are bigger than her to make a difference. Claude took a while for me to warm up to, as he has some less-than-favorable qualities as both a man and a husband that made it hard for me to understand him or get behind his actions. That being said, he does have some slow development that put me into his shoes and let me at least understand his actions, even if I didn't always agree with them. Both characters have many layers to unpeel throughout the story and I thought that Benjamin executed this really well. These are characters that aren't always easy to love, but struggle with so many things that everyone can relate to that it's easy to follow into their lives.

The POV switches between Blanche and Claude, as well as between various time periods in their lives, centering largely between the present narrative and starting at a specific time in the past when they first met. I found the time period switches slightly difficult to follow at times because of how often it jumped around and also with how the two characters would often reminisce about moments in the past while telling the present narrative.  It made it easy for me to forget that we were in the present narrative rather than the past--if any of that makes sense. This is similar to what Benjamin did in The Girls in the Picture, so it seems to be a stylistic preference. Other than that hiccup in the storytelling, I had no problems with the POV.

Overall, I've given Mistress of the Ritz four stars! This was a really well done book set during WWII with colorful characters that are full of mixed morals, but also entirely compelling. If you, like me, ever find yourself fatigued of WWII books--or even if you love them and just want something new--I encourage you to pick up Mistress of the Ritz.

*I received a copy of Mistress of the Ritz in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Friday Face-Off: Longboat

Friday Face Off New
Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe. You can find a list of upcoming topics at Lynn's Books.

This week's topic is:
‘Odin, Odin, send the wind to turn the tide – A cover featuring a longboat

My first thought was the Vinland Saga manga because it has a huge boat right on the cover, but it only has one cover. Then I thought of Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell.... but apparently I used that for a topic in the past. Whoops. So in the end, I've decided on the wonderful historical fiction novel The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker.

  The Half-Drowned King (The Half-Drowned King #1)Krone und FeuerDe legende van Swanhilde
2017 US Harper || 2017 German || 2017 Dutch

  Viking. Le ossa di ArdalThe Half-Drowned KingThe Half-Drowned King
2017 Italian|| 2017 UK || 2017 Large Print

My choices:
I'm somewhat equally tied between the US, Dutch, and large print covers, but in the end I think I have to go with the US cover because it's the one that first called out me and made me so excited to read the book. There's just something about the color choice and the design of the waves that gives it a really foreboding atmosphere to me. Am I the only that thinks the Italian edition makes it look a bit like a romance novel (although, he does have his shirt still, I guess)?
  The Half-Drowned King (The Half-Drowned King #1)

Which covers do you like best?

Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

Monday, March 25, 2019

Review: The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

The Girls in the Picture
The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin
Bantam, 2019 
(original hardcover pub. 2018)
Paperback. 480 pages.

About The Girls in the Picture:

"'It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone's lips these days is "flickers"--the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you'll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all. 

In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have earned her the title "America's Sweetheart." The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution. 

But their ambitions are challenged by both the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender--and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world's highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered."

I've been eager to dive back into some historical fiction lately, and Melanie Benjamin fit that mark perfectly. The Girls in the Picture is an ambitious undertaking, tackling two incredible women who paved the way for so many other women to come, and Benjamin did truly epic work in chronicling this fictionalized account.

Prior to reading The Girls in the Picture, I'd say that my knowledge of the beginnings of the movie industry--from the "flickers" to longer silent movies to "talkies"--was relatively lacking. I knew the basics of how things developed, but nothing more than that. With this book, I feel like I now have a fairly solid foundation of how the movie industry developed and who some of the biggest players were and I'm thrilled that I got to go on this journey with the incredible screenwriter Frances Marion and actress Mary Pickford.

The Girls in the Picture switches between the narratives of Fran and Mary, the former being told in first person POV and the latter told in third person. Because Fran was told in first person, I felt a lot closer to her as a character and was more engaged in her life, which I assume was the intent of the author. Mary was a slightly more unpredictable and enigmatic figure because I couldn't get inside her head to the same extent as Fran, and I actually liked this balance between the two POVs. It also helped to keep them very distinct from one another, though their characters and personalities are already very different from one another and provided a striking contrast between one another.

I loved following Fran. I had heard of Mary Pickford before, but Frances Marion was a new name for me and now I can't believe I'd never heard of her. Her accomplishments and attitude toward her career are truly inspirational, and although I don't have much prior knowledge about her to fully compare, it seems that Benjamin did a wonderful job portraying her. I've since found myself researching and looking into Fran's life ever since I put down this book, which is the sign of good writing to me when the author makes me want to learn more about something. Fran is a determined go-getter, someone who is not afraid to put herself out there and take advantage of every single opportunity given to her. She's also an empathetic person who seems to genuinely care about those around her. I was impressed by what a strong, unique, and believable voice Benjamin was able to imbue in Fran, bringing her to life and letting me feel strong connections with her. Mary's portrayal is just as vivid as Fran's, though the connection with her character is not as strong due to the manner in which her story is told. Still, her development from a young, eager, talented actress to the woman she grows up to be was handled wonderfully. Both women have important stories and lessons to tel, and I appreciated being able to go along for the ride.

I loved how Benjamin incorporated so many quiet--yet meaningfully loud--notes on the sexism that these women faced in the movie business. I think that even though we are living in a time where women are making their voices heard more in regards to harassment and sexism, it's still easy to ignore the issues that occurred in the past. Benjamin made these struggles real and shone a great light on them. I was especially excited to read about Fran's involvement in World War I and her documentation of the women's roles during that time--I had no idea that existed and I'm so glad Benjamin gave it the time and notice it served in this book.

Although I truly enjoyed this book and the lives of these two women, there were a few minor issues that I had with it that I'd like to note. First, I found the writing style seemed slightly rushed at times. Benjamin has a lot of content to work with so I can understand it's probably hard to fit it all in, but I sometimes felt things seemed to move too quickly and had somewhat bumpy writing or dialogue along the way. The Girls in the Pictures has a lot of rather large time jumps when the POVs switch as well (continuously moving in the future, however, no back-and-forth time jumps), so sometimes I felt as though I missed out on too much or things changed too quickly. This isn't something that took away much from my enjoyment overall, as I still found the story itself engaging and I wanted to know what would happen, but it is also what made me hold back from fully loving this as much as I could have. Similarly, as much as I love that Benjamin obviously performed a lot of research, there were a few moments throughout where I almost felt as though I were reading a nonfiction book that was talking about certain developments in the movie business when discussing companies and public figures. Again, this isn't a huge issue and I did like learning about the history, but it does slow down the pace a bit.

That being said, I absolutely plan to continue checking out more of Melanie Benjamin's books (including her upcoming release Mistress of the Ritz), and I encourage any historical fiction fans to check her out as well. Overall, I've given The Girls in the Picture four stars!

*I was contacted and provided a copy of The Girls in the Picture in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the book.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound

You might also like:
Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict
The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau
 Publication Date: December 3rd, 2018
Endeavor Quill
430 pages
Pre-order: Amazon | Book Depository 

The BlueFrom Goodreads: 

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture. 

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice. 

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue… 

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage. 

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?
This sounds so interesting to me! This sounds like an exceptionally inventive historical fiction and I'm curious to find out what exactly these "secrets of the color blue are." Plus, blue does happen to be one of my favorite colors so I'm in!

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?


Monday, October 1, 2018

Review: The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker 
Doubleday, 2018
Hardcover. 304 pages.

About The Silence of the Girls:
"The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, who continue to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman watches and waits for the war's outcome: Briseis. She was queen of one of Troy's neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece's greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles's concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army. 

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and cooly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position to observe the two men driving the Greek forces in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate, not only of Briseis's people, but also of the ancient world at large. 

Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war—the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead—all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis's perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker's latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent."

"Oh, these fierce young women."

The Silence of the Girls is a powerful, moving story about fates of Briseis and other Trojan women during and after the Trojan War. This book has a strong, gripping start that made me excited to read it, but unfortunately the latter half seemed to lose its steam and instead left me wanting for more.

Briseis acts as our narrator for a majority of the book, thought there are a chapters interspersed infrequently (moreso in the latter half) that are told from a third person perspective and focused more on Achilles. Briseis is an admirable character and I was glad to be able to follow her experience as Achille's 'prize.' It was interesting to watch as she learned how to navigate her new circumstances and handle her feelings towards her captors and the other Trojan women with her. There was a sense of camaraderie among the women, but there was just a big a sense of survival that seemed to separate them at times and made life as slaves even more lonesome. Briseis' anger is also evident throughout all parts of her narration, however, and it is infectious in making the reader angry for her and her people as well, though I appreciated seeing Briseis struggle with her feelings towards her captors at times--it wasn't always black and white.

There were a lot of themes explored in this book that I appreciated immensely, the main ones, of course, relating to how poorly women were treated and how they were simply viewed as an object or prize to be won, rather than viewed as a person themselves. There is also a strong theme of survival present throughout, in which the women must really look out for themselves, both mentally and physically, as they had to adapt to their new positions. Pride and friendship are also big themes that show in various places, not only among the women but also between Patroclus, Achilles, Agamemnon, and other figures in the story.

I also thought that Barker did a great job of creating an authentic Ancient Greek and war camp setting that really relayed the experience of the Trojan War, or rather, any war that took place in ancient times. There was a constant sense of frustration, distaste, both of which even lent themselves to the constant 'male' desire to simple conquer, win, and reap prizes. She did wonderful work of showcasing Greek customs and rituals, from meal-serving etiquette to sacrificial customs to battle and so much more--this was a component that I felt Barker executed excellently.

There were a lot of things that I felt this book was lacking. For one, I was under the impression from the synopsis and other advertisements that this book would focus on Briseis and the other Trojan women, and although it did technically do this, Briseis and Achilles really seemed to be our main focus. The other Trojan women were mentioned, but it was always rather brief. The end of the book did bring up more discussion of the other women, however, that I appreciated, but I do wish there had been more throughout the story. Another thing I found lacking was any real connections to any characters. I felt invested in Briseis and Achilles' storylines, but there was also a bit of a boundary that kept me from really engaging with them and wanting to know more about their stories. Patroclus and Iphis were probably the most interesting out of the bunch, but they were not quite the main focus of the story.

Another minor quibble I have that isn't a huge deal and won't affect my rating--but that was still a minor annoyance and I know may bother others--was the way in which the characters talked. I understand that authors aren't going to choose to write in a style of speech that is one hundred percent authentic, but some of the phrases, words used, or style of speech were simply too casual and modern and completely pulled me out of the Ancient Greek setting.

I'm not entirely sure how to rate this book. The story was interesting and the first half of the book was great, but after some of the larger events took place, I simply started losing interest. I was suddenly bored and uninterested in what was happening and was almost wishing for the story to end. I've read a lot of historical fiction set in Ancient Greece or meant to retell Greek mythology stories and I've found that they are largely hit or miss, and most of them end up missing the mark. I wish I could give The Silence of the Girls a higher rating, but for now I am settling on 3.75 stars. This may change, but for now I feel that I was just too bored near the end to bump this up to a full four stars.

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

*I received a copy of The Silence of the Girls courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the book.*

You might also like:
Ithaca by Patrick Dillon 
For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser 
Helen of Troy by Margaret George