Initial Thoughts on The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

My tour of Historical Fiction Around the World continues with The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. This paperback comprises 464 pages including several informational sections like a glossary and a word about the language used in the story. Not foul language as you might anticipate! Nope, it’s more how “the main characters speak a mix of the most common Chinese dialects in Malaysia (Hokkien, Hakka, and Cantonese), which they intersperse with English or Malay.” I know some German, Spanish, and French words but that’s about it. So, having this insight into this new-to-me language is fascinating. Isn’t that the reason we read historical fiction—to learn about other cultures and traditions in an entertaining setting?

This story certainly delivers on immersing me into this culture. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading it, so I was, well, an open book when it came to absorbing what the author had to share about Malaysia. I’m delighted with the details included, especially about the unique foods and beverages they enjoy. I wish I could go sample some of them! I enjoy reading about cooking and baking and food preparation in general, looking for hints and tips and ideas I might use myself.

I’m only on page 165 so not even halfway through the story. This is a work of fiction but it reads like an autobiography or memoir. Written in the first person past tense, the immediacy and lone point of view tends to emphasize that feeling of reading someone’s telling of their life and the people in it. I feel like I really am peeking into someone else’s memories and experiences.

I’m not sure where the story is heading, but I’ll let you know next time.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

My Impressions of The First Actress by C.W. Gortner #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

My tour of Historical Fiction Around the World continues with The First Actress: A Novel of Sarah Bernhardt by C.W. Gortner. Gortner was originally born in Spain but now lives in California. This 418 page book took me a solid week to read, spending more time reading it than I had originally thought I would. Partly I wanted to finish it in one week, but also partly it’s such an interesting story!

It’s written in first person past tense, which helps give it an air of a memoir written by Sarah herself. I found myself wondering about the real person as I read this fictionalized account. The author does provide a short list of references he referred to while writing the story so I could satisfy my curiosity by reading one of the biographies if I choose to do so. It’s interesting to me that the author is a man but writes from a female’s persona, proof positive that a good writer can and does become their character to portray them authentically.

This book yielded some interesting insights into life as an actress in 19th century France. I was surprised to learn of Sarah Bernhardt’s many sexual affairs, an aspect of her life I was unfamiliar with. I don’t honestly pay much attention to any celebrity’s relationships, though, so even if I’d heard of her many exploits I wouldn’t have focused on them. I think I remembered something about her eccentricities but not the particulars, so it was entertaining to read about her menagerie of animals. She owned everything from birds, cats, and dogs to chameleons, a puma, and a cheetah!

Part of the story takes place during the Franco-Prussian War and depicts life in besieged Paris. Reading about her life within war-torn France of the 19th century brought to mind the perilous existence of the Ukrainian people in our current time. Living such a precarious life through reading is obviously a far cry from the reality. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to doing so, or at least I hope that’s the closest I ever come to experiencing life in a battleground.

Overall, the story is well-written and engaging. I feel like I learned more about France, Paris in particular, and about what it was like to be an actress and courtesan in order to survive. 

Next up, I’ll read The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. Chin Yoke is of Malaysian-Chinese heritage and I’m looking forward to see what her story is all about!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

My Impressions of Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I was very interested to see what I’d learn by reading Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant. As I mentioned in my Initial Thoughts on the book, the author has included a lot of detail about the Seychelles islands. She spends a great deal of time discussing the flora and fauna, the people and everything associated with living on the islands.

While reading about island life is interesting, I don’t believe it should have been the main focus of the story. In fact, I don’t think this book is just one person’s story so much as vignettes of people’s lives who live there. I did indeed learn a lot about how people lived in the Seychelles back in 1914. This story employs a narrator who knows every character inside and out, an omniscient narrator. Thus the story is told from various viewpoints, even the animals, and jumps from one to the other with little warning. It’s not awfully jarring, however; since the technique is used throughout it becomes the norm.

And yet with the power of an omniscient narrator’s knowledge, I still felt like I didn’t get to know the characters very well. The narrator seemed pulled back, too elevated perhaps, to care deeply about what the characters were experiencing. I’m unsure as to the intent behind using this technique. Was it to give the reader a more objective view of the people in the story? To what end? Or perhaps I’m misinterpreting her intent entirely.

I read this story looking for connections between the elements, the techniques, the devices the author used, but some eluded me. More importantly, the ending left me unsatisfied. I realize it’s the first story in a series, but the ending is somewhat tragic and depressing. I didn’t come away with a sense of hope but of despair for the main character, Anna.

So, let’s try another one, shall we? For next time, I’ll start reading The First Actress: A Novel of Sarah Bernhardt by C.W. Gortner.  Until then…

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

Initial Thoughts on Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I started reading the next book on my tour of Historical Fiction Around the World. I’m on page 195 of 351 in the paperback of Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant. This book is fairly well written and edited, although like most books there are few editorial tweaks I’d make if I’d been tasked with editing the story. There is a Glossary consisting of a few pages of terms, mostly words in the language of The Seychelles, which I found useful to read before since the author sprinkles the terms throughout the book.

The story is written using multiple points of view, not just the one of the primary character, Anna. Instead, Tirant shares views of the places and happenings on the islands of The Seychelles from a variety of people tangentially related to Anna. She’s also jumping around in the timeline as she tells the story of life on the islands. Tirant is well versed and shares within the pages of this story the details of the place, politics, history, and people.

My sense of the book at this point is that Tirant loves life on those islands so much she had to write a book about it. The setting is described in lush details so much that I feel like I can see the place as if in my memories of having visited. I haven’t been there, or even to that part of the world, so her descriptions are truly powerful. There are definitely long passages of description of the area and the food, for example. For some readers, they may find it’s perhaps too much description of the place and not enough of the people, in particular of Anna and her story. I’ll know better how all of this ties together after I finish reading the book, of course, so stay tuned until next time when I can give you my more thorough impressions of the story.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Cover of Charmed Against All Odds showing a young couple in love, and a charm bracelet.

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

My Impressions of The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch, which turned out to be an interesting story. If you missed my initial thoughts, you can find them here.

Cover of The Year of Living Dangerously. At top, silhouetted puppets. At bottom, a man holding a cigarette while facing a cat.

The main characters in this story are two men, one a tall man and the other a dwarf, and a beautiful woman. As I read, I envisioned Peter Dinklage as the dwarf, mainly because he’s my favorite actor with that distinctive physique. I love his personality, his world view as expressed through his characters. Imagine my surprise when I checked out IMDB to see if he played Billy Kwan in the 1982 movie, only to find Linda Hunt played Billy Kwan. Wow. That would change the dynamics of the love triangle in the story! Now I want to watch the movie to see what the director did…

Anyway, back to the story as written by Christopher J. Koch. I admit this is not my typical reading selection. It’s a rather dark, political tale with commensurate tension, intrigue, and some violence. It bills itself as a romance: “A compelling tale of romance amid the political turmoil of twentieth-century Indonesia.” While it does indeed include romance, I’d argue it’s more of a bromance in that it delves into the changing relationship between Guy Hamilton and Billy Kwan, and how they feel about Jill Bryant. More time is spent talking about the reporters and the politically oriented characters than about any woman-man romantic tale. To me, that thread is a sidelight, not the focus of the story.

I learned a good deal about life during the 1960s in Indonesia, especially as seen through Western eyes. The language, the landscape, and how people survived some very difficult times all combined to create the somewhat “murky” atmosphere of the story. I had a sense of how I felt watching Casablanca, the somewhat fuzzy, blurred gray of the black-and-white movie. Almost as if watching through a smoke screen, making it difficult to truly understand what you’re viewing.

I’ve recommended my husband to read The Year of Living Dangerously, as it’s more his type of story than mine. However, like I said, I enjoyed the story. Koch did a fine job of writing it, of creating distinctive characters with their unique dialogue patterns. And using a narrator as active character was an effective story-telling device, one I don’t see often.

Next up is Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant. Tirant was born in the Seychelles and now lives in England. The story is also set on an island in the Seychelles, off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. I’ve dipped my toes into the story so will have more next time!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Cover of Emily's Vow. A man and woman facing each other with an American flag in the background.

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

Books2Read     Barnes and Noble      Amazon      Apple     Kobo     Google Books     Bookshop

Audiobook Also Available at Google Play     Scribd    Lantern Audio    Audiobooks.com

My Initial Thoughts on The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I started reading The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch, who was born in Hobart, Australia. It’s an interesting read so far, although I have to say yet again it doesn’t quite fit the idea of being historical fiction. Let me explain.

The story is set in 1965 Indonesia. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post about Anil’s Ghost in this series, the accepted definition of historical fiction is set at least 50 years prior to the present. The first publication date of this book is 1978 in Great Britain by Penguin Books. So, that means this story was written as contemporary fiction, not historical since it was published only 13 years after the story date. However, from this reader’s point of view, it’s set more than 50 years from today, so I’ll count it for my purposes.

This paperback book is 278 pages long, with an Author’s Note detailing a couple of sources for the story content. Other than that, no other supporting material is provided. It’s divided into three parts: Patet Nem: Hamilton’s Dwarf (112 pages); Patet Sanga: Water from the Moon (94 pages); and Patet Manjura; Amok (71 pages). I always find it interesting to look at the parts of a book when it’s divided up into sections like this. You may remember I did the same in my discussion about The Stationery Shop a few weeks ago. Here, the length of each part decreases as the story progresses. I’m currently on page 137, in Patet Sanga, so I don’t have a feel yet for the reasoning behind the sections. I’ll share my thoughts on that in the Impressions post next time.

One very interesting device the author is using is that of a narrator as a character in the story. His name is Cookie but so far I don’t know very much about him. He’s apparently a foreign news reporter like the character Guy, and he’s observing the relationship of the three main characters: Guy Hamilton, Billy Kwan (cameraman for Guy), and Jill Bryant (the woman the other two men love). I admit to being baffled at first by who was narrating the story because Cookie has insights into all three of the main characters but in a way that’s far more analytical than someone involved at the time of the story. Instead, the narrator has the benefit of hindsight knowing, able to provide the context of their actions and what those actions lead to in the future of the story. I think it took me several chapters to discern the narrator as a fourth character relating the story after the fact.

I should finish reading the book in a few days, so will have my Impressions of the overall story for you next time.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

Books2Read     Barnes and Noble      Amazon      Apple     Kobo     Google Books     Bookshop

Audiobook Also Available at Google Play     Scribd    Lantern Audio    Audiobooks.com

My Impression of Cut from the Earth by Stephanie Renee dos Santos #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading Cut from the Earth by Stephanie Renee Dos Santos (The Tile Maker series Book 1). Last week I mentioned that Ms. Dos Santos is from South America but it turns out I am wrong on that score. She’s a “native of the United States” but has lived in other countries, gaining first-hand experience with various cultures. That makes two authors I have mistaken as from other countries than mine. But the stories have been good, so I’ll share this one with you as well.

The story is written from multiple points of view (POVs), giving both male and female perspectives on events in the 1750s in Lisbon. In particular, the story focuses on the aftermath of a massive earthquake in November 1755. So much so that I found myself thinking of the story as a disaster movie/book. The author spent many chapters on how the characters dealt with struggling back to some kind of normalcy after devastating loss and destruction.

While the main thread of the story is about how a tile making shop owners use their income to free slaves by purchasing them from their masters, I found myself more intrigued by a separate, more subtle theme.

Throughout the story, the main characters—there are three of them: Padre Peros; Rafa; and Phaulina—all reflect on the source of their inspiration to create designs for the tiles. Through their eyes, I could see how they used their unique view of the world around them, the details others may not notice, to combine into a design, a picture, a texture. I found myself recalling the number of times I’ve been asked as a writer of fiction where I get my ideas. My best answer is from the world around me. Newspaper articles, news articles on the TV, history books, even other books and the movies I enjoy. All provide tidbits of ideas that I then piece together, like using bits of glass to create a mosaic, fashioning a new story to share with my readers. In Cut from the Earth, Dos Santos has done the same thing through her characters. Illuminated the process of inspiration and how it leads to creation.

The story was well written, and definitely researched into the finer details of tile making in the 18th century. I could quibble with some of the typos and editorial errors I spotted here and there, but the story taught me a lot about Lisbon in the 1750s. (Seeing surface errors like that is an editor’s skill and bane all at once! Skill when editing someone else’s work; bane when simply trying to read for enjoyment.) I don’t believe I’ve read any other stories set in Portugal, come to think of it.

When I embarked on my literary journey around the world, at least as far as location if not author origin, I hadn’t anticipated how much I’d learn. I’ll have to compile a list of everything I’ve learned through this endeavor as a wrap up post when I finish my tour. That and a list of all of the blog posts in order in case you missed any of them.

So, what’s up next you may be asking… I’ve selected a title I’ve heard about but haven’t read yet. And I’ve verified that the author is not from the USA, too. <grin> I’m going to start The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch, who was born in Hobart, Australia. It’s an award-winning book, so I’m curious to find out what I learn from reading it…

Be sure to check out the first book in my American Revolution historical romance series, which is discounted this month. I did a lot of research before writing that series, including a couple of trips to Charleston, South Carolina, to do some in-person exploring. More info is below.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

Books2Read     Barnes and Noble      Amazon      Apple     Kobo     Google Books     Bookshop

Audiobook Also Available at Google Play     Scribd    Lantern Audio    Audiobooks.com

Initial Thoughts on A House Divided by Sulari Gentill #Aussie #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

One of the best things about doing this Historical Fiction Around the World sampling of authors from other countries than my own is “discovering” new authors! In A House Divided by Sulari Gentill I found a kindred spirit when it comes to historical fiction. This story is the first in the Rowland Sinclair Mystery series of eight historical crime fiction stories by this author set in the 1930s in Australia. I’m going to add them to my growing To-Be-Read (TBR) list! I shared my initial thoughts last time, but now that I’m finished reading the book, let me tell you more.

Ms. Gentill immersed me into the lifestyle of both the rich and famous in protagonist Rowland Sinclair, but then showed me the seedier side of life during that era with some shady and violent characters. In between those extremes, we meet several Bohemian and artistic characters and many militaristic and political characters to boot. All told, the author painted a vivid picture of the life and times in the 1930s.

I enjoyed the smattering of Aussie lingo and euphemisms she used to help create a sense of the people then, some of which I believe is still used today. That sense of vague familiarity with a foreign land and culture helped me slide right into the story world and settle in for a good tale. She wove enough of the unfamiliar terms, often explained in context, throughout the story to paint the picture of the Australian culture without leaving me foundering for understanding.

My overall impression of A House Divided is of a solid murder mystery with great and individual characters worth getting to know. If you’re a cozy mystery fan, this one is for you!

Next up is Cut from the Earth by Stephanie Renee Dos Santos (The Tile Maker series Book 1). Ms. Dos Santos is from South America, my first author from that area. This one I’m going to read on my Nook instead of in paperback for a change.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

Books2Read     Barnes and Noble      Amazon      Apple     Kobo     Google Books     Bookshop

Audiobook Also Available at Google Play     Scribd    Lantern Audio    Audiobooks.com

Initial Thoughts on A House Divided by Sulari Gentill #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

The next story in my Historical Fiction Around the World tour is A House Divided by Sulari Gentill. This story is the first in a series of eight historical crime fiction stories by this author set in the 1930s. I must admit to enjoying this type of historical fiction far more than war novels. It doesn’t hurt that it’s set in Australia, a continent and culture(s) I’ve wanted to experience for most of my life now. And which I’m happy to report I will finally have the opportunity to visit in 2023! Cannot wait to go there, New Zealand, and Guadalcanal next year.

I’ve begun reading A House Divided and am on page 126 of 358 pages. I’m enjoying the characters, their insights and quirks. It’s an easy to follow story but also includes aspects of life in the 1930s in Australia, the politics of the time, and also how crimes were solved prior to modern day methods of identification, like fingerprinting and DNA analysis.

One technique Ms. Gentill employs is one I’ve seen more often in mysteries and crime fiction, actually general fiction, than in women’s fiction and romance novels. That is the use of “head hopping” with the point of view character. In other words, the point of view from which the story is told switches within the scene from one character to another. In this story, sometimes three times in one scene. In romance, in particular, that is frowned upon; POV shifts should happen between scenes, not within them. So it took a moment for me to adjust my expectations but it’s handled well in the story and isn’t confusing to me. It reminds me of classic literature, to be honest, because you’ll find the same technique used in them as well.

I’ll try to finish reading this story before my next installment here. For one thing, I want to know whodunnit! Until then…

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)! Sales ends today!

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband… no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

My Impressions of Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje #SriLankan #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

For the next installment in my Historical Fiction Around the World series, I chose what turned out to be a quick and enjoyable read. I hadn’t read anything else by this author, but Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost turned out to be a good read. Set in Sri Lanka in the 1980-90s, this fictional tale is intended to highlight the political crisis of that time. While technically not “historical” since it’s set less than 50 years from the present—copyrighted in 2000 in fact—the story does shed light on that decade. This story had been recommended to me as historical fiction but obviously it doesn’t fit that description. However, since I read it I’ll share my impressions anyway.

My overall impression of the story told is one of violence and the horror of people living through the ongoing nightmare of a civil war. In this case, a three-way fight between the government, antigovernment insurgents in the south, and separatist guerillas in the north of the country. Civilians got caught in the middle, including the doctors sometimes shanghaied to patch up the victims whether they wanted to or not. The main character, Anil, is a forensic scientist intent on solving a murder but she also is caught in the middle.

I appreciate the insights Mr. Ondaatje provides as to the life and times, the philosophical views of the ongoing war. I could empathize with the exhaustion of the characters, both physical and emotional. I wondered about how he conducted his research, how close to the actual actors in the real-life drama did he have to get to understand and then portray the depth and breadth of experience? One scene includes a man whose hands are nailed to the road, crucifixion style. I still have a hard time imagining people doing this to each other. How often did something like that actually happen? How did people react to such cruelty? Ondaatje describes how Anil and her colleague deal with the man humanely and professionally, but their emotional ties to him linger. They are not violent people but they are living within a violent world.

One of the lessons I’ve been learning by reading such a diverse, varied set of stories is what writing styles I enjoy and which ones I’m not that fond of. Mr. Ondaatje employs one technique that has its uses but in my humble opinion he overused it in this book. That technique is super short scenes. I’m talking a handful or so of paragraphs, some scenes not even one page in the book. I think that is a great way to shine a bright spotlight on a particular moment in time, whether an action, a conversation, or anything that is pivotal to the overall story, character development, or a hint at an upcoming plot twist. In Anil’s Ghost, there are many of these short scenes which at times made the story feel disjointed, choppy, maybe even disconnected.

Another confusing aspect to the style, or rather the typography, of the book is the use of italics for some scenes. I’m unclear as to the meaning for the shift from roman type to italics as those scenes were not from a specific person’s point of view, nor routinely a flashback or memory that I could discern. I’m assuming there is a reason for the italics, but I’m not sure what it is. If anyone knows, I’d love to have that explained. The editor in me is very curious as to what I missed.

So those are my thoughts about Anil’s Ghost. I liked the story overall. Mr. Ondaatje is a fine writer, as most will agree I’m sure. I probably wouldn’t have selected this book off the shelf if it hadn’t been recommended mainly because it’s not my go-to kind of story. But I’m glad I read it. It’s enlightening and eye-opening as to what others have endured in order to survive if not thrive.

Next time, I’m reading A House Divided by Sulari Gentill. This story is the first in a series of eight historical crime fiction stories by this author set in the 1930s. Time to head to the library to pick up a copy and return Anil’s Ghost.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)! Sales ends February 28!

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband… no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop