My Impressions of The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali  #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

The next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour is The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali which is one of my favorite reads so far. This story is not a romance, but is a love story between two people who should have been together all along but obstacles prevented them from sharing a life. Those obstacles include political and personal forces, but I won’t elaborate as that would count as giving away the story. The hardback I read was 308 pages long without any supporting elements like glossary, maps, or pronunciation guide. But it didn’t need any of those to help me follow the story.

The story begins in 2013, then jumps back to 1953 and progresses back up to the present day. There is one other flashback to 1916 to show the foundation for the rest of the story elements, plot twists, and character motivations and reactions. Ms. Kamali deftly handles these transitions using not only transitional language but guideposts in the form of titles and dates at the beginning of each chapter. The use of these flashbacks to previous years allowed me to see the cause and effect that events from the past had on the story present-day events.

The story is divided into five parts, with Part 1 consisting of 13 chapters; Part 5 has 8; and Parts 2-4, 9 chapters total. As you might suspect, Part 1 carries the weight of the story, with transitioning through the middle parts. Part 5 naturally provides the wrap-up, the explanations as to what has transpired throughout and what it all ultimately means for the characters. I enjoyed seeing how Ms. Kamali varied both scene and chapter lengths, as well. The combination helped the story pace to flow right along.

Ms. Kamali also uses several devices to augment the meaning and substance of the story. One of those devices is short but important exchanges as separate scenes. Another is the use of stream of consciousness sentences without punctuation to interrupt the flow. The resulting effect worked to make the moment more immediate and vivid, at least to me.

I was intrigued by life in Iran back in the 1950s and how girls/women were treated then. How they were expected to behave even as those expectations began to shift to be more Western in nature. Dealing with change is never easy, especially for those who resist new ideas. I haven’t studied this time period nor this country so experiencing Kamali’s story gave me a level of awareness as to the culture and the politics of the time in an easy to understand form.

Next up on my tour is Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost. I’m sure many of you have heard of Ondaatje since he wrote The English Patient. Mr. Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka and then moved to Canada. I’m looking forward to finding out just what kind of ghost is in this tale.

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.

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My Impressions of Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I started reading Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield which is all about the Spartan culture, training, and approach to life. The edition I was reading is Large Print with a total of 562 pages. I started by poring over the couple of maps of Greece and the Aegean and of Thermopylae, the latter being the focus of the story. I’ve been to that part of the world several years ago, so I was interested in learning more about the history of the battle there.

Mr. Pressfield is a very capable writer and storyteller. He’s created distinct and memorable characters to tell the story of the Spartans and how 300 of them held off an invasion for days. I can tell he’s done his research, he knows the ancient terms the Spartans used, their training techniques, and fighting skills. In short, he knows of what he speaks! Or should I say, writes.

It’s through no fault of the writer that I couldn’t finish this book. It’s more that I have never been interested in the battle strategies of history. What turned me off about history class was having to know who fought whom, the dates, the names, the places, without really knowing who those people were. I didn’t fall in love with history and thus historical fiction until I realized it was actually talking about how real people struggled and overcame obstacles. That’s the story I care about, not the fighting techniques and strategies employed.

That’s one of the joys of books, isn’t it? That there are so many on so many different topics that you can always find something good to read. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will find the details in Gates of Fire both fascinating and intriguing. If you like that kind of story, this one is for you! It really is well written and provides insight into how the Spartans defended what they believed in.

I’m going to switch to another story, another one from a Turkish author but set in Iran. The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali should be a story more to my liking. This one is a romance set against the political turmoil in the 1950s in Tehran, so I should learn something about that history as I read. I hope you’ll read along with me!

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.

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My Impressions of My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk #Turkish #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

Now that I’ve finished Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red I’d like to share my impressions of the story and the writing. As I mentioned last week in My Initial Thoughts the format of the story is unique. For a murder mystery, having multiple points of view, all written in first person, opens up some interesting and humorous options. Some of those characters included pictures of things rather than living, breathing people characters.

It took me 11 days to read the book, with breaks here and there to do some other things like write my own book and drive to Virginia for vacation. I can’t say I enjoyed this story as much as some others. Part of that is some of the content was rather offensive to my taste. I don’t consider myself a prude, mind, but there seemed to me more than necessary mentions of the male member and various uses for it by the owner and by others, some willing, some not.

I feel like I learned more about the mindset, or expectations, of the Turkish people in the story. How much did the representation in the story reflect the reality of those times? I don’t know. Some of those sensibilities worried me, made me wonder if that was really how men in those times viewed the world around them. The people around them. Or perhaps the author views others in this way? I don’t know that either…

I also didn’t get a real sense of life in the 16th century. Most of the descriptions of place and character seemed universal instead of specific. Instead of describing what houses looked like in that time, it’s only mentioned whether they were large, or neat/messy, etc. For me, the closest to anchoring the story in the past came from the frequent mention of a dagger, of walking or riding a horse, some of the foods mentioned. Still, the overall sense I gleaned from the narrative left the setting rather vague instead of incorporating it into the story.

I applaud Mr. Pamuk on his creativity and willingness to delve deeply into the world of art, illustration, and illuminations. The latter is what intrigued me most about the story. I think the people, men actually, who did the illuminated texts were some fine artists! I’ve been lucky enough to see several tomes while in Dublin years ago.

So overall, the story was well written and creative, funny and insightful. I have a few reservations about some of the content and world view expressed within its pages, but perhaps that’s my own foible and not something others would even notice.

For my next selection, I’ll read Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. I hope you’ll read along. 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.

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My Initial Thoughts on My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk #Turkish #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve started reading Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. I’m about a third of the way into the story, which is set in Istanbul in the 16th century. This story is the 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The paperback consists of 418 pages, with 1 map of the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, and an historical chronology of events related to the story. I perused the map before I started reading but not the chronology until a bit later. That helped me to understand fact from fiction as I continue reading, which is a good thing to have some grasp on.

One of the interesting aspects of this narrative is that it’s written in multiple points of view in first person. Each chapter is written in a different point of view, mostly of people but also of objects and drawings. I mean, it’s interesting to read about the point of view of a gold coin and its travels, or a drawing of a dog or even a tree and what the depiction is meant to represent. It’s a unique approach to telling a murder mystery, that’s for certain!

I’m learning more about Turkish literature, and about the Koran, through the eyes of the characters and objects. One of the reasons I enjoy historical fiction is the opportunity to learn about other cultures and histories. This blog series that I’m working my way through is all about Historical Fiction Around the World by authors from countries around the world. I’m not including American authors only because that’s the kind of historical fiction I’ve mostly read and I want to expand my reading.

I am enjoying the story and the writing style. It’s interesting and funny too. I mean, Chapter 3 is entitled “I Am A Dog” and includes, “I’m a dog, and because you humans are less rational beasts than I, you’re telling yourselves, ‘Dogs don’t talk.’ Nevertheless, you seem to believe a story in which corpses speak and characters use words they couldn’t possibly know. Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” That paragraph made me laugh out loud! And wonder…

I’ll share more about the story and my impressions 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)! Sales ends January 31!

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!

She lost everything but only his love can save her…

How does one recover after tragic loss demolishes your heart and soul? Meredith Reed grapples with that question every day, especially after she inherits Twin Oaks. The historic plantation is meant for a large family but hers no longer exists. She has some ideas for its future: tear it down; bulldoze it; burn it. Regardless of her incensed family and the handsome, irate estate lawyer’s objections. And despite the influence of the Lady in Blue haunting the place…

Max Chandler anticipates buying his dream home with the raise from his expected promotion after passage of the historic property preservation legislation he championed. Twin Oaks is just the sort of place he dreams of. Big and roomy, with lingering echoes of laughter and love from past generations within its very walls. Perfect. Except, perhaps, for the Civil War era ghosts in residence. They’ll have to go.

When Twin Oaks is threatened with a bulldozer, he has to fight, ignoring his growing attraction to Meredith. Her intentions go against everything he’s worked for. He has no choice but to do all in his power to stop her.

Will Meredith’s grief destroy her heart and home or will she listen to what the Lady in Blue is trying to teach her?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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My Impressions of The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin #English #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

My sampling of Historical Fiction Around the World continues! When I first started The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin I was a bit confused. It’s written in first person and I didn’t know enough about the skirmish it opens with to follow what was happening. So I had to go back to the book description to find my bearings before I restarted reading it. Here’s what the book is about:

The Mathematics of Love is a poignant chronicle of two people, separated by centuries, whose lives—amazingly, impossibly—become interwoven in a brilliant tapestry of tragedy, memory, and time. Following alternate but intimately connected stories—of a curious, promiscuous teenager in her season of exile and awakening in the English countryside in 1976, and a nineteenth-century soldier damaged on the fields of Waterloo, struggling to find his way back to life with the help of a compassionate, extraordinary woman—Emma Darwin’s breathtaking narrative brilliantly evokes the horrors of war, the pain of loss, the heat of passion, and the enduring power of love.

The book starts in the point of view of Major Stephen Fairhurst during an altercation in a small town involving a young boy getting caught up in the middle of things and a woman looking out for him. The woman becomes a friend of the Major and is quite a strong-willed, forward-thinking woman indeed for that time period. Perhaps too much so at times, but I’m looking at this through a 21st-century lens so my expectations may be somewhat skewed.

The other point of view is that of a fifteen-year-old girl in 1976 England who is indeed promiscuous. She’s practically treated like an orphan, though her mother and her boyfriend/lover are supposedly going to send for her when they establish a new business in another country. Her uncle is put in charge of her in a defunct school which used to be a country estate, the estate of Major Fairhurst in the previous century.

So my first question about the author’s story is why 1819 and 1976? Why a difference of 157 years? It’s a prime number which reflects the title on one level. But how does it apply to the story, or rather two intertwined stories? I don’t have an answer, but if you do, please share!

Since I was rather confused by the opening chapter, I went in search of reviews to find out how others had handled the opening. This book has very mixed reviews, most of them not positive. Many were confused by the story, and several thought the book a waste of money. I wouldn’t go that far, because I did enjoy most of the story. I do think the author missed some amount of potential for the story by keeping the story threads unwound for so much of the book. But it did end up tied together for the most part.

There are similarities between the past and story-present time periods. The 1819 thread includes a woman who sketches the world around her, while the 1976 thread has a deep dive into photographic techniques of the time. Both look at light, shadow, capturing memories, being aware of the beauty and wonder of the world. Some play on ghostly images and echoed images can be seen between them as well. These themes are dear to my heart as my father was a photographer and we talked about these things frequently.

Another theme between the two times is that of forbidden or discouraged love of varying kinds. In the past, the strict societal constraints on women and their sexuality, their activity, their reputation is a primary topic of conversation with regard to the Major’s friend. In the present, the teenager also rebels against societal constraints but ultimately in both times they bow to the need to comply however unwillingly.

Emma Darwin’s writing style is also remarkable. She did an excellent job of distinguishing the time periods through her authorial voice modifying to suit the Major or the teen. Without the need for noting the difference in time period, I could (usually) tell when the shift occurred, whether it was indicated through typography or not. I will say some of the transitions were jolting, going from an intensely happy moment to one of battle and bloodshed, for instance. Perhaps she was aiming to emphasize the contrast of joy to horror? For me, it felt more like a non sequitur.

Overall, I enjoyed finding out more about the impact on the soldiers after the Battle at Waterloo. The 1819 thread of the story was far more interesting to me than the 1976 thread. But then, I have never enjoyed reading about wayward youths, especially when they basically get away with their bad behavior for one reason or another. As the book description mentions, there is a good deal of the “heat of passion” primarily with the teen. The 1819 story also includes passion, but with adults in a more emotionally satisfying relationship than the teen’s. I don’t want to give too much away in my impressions of the book, but the mirroring effect of having couples in both stories engaging in relationships that some would find inappropriate is another way Darwin contrasts and compares love in its many guises in both times.

This novel is far more about the lives, loves, and times of the two time periods than about the battles in the 19th century. If it weren’t for the 1819 time line this wouldn’t qualify as historical fiction, since the other is in 1976, and thus too recent. Yet it’s mainly through the teen’s interpretation and growing understanding of Stephen’s letters and life that we gain a clearer picture of his life story. The ending to the book is mostly satisfying but leaves open, at least for me, a few questions.

That’s my impression of this story. Did you read it as well? What are your thoughts and opinion of the story? I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read it.

Moving on, let’s switch countries, this time to Turkey and Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. Turns out this story is set in 16th-century Istanbul. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve actually visited Istanbul, even bought a carpet while there. I was also astounded by the driving skills of the motor coach drivers! So glad I wasn’t driving, let me tell ya! I’m looking forward to dipping into this Turkish tale. Will you join me?

Until 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)!

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!

She lost everything but only his love can save her…

How does one recover after tragic loss demolishes your heart and soul? Meredith Reed grapples with that question every day, especially after she inherits Twin Oaks. The historic plantation is meant for a large family but hers no longer exists. She has some ideas for its future: tear it down; bulldoze it; burn it. Regardless of her incensed family and the handsome, irate estate lawyer’s objections. And despite the influence of the Lady in Blue haunting the place…

Max Chandler anticipates buying his dream home with the raise from his expected promotion after passage of the historic property preservation legislation he championed. Twin Oaks is just the sort of place he dreams of. Big and roomy, with lingering echoes of laughter and love from past generations within its very walls. Perfect. Except, perhaps, for the Civil War era ghosts in residence. They’ll have to go.

When Twin Oaks is threatened with a bulldozer, he has to fight, ignoring his growing attraction to Meredith. Her intentions go against everything he’s worked for. He has no choice but to do all in his power to stop her.

Will Meredith’s grief destroy her heart and home or will she listen to what the Lady in Blue is trying to teach her?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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My Impressions of Her Secret War by Pam Lecky #WWII #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I finished reading Her Secret War by Pam Lecky, the fourth book in my Historical Fiction Around the World series focused on authors from around the world. This story was published just a few months ago, in October 2021, so is far more contemporary to me than the first three books I read. The result is a distinctly different atmosphere to the story. The reasons for that are probably far more varied than I can put my finger on, but I’ll try.

I’ll start with my overall view of this story. It was far easier to read for one thing. No glossary or maps were required to follow the story or understand the language used. I enjoyed the sprinkling of Irish and English idioms and sayings, which were all easily understood from the context. This story also featured a female main character and her life during World War II in Dublin and then in England. As I read, the flow and cadence of the language along with the colloquialisms reminded me of my time in Ireland. I once had a critique partner who I met up with on a visit to Dublin years ago. We had a lovely time getting acquainted in person over tea. I think tea in Europe tastes better…but that may just be the setting and company!

The style of writing in Her Secret War is also more upbeat and quickly paced. Concerns of the main character Sarah Gillespie are more immediate and comprehendible to me as well. Some of that is undoubtedly because I am also a female with sisters and family, but I think the level of understanding also stems from language usage more similar to my own. The word choices also make it easier to read and follow the story as well. As a writer myself, it’s often apparent how specific words evoke specific feelings or experiences associated with the message.

I think also the plot is cleaner, clearer, despite the inevitable twists and turns that a mystery, or spy thriller, must take to keep us turning the page. The author is more focused on that thread than the overall political environment. I believe I’ve stated before that I’m not a fan of political thrillers, so this historical was easier for me to enjoy. Her focus makes it possible to enjoy the story without having a lesson in the politics of the day. Sure, she refers to them but that’s not the primary point of the story. To me, the story is far more about how Sarah comes to deal with her situation as a result of the bombing of her home in Dublin.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the writing, and the characters. I had only one tiny grumble while reading the story, but it’s not worth making a fuss about. If you like WWII historical fiction about a female protagonist, indeed a female spy, I’d suggest giving this one a try. It appears this may be the first in a series. At least, the next book, Her Last Betrayal, is due to release November 1, 2022. Will there be others? I wouldn’t be surprised if her fans would prompt the publisher to ask for more!

Next up for me is The Mathematics of Love by Emma Darwin. In case you’re wondering how I’m choosing what to read, I have a long list of titles sorted by the author’s native country then by author name. I’m working up from the end of the alphabet, beginning with the UK, choosing from authors from different countries within that group of countries. I hope you’ll read along with me and tell me your thoughts and opinions of the stories.

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)!

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!

She lost everything but only his love can save her…

How does one recover after tragic loss demolishes your heart and soul? Meredith Reed grapples with that question every day, especially after she inherits Twin Oaks. The historic plantation is meant for a large family but hers no longer exists. She has some ideas for its future: tear it down; bulldoze it; burn it. Regardless of her incensed family and the handsome, irate estate lawyer’s objections. And despite the influence of the Lady in Blue haunting the place…

Max Chandler anticipates buying his dream home with the raise from his expected promotion after passage of the historic property preservation legislation he championed. Twin Oaks is just the sort of place he dreams of. Big and roomy, with lingering echoes of laughter and love from past generations within its very walls. Perfect. Except, perhaps, for the Civil War era ghosts in residence. They’ll have to go.

When Twin Oaks is threatened with a bulldozer, he has to fight, ignoring his growing attraction to Meredith. Her intentions go against everything he’s worked for. He has no choice but to do all in his power to stop her.

Will Meredith’s grief destroy her heart and home or will she listen to what the Lady in Blue is trying to teach her?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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My Impression of A Place Called Armageddon by C.C. Humphreys #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #fiction #review

The third book in my Historical Fiction Around the World series, C.C. Humphreys’ A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453 managed to surprise me. After I gave you all my First Thoughts on the book, I became so intrigued by the characters and the situations they faced that I had a hard time putting down the book.

Anyone who knows me well, also knows that I’m not a fan of violence in entertainment. It’s easier for me to handle when its in fiction rather than a visual medium.  My son convinced me to watch the entire Game of Thrones series but I will confess to leaving the room during certain parts. I didn’t want the nightmares to follow. #JustSaying

This story is all about the fall of the greatest city up to that time, Constantinople. Humphreys does an excellent job of ensuring the reader identifies with the characters, roots for some and not for others. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever read a story that presented both the winner’s and loser’s views of the same battle. The winner viewed it as a noble, honorable achievement while the loser saw it as the fall of a great city, the failure of the military to hold their position despite the odds. And those odds were immense!

Through reading this story, I learned not only a bit more about the history of the city and its people, but also about the mentality of a warrior. How he views the scene of battle, weighs the odds and chance of success or failure, and acts to defend what he—or she—can. It’s an insight that has wider ramifications as to how I personally view the people around me. It also helps me have another tool in my writing skills toolbox as I create my own characters. See, reading for an author or anyone who wants to become a published author/writer is more than just enjoying the story. It’s keeping an eye out for devices and approaches that can be adapted to our own work. Which is why I advocate for writers to read widely. You never know when you’ll come across a technique that will add a freshness to your writing.

I also enjoyed the mystical elements woven into this story. The character of Leilah intrigued me the most. She was not only a warrior, fully capable with a crossbow and its quarrels (a word I had to look up by the way!) but also with reading the portents and palms and other such mystical arts. How she used her skills in such effective and complementary ways, too. Humphreys made her rounded and believable within her own time.

I also enjoyed how the author managed to weave a romance into this story that takes place during a protracted and horrific battle. Doing so made the main male characters even more believable. I mean, don’t we (humans) fight to protect what is important to us, and thus those we love? How we choose what is important also reflects on the individual’s character. Those choices are made apparent in the story as well, and how the people doing the choosing behave as a result. Is something important because you’re jealous of anyone else possessing it/him/her, or because you care about it/him/her?

A Place Called Armageddon lives up to its name as those fighting—to defend and to invade—face impressive foes, even more impressive odds against the staggering number of invaders vs. the defenders. It must have indeed seemed like the end of the world for those defending. But trust me that the story is not only about how the two sides fought each other, but also about how people fight to survive physically and emotionally during trying times. I’m glad I read this story, because it opened my eyes to a different point of view, a different way of seeing situations and then adjusting my reaction accordingly.

Next up on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of authors from other countries is Her Secret War by Pam Lecky. This story is set in Dublin during WWII and is written by an Irish author. I’m looking forward to seeing the war through her eyes. Want to read along with me?

Happy reading and Happy New Year to all!

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!

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!

She lost everything but only his love can save her…

How does one recover after tragic loss demolishes your heart and soul? Meredith Reed grapples with that question every day, especially after she inherits Twin Oaks. The historic plantation is meant for a large family but hers no longer exists. She has some ideas for its future: tear it down; bulldoze it; burn it. Regardless of her incensed family and the handsome, irate estate lawyer’s objections. And despite the influence of the Lady in Blue haunting the place…

Max Chandler anticipates buying his dream home with the raise from his expected promotion after passage of the historic property preservation legislation he championed. Twin Oaks is just the sort of place he dreams of. Big and roomy, with lingering echoes of laughter and love from past generations within its very walls. Perfect. Except, perhaps, for the Civil War era ghosts in residence. They’ll have to go.

When Twin Oaks is threatened with a bulldozer, he has to fight, ignoring his growing attraction to Meredith. Her intentions go against everything he’s worked for. He has no choice but to do all in his power to stop her.

Will Meredith’s grief destroy her heart and home or will she listen to what the Lady in Blue is trying to teach her?

 (Updated and revised edition; originally published in 2014 as Traces.)

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First Thoughts on A Place Called Armageddon by C.C. Humphreys #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

The third book in my Historical Fiction Around the World series is C.C. Humphreys’ A Place Called Armageddon: Constantinople 1453. As a reminder, I am exploring historical fiction written by authors from other countries than my own USA. My aim is to share my experience of reading each of these books, chosen for their author’s native country and for my interest in the time/place/topic. So I’m not going to just give a short review of the story, but what I find interesting about the layout, the storytelling, or whatever else intrigues me about the book.

This book is a hardback edition consisting of 458 total pages, of which 442 constitute the story. It’s copyrighted in 2012. Like Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome, it includes a glossary and maps to help me orient myself to the place and the language. Unlike that previous read, this book only includes 2 maps—one of the city walls and one of Constantinople in 1453—and the glossary of 3+ pages. But those proved enough to enable me to follow the movement within the story and to enjoy the narrative and dialogue.

Before I started reading the story, after learning from reading The First Man in Rome, I studied the maps, read through the glossary, and then also read the Historic Notes and the Author’s Note. Then I felt like I had a good grasp on the context of the story as well as the author’s intent behind writing the story.

Reading this story so far—I’m on page 250 as I write this—reminds me of something I noticed decades ago when working as a technical writer tasked with transcribing the conversation during a meeting. A subtle difference can be detected between how a woman speaks vs. a man. It’s hard for me to pinpoint the nuances. A different cadence, perhaps? Word choices to an extent. A different approach to storytelling or speaking in general. I could tell by reading the transcript whether the words were spoken by a man or a woman 90% of the time.

In a similar manner, I noticed a difference in the narrative/storytelling by this first male author of the series. One of his narrative choices is to string together actions using commas. Let me give you a few examples. “He sat, gulped, stared at the board before him.” “He raised [her hand] to his lips, tasted it, her.” “The big, nimble man feinted, flicked, lunged, a forearm’s length of steel thrust before him.” In each case Humphreys declined to use any conjunctions. I’m not complaining about his technique, mind. I’m pointing out a subtle writing style choice. It works to convey the flow and the fluidity of motion or thought. I may try employing something similar in my own writing if it suits the situation and story.

Another difference in this historical fiction from the other two is the level of detail associated with the fighting style and techniques of the characters. In the first two that I’ve read so far, both written by women, the fighting happened but the specific steps, sights, actions were not explicitly detailed. Humphreys goes into far more precise detail of how to arm and shoot a crossbow and a bow and arrow. Continuing from the last cited example above, here is one fight sequence to demonstrate what I mean.

“In the center, though, all was quiet enough, if not still. The big, nimble man feinted, flicked, lunged, a forearm’s length of steel thrust before him. But Gregoras had just had time to do what he probably should have done before he’d spoken—he drew his own dagger left-handed, cut down, putting blade to blade, guiding the other’s past his left side. Then he raised his boot and slammed the heel hard down onto the man’s unshod toes. As he screamed, Gregoras drove his right hand up his hip, curling his hand over, bringing the brass knuckles uppermost just when the force of the blow was at its height.” (p143)

See what I mean? I could reenact this scene based on that paragraph. If I were an actor, which I tried to be once, but that’s a tale for another day! This is not the only instance of the step-by-step actions taken by a character in combat with another. I’m surmising the author either knows how to fight hand-to-hand or took some lessons on how to for the sake of writing these scenes. I’d be more likely to do the latter, but that’s just me.

Another lesson learned from reading Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings is to be a reader first, then analyze what I’ve read so I can share it with you all. I am enjoying the story overall despite the fact that I am not one who really cares to read about battle strategies and fighting. Humphreys shares the human side of the fighters so I am happy to read about the relationships they have with their brothers and wives among other people in the story. I found out my husband has already read this book and enjoyed it; he called it a “good story” which is high praise from him.

That’s my first thoughts about this book with more to come next week when I wrap up my reading of the story. Anyone else reading it? What are your thoughts, if so?

Happy reading and Happy New Year to all!

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.

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

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First thoughts on The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

Next up on my historical fiction around the world reading tour! I started reading Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings because it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for at least a decade now. It makes sense to me to read the ones I already have on hand before I go in search of others.  This paperback is 512 pages long without an intro or any collateral information attached. I’m on page 112 at the moment, so only 400 pages to go. This is a slower read than I had anticipated, but I’ll explain why in a minute. I inherited my mother-in-law’s copy after she passed in 2009. The narrator in this story is an omniscient one, knowing what each character is experiencing, thinking, feeling.

Ms. Dunnett is a Scottish author and this book is set in Scotland in 1546, when Mary Queen of Scots was 4 years old. Note that the only way I know the actually time period is not because it’s explicitly stated in the story other than by referring to the fact that Mary is 4 years old. I had to look up when she was born to know the actual date. This is a rather common theme—having to look up things—in my experience of reading this story, too.

If you look at the photo of the physical book I’m reading, you may notice that it is literally taped together. The pages are worn and hard to turn. It’s tattered to the point that as I’m reading, bits of the paper cover litters my pant legs. I do not know whether my mother-in-law bought a new or used copy of this book. But either way, it has literally been read to pieces.

I find this very curious because this story is not easy to read in some ways. My experience reading the story is a combination of intrigue and annoyance, to be honest. While I have some smattering of German language left in my memory, I am not multilingual. I know people who are, but learning other languages has not been my primary focus in life. So reading this story is a challenge because there are so many foreign words and quotes woven throughout. In fact, I read with my iPhone nearby with 3 apps at the ready: Dictionary.com, a Google Translate translation app, and a browser ready with “definition _______” on tap.

I use those three often because of the frequency of Scottish slang, or quotes in Spanish, Latin, French, etc. Each chapter also starts with a quote in Old English. Let me give you some examples so you can see what I mean.

Chapter one, entitled “Opening Gambit: Threat to a Castle,” begins with this quote:

First of ye chekker sall be mecioune maid
And syne efter of ye proper moving
Of every man in ordour to his king
And as the chekker schawis us yis forne
Richt so it maye the kinrik and the crowne,
The warld and all that is therein suthlye,
The checker may in figour signifye.

So what I interpret that to mean, given the theme of the book/series is chess moves, is something about the chess player and the moves he makes. I tried using my Oxford English Dictionary to translate but many of the words are not included in the OED.  Words like mecioune, schawis, kinrik, suthley. So I have to just take the overall idea of moves associated with the king and the crown in the world of the chess game, but the exact nature I don’t understand entirely.

Then there are the inline terms such as:

Oriflamme – “gold flame”; The sacred banner of St. Denis, a banderole of two or three points of red or orange-red silk, attached to a lance

Rieving and ruttery – “that robs or reaves” and “lust, lechery”

Yelling bills and bows – Calling for individual archers (bow and arrow) and crossbows to come to a fight

Kist – a small chest for holding valuables

“Se’l ser un si, scrivero’n rima; Se’l ser un no, amici come prima.” – “If there is a  yes, I will write in rhyme; if it’s a no, friends as before.”

“Le douxiem’ mois de l’an Que donner a mà mie? – “The twelfth month of the year, What to give grandma?”

There are many, many more, and I’m sure there will be many more to come. (Thanks to Google Translate for helping me out here!) All of this got me wondering about my mother-in-law re-reading this book so many times. Did she know what all these things meant? Did she speak or read all these languages? How did she manage to enjoy it so many times? I will confess right here and now that I picked this book up before and put it down, not having the inclination to read it with all the effort involved in trying to figure out what all these mean and feeling like it wasn’t written for a reader like me. I didn’t get rid of the book precisely because it had been loved to tatters.

I asked my husband if his mother spoke these languages and he said no, or at least he didn’t think so. I know she was well read, reading everything she could get her hands on. She loved to do crossword puzzles, too, so she knew a lot of esoteric words. After mulling this over for several days, I’ve come to the conclusion that she read the context and skipped any other unknown foreign terms and languages to glean what she could from the action and setting and dialogue she did understand. And didn’t worry about the rest of it. She obviously read this entire The Lymond Chronicles series multiple times, or had friends borrow the books and read. They are all obviously worn and tattered.

So that’s my plan going forward: to read it for the story as much as I can get from it and try not to spend so much time looking up foreign terms and quotations. But I wonder if I can skim those parts without my curiosity begging to be satisfied. I am not sure on that score!

Have you read stories written like this? How did you manage to enjoy them, if so? I’d love some tips!

Happy reading and happy holidays to all!

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 $1.99 (ebook) through 12/14/21!

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

Observations on First Man In Rome #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

As much as I’d like to say I’d finished reading Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome such is not the case! But I am thoroughly enjoying the story, at least most of the time. But I’ll get into that in a minute.

First, I’d like to share that in honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on December 7, I’ve put my historical women’s fiction story, Notes of Love and War, on sale for only $1.99 (ebook) now through December 14. This story is set in Baltimore, Maryland, during World War II, and was inspired by my parents’ correspondence during and after the war. If you’re unsure, you can download and read a free sample here. More info about the story is below. I hope you enjoy it!

Now back to The First Man in Rome. If you’re just joining my tour of historical fiction written by authors from around the world, you might want to start here by reading why I chose The First Man in Rome. Note that I’m broadening my reading by sampling historical fiction written by authors in countries other than my own USA. I want to see what different nationalities have to say about their point of view of history. I don’t know what I’ll find, but that’s the fun and intrigue for me! I started by sharing my first thoughts about the novel, and last week I gave my impressions of life in ancient Rome. I’m more than half way through this 930+ page story, so hopefully will finish reading it this week.

As I read this intricate and expansive tale of life and politics in ancient Rome, it is quite evident to me that the author had to do extensive research and then employ her impressive imagination to weave the story. I already mentioned the glossary and pronunciation guides which enhance the story for me. I’ve referred to them a few times as I’ve been reading to remind myself of the history or meaning of a reference, or on how to correctly pronounce a given name. It’s not a requirement, naturally, but it does help me. I find myself wondering just how much research she did before writing this book. Which, by the way, is the first in a series.

Did she research each individual focus character so she could authentically portray the person’s attitude, goals, means to an end? How much is based on historical fact versus her vision of how it might have unfolded? I don’t know but I suspect from the authoritative tone of the narrative (as well as the detailed glossary) that she knows her setting, characters, and historical context through and through.

Speaking of the narrative, McCullough chose to use an omniscient narrator of this story. For those who aren’t sure what “omniscient” means, it’s when the narrator is privy to what every character is experiencing in the story and shares it with the reader. Omniscient can even mean the narrator knows the back story of each character, the reasons for why they do what they do. McCullough switches easily between various character points of view, even within one scene. This technique can easily become what is known as “head hopping” in contemporary fiction, but works well in her hands for this story. I found myself comparing how I ended up using first person point of view in my historical women’s fiction title, Becoming Lady Washington. That choice meant I didn’t need to know the motives and intentions of the other characters, just their actions and her interpretation of them. But McCullough delves into and reveals the motives and intents of many of the characters in her story. Thus I think she must have spent a good deal of time getting to know these actual historical figures and characters based on the culture before having them join forces on the page.

I do have one tiny gripe about the writing, which is more my pet peeve than any real critique. There are a few “info dumps” within the story. To me, an info dump is when the author includes a block of unnecessary or irrelevant description or history. In one such section, 2-3 pages of description of the villa’s layout go by before the point of view character dismisses it as unnoticed. I’m left to ponder, then why include it in such detail from his point of view? Now I realize that other readers may be looking for the kind of flooring, what’s hanging on the walls, what rooms lead to what other parts of the house as a sort of setting the stage for the story. And it does and it is somewhat interesting, I admit. I just think it could have been woven into the story from his point of view instead of paragraphs of description beforehand. But maybe that’s just me!

McCullough also uses contemporary language throughout her story. Some of the terms are a bit jarring to me, because I strive to keep my word choices to ones used in the time period of my stories. For example, I came across the word “infected” and it pulled me right out of the story because I’m thinking to myself, they didn’t know about germs, so would they have used that word? (In case you’re interested, according to the Oxford English Dictionary “infected” didn’t enter written English until 1480 AD.) But when you’re writing for a modern reader about the time period of 110 B.C. in the Roman Empire which spoke Latin or Greek, to do so would make the story unreadable to the modern reader. I don’t know how formal their spoken language might have been then, and researching documents from that time would only tell how formal the written language was. Either way, we, modern readers, know what the word means even if they wouldn’t. I do try to keep in mind that modern writers are telling stories for modern readers. So sometimes the more familiar terms have to carry the story.

Enough of my musings for this week! I suppose I should get back to reading, and writing my own books, plus addressing some holiday greeting cards and decorating the house for Christmas.

Happy reading and happy holidays to all!

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.

Audrey Harper needs more than home and hearth to satisfy her self-worth despite being raised with the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Working as a music critic for the city newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, during the Second World War, she’s enjoyed both financial freedom and personal satisfaction in a job well done. When she uncovers evidence of German spies working to sabotage a secret bomber plane being manufactured in her beloved city, she must choose between her sense of duty to protect her city and the urgings of her boss, her family, and her fiancé to turn over her evidence to the authorities. But when her choices lead her and her sister into danger, she is forced to risk life and limb to save her sister and bring the spies to justice.

Set against the backdrop of the flourishing musical community during the 1940s in Baltimore, Notes of Love and War weaves together the pleasure of musical performance with the dangers of espionage and spying.

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop