My Favorite Historical Fiction

As someone with a (totally super useful) degree in Art History and Archaeology, history is something that I have had a passion for since I was a child. I can’t pinpoint it exactly but I know that there was definitely a combination of mummies and Laura Ingalls Wilder that fed into it. Yes, folks, I’ve been weird for at least 25 years plus.

It turns out that historical fiction is a super broad category. There are some that are pretty solidly based in historical record, some are a little more on the paranormal side, some are based in history, but not anything that really happened. While I’m definitely into paranormal, I’ve decided to exclude those from this particular list. I’m going for books that are based (however loosely) on real events.

The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes By His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George

Look at this badass motherf@#$er.

I know I have mentioned more than once how much I am fascinated by the Tudors. Honestly, many of the books on this list will really just reinforce that. This book in particular is probably my favorite fictional account of Henry VIII. Because it is written from the point of view of both Henry and his fool, whom considered him a friend, it is an unusually sympathetic portrayal of the king.

With the paperback coming in just shy of 1000 pages, it’s not really something I would recommend to the casual reader. However, for a hardcore Tudor-phile (is that a thing?) like me, it’s fantastic. Detailed and immersive it’s just the thing if you want to slip back in time for a little while.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

This was always one that never felt entirely accurate to me. However, what it might have lacked in authenticity, it more than made up for in sheer entertainment value. If you like your history on the (sort of) racy, gossipy side, this is definitely for you.

The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory

Yes. More Tudors. I’m not even going to pretend to be sorry. They were amazing.

Speaking of amazing, if you want a strong woman, Katherine of Aragon is your girl. While I may not have always agreed with her choices, you have to admire her tenacity and strength. This book in particular provides an interesting and unusual motivation for the Spanish princess. Definitely worth a read for those with an interest in the topic or just badass women in general.

Lust for Life by Irving Stone

Prior to reading this book, I can’t say that I was really all that interested in the life of Vincent van Gogh. Sure, I liked his paintings, but who doesn’t? Oher than the incident with the ear, who cares?

But this book was fantastic, touching and emotional. Truly, I can say it got me interested in van Gogh personally. Read it and then watch the Doctor Who episode Vincent and the Doctor and the movie Loving Vincent. They did a movie for Lust for Life with Kirk Douglas in 1956, but I haven’t seen it yet. Either way, immerse yourself. And go see a van Gogh in real life. They are incredible.

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

These books have been a little maligned in the last year, but they still hold an important place in my heart. I remember wanting to dress up like her for Halloween. My mom made me a dress, bonnet and pantaloons and I was in seventh heaven. Certainly this is probably where I can pinpoint my current love of dressing up in a historical context (hello, renaissance fairs!).

For me, these books are especially fun because I grew up not far from Rocky Ridge Farm and have had the chance to visit several times. I still highly recommend these books.

My Plain Jane (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows)

The Lady Janies are back!! Many of you may remember that back in 2016 I reviewed their first book, My Lady Jane. That book came as something of a surprise to me, so with this book, I knew to expect the unexpected and a really good time. I wasn’t disappointed.

If you think you know the story of Jane Eyre, think again. A penniless orphan who suffered a miserable childhood, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall. There she meets the broody Mr. Rochester, and despite his mood swings and their fairly substantial age difference, they fall in love. But… what if that wasn’t really how things went down?

Now is probably a good time to give a teensy, tiny disclaimer: I’ve never actually read Jane Eyre before. For a voracious reader, with a few exceptions, I have a notoriously difficult time getting myself through the classics. I knew the basics of the plot, and honestly, that was enough. I don’t feel like I missed anything major by not reading the original. Sure, I should probably read it someday. In the vague future.

At any rate, just like the previous Jane, this one was an immensely good time. I can’t speak to how well this follows the source material, obviously, but I know that (spoiler alert) there weren’t any for realsies ghosts in original. This is full of characters that you love to love, love to hate and some that are mysterious, including a bunch of ghosts. If you keep a good eye out, you’ll notice a good amount of (HILARIOUS) political commentary.

While it’s pretty hard to beat My Lady Jane, in my opinion, this definitely gives it a solid run for it’s money. For a formula that I never was sure would work, these authors have seriously hit it out of the park with their sophomore entry. I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to the next book.

Legendary (Stephanie Garber)

“Legends were supposed to be better than the truth.”

-Legendary

Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

Legendary picks up pretty much immediately after the events of Caraval. While Legend usually only holds Caraval once a year, he is doing a second one in honor of the Empress Elantine’s birthday. Donatella Dragna should be celebrating escaping her violent father and saving her sister, Scarlett, but Tella has made a desperate bargain- to turn over the identity of Legend. To learn his true name, Tella must once again enter into the dangerous, magical competition. She finds herself in must deeper than she ever could have expected: between a bloodthirsty heir to the throne and dense web of secrets, its difficult to tell how much is real and how much is only a part of the game. Caraval has always required cunning and bravery, but this time around, it’s asking for much more.

I was late to the game with Caraval, but it was one that really encompassed that dark, dreamy atmosphere that I’m forever rattling on about. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that it seems to me that Stephanie Garber is really hitting her stride in this universe with this second book. Caraval was intricate and fascinating, but a bit confusing at times. Legendary manages to be even better- more of everything that made the first book outstanding, with less confusion.

It’s actually a little difficult for me to pick a favorite character here. There are not too many to keep track of, but they are all pretty fascinating. I think for me, it comes down to Jacks, the mysterious and perhaps murderous heir to the throne who is far more than what he seems and the Empress Elantine herself. While the whole plot is centered around the celebration of the Empress’ birthday, she is really only briefly featured. However, it’s quickly apparent in her few brief scenes she is canny and captivating. I certainly wouldn’t say no to a spin off series (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Overall, Legendary is dark and glittering, just a touch over the top and wholly entertaining. It’s a perfectly fantastical escape that feels just a little decadent. I don’t know if Stephanie Garber is planning on any more books in the series, but it certainly feels far from over to me. (*Edit*: Upon reading her website there is ONE more book, coming next year.)

Bruja Born (Zoraida Cordova)

I received a free copy of Bruja Born in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Some of you may recall that awhile back I reviewed the first book in this series, Labyrinth Lost… there was a badass themed wreath involved.

Bruja Born switches the focus to Alex’s older sister, Lula. Between Alex’s new encantrix powers and the return of their father, Lula is feeling more isolated than ever. Fortunately, she can always find solace in the affection of her boyfriend, Maks, at least, until a horrific bus accident takes the lives of not just her classmates, but Maks, as well. But, Lula is a healer and she is convinced that she can bring Maks back, even if she has to go against the laws of the Deos. And when all is said and done, her boyfriend isn’t the only one to come back from the dead.

First things first, there is definitely not enough Rishi in this. However, this is balanced out by the fact that there is more insight into Nova. I particularly found myself to be something of a fan of his grandmother. She sort of stole the scene.

Overall, I think I might have like Bruja Born even more than Labyrinth Lost. Zoraida Cordova did an amazing job building a sense of urgency. This was a very fast read for me. Not because it was short, but it really sinks it’s hooks in and pulls you through. It’s dark and emotional, but also a lot of fun.

This is definitely a completely worthy continuation to the series and a perfect summer book. I can’t wait to read more!

 

The City of Lost Fortunes (Bryan Camp)

I received a free copy of The City of Lost Fortunes in exchange for an honest review. This did not change my opinion of the book.

Six years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still rebuilding. Jude Dubuisson carries the burden of his past and of a magical secret. He has the ability to find lost things, something passed down to him from a father he has never met, one who just happens to be a god. When the fortune god of New Orleans calls in a favor, Jude finds himself involved in a poker game with the gods of New Orleans and stakes much higher than he ever could have imagined.

The City of Lost Fortunes is definitely a book that one could do a pretty in depth analysis of. However, if you have ever read my reviews before, that’s not really my thing. For one thing, I definitely need to read it again. There is so much going on here. The cast of characters is not only eclectic, but large. Fortunately, not to a confusing degree.

Jude himself is a bit of a rogue, certainly no boy scout, but he’s interesting enough, it makes him fairly likeable. Regal was a personal favorite, but there are more than a few fascinating characters here that I wouldn’t mind reading more about. In particular, Sal the psychopomp.

This was a book I found to be best savored, a perfect summer read. The mashup of mythologies set in a wonderfully dark New Orleans made for a surprisingly enjoyable combination. It’s a little fantasy, a little mystery and a lot Southern Gothic. This being Bryan Camp’s first novel, I certainly cannot wait to read more from him.

Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)

Yes. I’m leading with the cover on this one, because look at it. Stunning.

When magic disappeared from Orïsha, Zélie lost not only her mother to the hate of the ruthless King Saran, but all hope, as well. Now, in a twist of fate Zélie has the chance to bring magic back to her people with the help of a runaway princess and her own non-magical brother. Will they be able to navigate the many dangers and escape from the crown prince who hunts them single-mindedly?

This is a book that I had been anticipating for quite awhile, along with, I suspect a ridiculous number of other people. I read a few other reviews of Children and Blood and Bone after I finished the book, and found I did not agree with them. They were critical of it for being unoriginal and overlong. I can’t totally speak for the unoriginal critique, as I’m not familiar with The Last Airbender, which was apparently a strong inspiration. I could see some of the parallels with Ember in the Ashes, but overall, it felt original to me. As to it being overlong, well, I love really long books. Most of the chapters were quite short, so that helped keep the pace up for me.

Overall, I thought it was wonderful. I finished it and immediately had to look online to see if there were going to be more books. While I loved Zélie, I particularly enjoyed Amari. It was fantastic seeing her grow from fearful and damaged into someone much stronger. I’m also just desperate to see what happens with Inan in the next book. There is so much potential here and I’m super excited to see where it’s all going.

YA and Wine

If you’ve been following for awhile, then you know I enjoy pairing books and booze. And if there are two things I’m particularly passionate about, it’s young adult novels and a decent glass of wine. I can’t honestly claim to be an expert on either, but I can’t think of many things that would go better together. It’s likely that I’ve mentioned some of these series before on other lists, however, they are certainly worth mentioning again.

 

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

This is a series I have definitely mentioned before, probably paired with a cocktail. I stand by that, but I feel like it would pair equally well with a good mead. I know, typically it would be something better suited to a more medieval setting, but bear with me here. Southerners like their tea sweet, right? Why not their wine too? Being that Beautiful Creatures is very Southern, it just makes sense to me. And mead feels a little more “grown up” to me than most other sweet wines. Any mead will obviously do, but my absolute favorite is actually local for me, from just down the highway in Hermann, MO, an orange blossom mead.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

This is a series I only recently finally picked up. It’s still ongoing, with the third book in the series coming out this May. While there is definitely hope to be found, they are still pretty dark, so I endorse something dark (and pretty strong). Sip on a nice port. It’s certainly a wine that can stand on it’s own feet, like Laia.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

This is another series I’ve only recently given a shot, but quite surprised myself by enjoying. I’ve only read the first book so far, but I plan on picking up the rest of the series. It’s a little bit like The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, but with better fashion. It’s not all pretty dresses and wooing a prince, but it still feels like it needs something pretty and a little decadent. I would suggest a nice, dry, sparkling rosé.

The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

I’ll be honest, I initially picked up this book because I thought the cover was pretty. I really wasn’t sure what it was about, but I really ended up enjoying it. Pretend like you are rich and perfect enough to live in the penthouse of The Tower and dive in with a nice (but cheap) champagne.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

I’ve previously reviewed this book here, but if you haven’t checked that out, I cannot stress enough how fun it is. It seems fitting that the wine I chose to pair with it is a little old fashioned; pretty much every 18th century and Regency set novel I’ve ever read has gentlemen drinking claret. It’s not a wine you see much these days, but Coppola Winery has a particularly nice one. I can’t normally recommend a specific wine, but this is the only time I can remember seeing a claret and it’s definitely well worth it if you can track it down.

Do you have any wine and YA pairings you’d like to recommend? Share them with me below!

Hatshepsut: The Pharaoh-Queen of Egypt (in60Learning)

I received a free copy of Hatshepsut: The Pharaoh-Queen of Egypt in exchange for an honest review. This didn’t affect my opinion of the book.

Much like this book, my review is going to be quick and painless. While there are definitely people like me out there who are happy to dive into massive biographies or histories, I completely understand that they aren’t for everyone. With this series, each book is designed to be read in about an hour. For me, it was a solid 30 minutes, with some distraction.

I chose something ancient Egyptian for my review, because since that it a topic I feel really passionate about (I’ve been OBSESSED with ancient Egypt since the 3rd grade), I felt like I could be a reasonably good judge of accuracy. I’m no expert, by any means. My qualifications include 20+ years of personal interest and a degree in Art History and Archaeology with a history minor. This seemed pretty accurate to me, I certainly didn’t see any egregious errors.

It was also fresh and engaging. I can see this being pretty important to those who don’t want to spend a great deal of time reading. It also helps that Hatshepsut is extremely interesting.

Personally, I’ll stick with more in-depth books, but I really love the idea of this series. Being someone who LOVES history, I’m whole-heartedly behind something that makes it more accessible to a wider audience. I’m looking forward to a volume on my favorite phararoh, Akhenaten (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Learn more here.

The Case for Jamie (Brittany Cavallaro)

Holmes and Watson are back- not only Charlotte and Jamie, but Leander and James, as well.

It’s been a year since Jamie Watson (or anyone else, for that matter) has seen Charlotte Holmes. After the events that lead to the death of August Moriarty, Jamie has been going through the motions, trying to finish his final year at school. When strange things start to happen, he can’t help but wonder if it’s his imagination running wild, or if Lucien Moriarty could be behind it all.

This third installment in the Charlotte Holmes series is definitely chock full of teenage angst, but what might have been cloying, works here. The chapters rotate between narration from Jamie and Charlotte. While it would be easy to write Jamie’s affection for Holmes off as misguided, her chapters help add a layer of insight into why she is the way she is. Removed from Watson’s pedestal, she’s more human. Damaged, absolutely, but far more like the rest of us than she ever previously seemed. Hearing from Charlotte herself was one of the things I really enjoyed in the last book, and I was pleased to see it employed more here.

Jamie’s girlfriend Elizabeth proved to be an interesting character, as well. While I know she was in the first book in the series, A Study in Charlotte, she’s a complete blank for me. Here, she proved something of a surprise, not only for me, but for Jamie Watson, as well.

A Case for Jamie provides all the twists and turns that one should expect from a Holmesian novel. There is plenty of action and more than a few surprises tempered by emotions, but all in all, it strikes a good balance. While I have enjoyed all the books in the series so far, this one might be my favorite. The Last of August (see my review of that one here) got a little hard to follow at times. I like complex mysteries, but I don’t like to be left in the dust.

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I really feel like this series is a do not miss. Same if you are a fan of YA.

The Thirteenth Gate (Kat Ross)

Sorry that there has been a bit of a delay on posts. I spent last month working on another book related project that I might be sharing some time in the future. Anyway, on to The Thirteenth Gate.

Last year, you may recall I review Kat Ross’s The Daemoniac (catch up on that review here). That book was a prequel to this one, which is the first in the Dominion Mysteries series. While The Daemoniac ends just shortly before the Jack the Ripper murders, this one picks up shortly after they ended.

Here we met Vivienne Cumberland and her companion, Alec Lawrence, on their way to the Greymoor Lunatic Asylum in the dead of a rainy night. Really, can a book begin in a better way? Initially, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to have more adventures with Harry and John. They do show up and play a major role, but not until a little ways into the book.

That disappointment did not last long. This book somehow managed to delve even further into the supernatural, but still managed to maintain the mystery element that was particularly fun in the previous book.

It did lead me even further down the rabbit hole, however. Now, having been introduced to Vivienne and Alec, I wanted to know more. I knew Kat Ross had other books that had a connection to this series, but I had not yet sought them out. As it turns out, Midnight Sea is available to read for free. It was, of course, amazing. I picked up the entire trilogy and devoured them. She is also two books in to another connected series. I haven’t yet gotten my hands on those yet, but I will and I definitely recommend you do to.

So, if you feel like losing yourself for awhile, you really can’t go wrong with a little Kat Ross.