Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Vanessa’s 2020 Reads

What have you read this year? Post your list here and update it as you go along! (One thread per member, please.)
Post Reply
User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4204
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Vanessa’s 2020 Reads

Post by Vanessa » Sun January 5th, 2020, 10:20 pm

Here’s my list for January:

The Assistant by S K Tremayne
Firstly, if you’re thinking of buying yourself a virtual assistant, you might think twice after reading this book! It’s scary stuff, I can tell you! After her divorce Jo Ferguson moves into her friend’s flat in Camden which is managed by a home assistant called Electra. One night Electra starts talking to her as if it knows her personally and taunts her with a big secret only Jo and a couple of other friends should know about. From here on in things only get worse. Well, this is very much a page turner. It gripped me from beginning to end. It’s described as a psychological thriller - it’s more like a horror story! If I had a virtual assistant (which I don’t, I’m not that lazy. I don’t use Siri, either.), it would be taken to the electrical recycling centre immediately. Having said all that, although it’s an enthralling read, it is a little far fetched at times and I wasn’t totally convinced about the ending. Even so, it’s thought provoking and makes you wonder at all this quite invasive technology. Big Brother is definitely watching you. The Assistant is an edge of your seat and disturbing nail biter of a story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can recommend it. It will haunt your dreams.

The Foundling by Stacey Halls
I loved this story! Set in London during the 18th century and told by two voices, that of a young mother and shrimp seller, Bess Bright, and a widow, Alexandra Callard, who lives with her daughter, Charlotte. Six years after leaving her baby, Clara, at the Foundling Hospital, Bess discovers Clara has already been reclaimed by someone professing to be her. Bess’ investigations lead her to the position of nursemaid. I was looking forward to reading this book so was very pleased when it became available by way of a competition on Pigeonhole. Having won my place, I eagerly awaited each stave every day and was sad when I received the last one, I didn’t want it to finish. It’s beautifully and atmospherically written with some wonderful and realistic characters. The Foundling is such an immersing read, so much so I was easily transported to Georgian London and I became totally absorbed into Bess’ and Alexandra’s individual stories. I was gripped from beginning to end. Historical fiction fans are going to love this one! I haven’t read The Familiars, Stacey Halls’ first book, but it’s on my ‘to be read’ pile and I’m impatient to start it!

Hitler’s Secret by Rory Clements
This is the fourth in the Professor Thomas Wilde espionage thriller series set during WWII. I haven’t read the first three but I thought Hitler’s Secret worked well as a stand alone. Tom is enlisted to smuggle a mysterious package out of Germany which leads to a cat and mouse situation. I found it gripping and well researched. It’s an exciting and action packed story where the pace doesn’t let up. The plot is intriguing and there are plenty of twists and turns, it’s quite a journey. I was eager to pick my Kindle up to read on. I loved the character of Tom Wilde and, therefore, look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau
It’s 1911 and rebellious heiress Peggy Battenberg is summoned to spend the summer with her family at the Oriental Hotel on Coney Island, not far from the the amusement parks. Wishing for her freedom, she soon comes into contact with Stefan, who is a Serbian artist, and starts to meet him in secret. Then the bodies of three young women are found and, as the temperature rises, the tension mounts. This is a tale of class division, family, forbidden love and murder. I loved Dreamland! It’s a fabulous read. I enjoyed the setting and era, the descriptions are very vivid. It’s beautifully written with just the right amount of suspense. I read this book via the Pigeonhole app and I was always eager to begin each stave every day. I definitely found it a page turner. An entertaining and magical historical murder mystery with some fascinating characters and an intriguing plot which I can highly recommend. Nancy Bilyeau is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
This is a lovely story set in London, Cornwall and New York about a brother and a sister and a rabbit named God spanning about 30 years. It’s a heartwarming drama about love in all its forms. It is a little dark in places and includes such themes as child abuse, kidnapping, family secrets and illness. However, there is plenty of humour to lighten the atmosphere. Just a great read.

The 24 Hour Cafe by Libby Page
A heartwarming story set in a cafe which never sleeps near Liverpool Street Station in London. It’s told by way of ittle glimpses into the lives of various people, those of the waitresses and customers who frequent the cafe, a little like a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary. I thought this was cleverly written with the relatable snapshots gelling together beautifully. The observations were spot on. It’s a tale about relationships, particularly the importance of friends, with themes such as loneliness, homelessness, mental abuse and post natal depression. The cafe sounded fantastic - I’d love to drop in and treat myself to a slice of cake and a café latte whilst discreetly tuning into the assorted conversations around me, the ‘ships that pass in the night’. It’s all very realistic. An absorbing and hugely enjoyable story. If you like people watching, you’ll love The 24 Hour Cafe! I shall miss the fun, even Ernest the Bear!
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4204
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

February

Post by Vanessa » Sun March 1st, 2020, 3:51 pm

Here’s my list for February:

The Willow Marsh Murder by Karen Charlton
The sixth book in the Detective Stephen Lavender mystery series, this one set on the Fens in Ely. Detective Lavender receives a letter summoning him to Willow Marsh House to investigate a murder. When he and his trusty sidekick, Constable Ned Woods, arrive there they find no such occurrence. But, the next day events overtake themselves..... I do enjoy country house murder mysteries and this is an excellent example of one. It has all the right elements - secret passages, strange noises, the odd dead body and a murky atmosphere with plenty of suspects. This story links to the novella, The Death of Irish Nell. Whilst there’s no need to have read this to enjoy The Willow Marsh Murder, it does give a good insight into the background of the case. I found it quite the page turner. This is a fantastic murder mystery series and Lavender and Woods make a great duo. They are cleverly written, fast paced and entertaining. I can’t recommend them enough.

The Sisters Grimm by MennaVan Praag
This magical tale is about four sisters and they are not just ordinary sisters, they are Grimm sisters. They have the same father but different mothers. One sister is earth, one is fire, one is air and one is water and each one relates to a certain fairytale, all of which are fun to work out. They met each other in Everwhere, a mystical land, when they were eight. They were separated at 13 and now at nearly 18, they need to find each other again to prepare for a battle to fight for their lives. I thoroughly enjoyed The Sisters Grimm. I wasn’t sure I was going to at first but the more I dwelled in this fantastical land, the more I loved it. It’s a little different, quite original and very imaginative. Beautifully written with some fascinating characters, both good and evil, it had me eagerly turning the pages for more. I enjoy stories which link to fairytales and The Sisters Grimm is an excellent example of that with all the usual mythical and bewitching elements. I’d love to visit the enchanted world of Everwhere...... who knows, perhaps I have in my dreams! If you enjoy magical realism stories, you’ll love this one!

The Familiars by Stacey Halls
Set during the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612, A young woman called Fleetwood Shuttleworth discovers she is pregnant and at the same time finds a letter written to her husband by a doctor warning that her life is in danger. Fleetwood comes across a local midwife, Alice Gray, who promises to deliver her baby safely. But all is not as it seems and both Fleetwood and Alice are drawn into the hunt for witches which is sweeping across the country. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I loved that it included real life characters as well as fictional and that it contained aspects of truth. The tormented lives of these women who were accused of witchcraft are superbly portrayed and it’s so sad to think that we were so ignorant as a people to believe in such hocus pocus. This is a beautifully written and crafted tale, I was immersed and invested into Fleetwood’s life from beginning to end. It’s very much a page turner.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Groundhog Day meets Cluedo in this fascinating mystery. Aiden Bishop has to discover who killed Evelyn Hardcastle in order to escape Blackheath House. He is given eight days to solve the mystery. Each day he finds himself in the body of a different character and as the different character he relives the same day. It gave me quite the headache placing all of the pieces of the puzzle together but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s very original and different. So very clever, too.

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue
An enjoyable, dark and moody dual timeframe story, taking place 25 years apart, set in a girls’ boarding school told via the voices of Louisa, a scholarship pupil, and an unnamed journalist. It’s a tale of love and obsession. The Temple House Vanishing has a real gothic feel about it. It’s The Secret History meets Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s a haunting, sad and quite disturbing tale, beautifully written and atmospherically told. The angst of and rivalries between teenage girls is wonderfully observed and astutely portrayed. It’s a slow burner of a page turner but it did have me gripped until the end. A very clever novel and an excellent debut. I look forward to reading more by this author.

House of Lies by Terry Lynn Thomas
The third in the Cat Carlisle series set during WWII. Cat has set up a women’s refuge in the village of Rivenby whilst her fiancé, Thomas, is working with the local police. Thomas is hiding a jewel studded golden chalice at his house, trying keep it out of the hands of the Nazis, and one of the women from the refuge is found murdered. Having read the first two books in the series, I was looking forward to House of Lies. It didn’t disappoint. It’s nicely written and well paced with an intriguing plot. There are a few twists and turns which kept me turning the pages. I like the characters of Cat and Thomas and love revisiting their lives. These books are quite gentle reads but well worth taking the plunge. An enjoyable and entertaining historical mystery, a great addition to the series.

A Shadow on the Lens by Sam Hurcom
A gothic style thriller set in 1904. Forensic photographer Thomas Bexley is called to the small village of Dinas Powys in Wales to investigate the horrific murder of a young girl. There he comes across suspicious minds and silent villagers who are not anything away, plus there appears to be some sort of presence. This story did take me quite a while to get into the swing of things, but I enjoyed it once I did. It’s a slow burner and the style of writing is very pertinent to the era it’s set in. It’s atmospheric and creepy with a hint of the supernatural. Thomas Bexley is an interesting narrator and I thought he really grew into his character by the end of the tale. I liked him! There’s an intriguing plot with a few twists and turns which kept me turning the pages. It did have me wondering what on earth was going on at times, but it all came together quite nicely by the conclusion of the book. All in all an absorbing and gripping historical mystery and debut. I look forward to reading further work by Sam Hurcom.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

User avatar
Vanessa
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4204
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

March

Post by Vanessa » Tue March 31st, 2020, 8:21 pm

Here’s my list for March:

In Honour Bound by Elizabeth Bailey
An enjoyable Regency romance where a young girl who has recently lost her soldier father has travelled to England to be placed in the care of a guardian who has never heard of her. Add an obnoxious and vengeful sister and the fireworks start. This is a well written story. It’s fast paced with an entertaining plot. The leading lady is a feisty individual who isn’t scared to ‘stick you with the pointy end’ and the leading man is very much the hero, just as you would expect with this sort of tale. It didn’t take very long to read but it passed a pleasurable two or three hours. A fun and gentle story which very much put me in mind of Georgette Heyer’s books of the same nature.

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce
Author Cassandra Tipp has disappeared, leaving a letter/manuscript behind for her niece and nephew. The manuscript tells the story of Cassandra’s strange life and asking her relatives to discover the password in order to claim their inheritance. This is a dark and disturbing story which is definitely away with the faeries! It contains a fair amount of the ‘hidden people’ and myth so there’s a definite element of the supernatural. I’m not sure how I feel about it, really. It’s beautifully written and the descriptions are very vivid, I could picture it all quite well in my mind’s eye. There are some interesting characters, fascinating in fact. I read this unusual tale via the Pigeonhole app and although I wasn’t totally eager to read the daily stave, something compelled me to do so! Who knows, perhaps the fae actually do exist. Don’t expect Tinkerbell, though. These faeries are not to be messed with. An imaginatively written story in which the reader has to decide for themselves what is the real truth.

Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce
Set during WWII, Emmeline Lake dreams of being a war correspondent but ends up being a typist for the magazine ‘Women’s Friend’, primarily for Agony Aunt Mrs Bird. Mrs Bird is a little fussy which letters she replies to and won’t answer those she deems immoral, so Emmeline decides to write back herself. This is a lovely, delightful read. It’s gentle and nostalgic. It’s about ‘doing the right thing’ and ‘cracking on’. It definitely exudes a great sense of the British fighting spirit. Keep calm and carry on!

I Am Dust by Louise Beech
A ghostly dual timeline psychological thriller set in a theatre, where 20 years previously a famous actress was murdered. In 2005 three teenagers play a dangerous game and in the present day a theatre usher is haunted by her past. It’s a story about ambition, obsession, jealousy and betrayal. I found this book quite gripping, I was eager to turn the pages to find out what happened next. However, I did have to suspend my belief at times as I am a bit of a sceptic when it comes to ouija boards, etc. Hollywood has something to answer for in that respect! The two timelines were cleverly and seamlessly woven together. It’s well written with some realistic and believable characters. It’s also entertaining and eerie. It’s possibly not one to read with the lights off, though, if you’re of a nervous disposition or a believer of the supernatural! I have to say it wasn’t what I was expecting, more a tale of the unexpected. Even so, I found it an enjoyable, engrossing and atmospheric read. If you like a good ghost story with a mystery at its heart, you’ll love this one.

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry
Set just after the American Civil War in Tennessee, most of this story takes place on a farm where two former soldiers live with a young Lakota girl whom they have adopted. An unusual but happy family they are, but a traumatic event occurs which affects their harmony. This is an interesting and worthwhile read. It is actually a sequel to Days Without End which I haven’t read. However, I was able to read it as a stand alone quite easily, although I would’ve liked to have known more of the background story. The characters are well defined and the writing is very vivid with some fabulous imagery. It’s not a period in time I’ve read much about so I feel I have gained some knowledge. The prejudice and discrimination against certain cultures was terrible and I don’t think much has changed as time has gone by. An absorbing and enjoyable tale which readers should find quite thought provoking.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Kya Clark, also known as the ‘Marsh Girl’, has been surviving on her own since she was six years old when her mother walked out, leaving her with her father who eventually also disappears. As the years pass, she becomes attracted to two young men, one of whom leaves to go to college and the other who ends up dead. Kya is suspected of his murder. I really enjoyed this book. There is some beautiful imagery and the descriptions were very vivid. I could easily imagine it all in my mind’s eye. I just loved reading about the marshes and the wildlife, feeding the gulls etc. It had a good sense of time and place. I thought it was very evocative. An all round fabulous read and very thought provoking.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver
This is a moving story about surviving grief. On Lydia Bird’s birthday her fiancé, Freddie, is killed in a car accident. As she is working her way through her anguish Lydia finds herself in a ‘sliding doors’ situation where she gets another chance to live her life with Freddie. I thought it was perceptively and beautifully written. It gave an excellent insight into the heartbreak of losing a loved one and the aftermath. It sounds a little miserable and morbid, but it really isn’t! Just a lovely tale.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

Post Reply

Return to “Member Reading Logs - 2020”