Books shelved under “Historical Fiction”

197 reviews found

  1. Book cover for Red Letter Days

    Red Letter Days

    by Sarah-Jane Stratford

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Two years ago I picked up, on a whim, Sarah-Jane Stratford’s Radio Girls, and I fell in love. The book was the perfect blend of history, politics, and feminism. I’m pleased to say that with Red Letter Days, Stratford has done it again. While the protagonists share some superficial qualities—both move from North America to Britain, both work in communications industries in some capacity, both become somewhat embroiled in espionage and skullduggery—Stratford has…

  2. Book cover for A Suitable Boy

    A Suitable Boy

    by Vikram Seth

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Every so often, I consider dropping the star ratings from my reviews. After all, ratings are a convention, not a requirement. Novels like A Suitable Boy confound the one-dimensionality of a 5-star rating system and leave me stymied. This is a 5-star novel. It is also a 1-star novel. Do I split the difference, give it 3 stars? Or do I depart from tradition and leave it unrated? You already know the answer, of course,…

  3. Book cover for The Water Dancer

    The Water Dancer

    by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This is a book by a Black man about slavery in the United States, and I wanted to open this review by boosting the thoughts of Black reviewers—after all, their take on this book is going to be more salient than the opinion of a white woman like me. Unforunately, as I browsed reviews of The Water Dancer on Goodreads, I was dismayed to see that the majority of them are from white people (mostly…

  4. Book cover for Jane Steele

    Jane Steele

    by Lyndsay Faye

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Ever wondered, “What would Jane Eyre have been like if Jane Eyre had been a serial killer?” That’s the basic premise of Jane Steele, although if I’m being honest, the serial killer aspect was not as intense as I had thought it would be. As a feminist retelling of Jane Eyre this book leaves much to be desired. However, as a kind of mystery/thriller/romance, Jane Steele is a lot of fun. I came to…

  5. Book cover for For Today I Am A Boy

    For Today I Am A Boy

    by Kim Fu

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This is an own-voices review for being a transgender woman, but I am white and do not share the protagonist’s ethnicity. For Today I Am A Boy left me unsettled in ways I didn’t expect, and not entirely in the good kind of unsettled you want from some literature. I’m going to be harsh here because it’s how I feel, having read the book, but I would like to disclaim up front that even though…

  6. Book cover for Middlemarch

    Middlemarch

    by George Eliot

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I first read and reviewed Middlemarch in 2009, so you can read my first review if you like. This review will reiterate some of the points of my earlier review, but enough time has passed and I have changed enough that I definitely took different things from this book this time. Nevertheless, still a classic and a masterpiece.

    Middlemarch is a sublime example of Victorian authors recognizing and attempting to chronicle a disappearing lifestyle. Eliot…

  7. Book cover for The Ventriloquists

    The Ventriloquists

    by E.R. Ramzipoor

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I do so enjoy stories set during World War II that are not about battles or even soldiers. (One could make the argument, of course, that the people in this tale are soldiers, albeit of a different sort.) The Ventriloquists is a based-on-a-true-story story that will appeal to those of us who believe the pen is mightier than the sword. It’s a story about stories, about writing, about propaganda and other dark arts. E.R. Ramzipoor’s…

  8. Book cover for The Pearl Thief

    The Pearl Thief

    by Elizabeth Wein

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Code Name Verity was some of the best WWII fiction I’ve ever read. So I’ve had this prequel on my to-read list for a while. Elizabeth Wein in general seems like an author I should watch, and I finally tackled The Pearl Thief with no small amount of trepidation: how could this possibly measure up to Code Name Verity? Indeed, if that’s your metric, you will necessarily be disappointed. Obviously this book is…

  9. Book cover for Siddhartha

    Siddhartha

    by Hermann Hesse

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Sometimes novels are really philosophy tracts in disguise. If you’re Neal Stephenson, this usually turns into an unwieldy doorstopper that uses its tremendous bullk to beat the reader into submission. If you’re Herman Hesse, you write a kind of novella that is also pretty dense yet somehow manages to be simple and light at the same time. Siddhartha is one of those delightful early twentieth-century novels that by modern standards do not work at all…

  10. Book cover for The Poisonwood Bible

    The Poisonwood Bible

    by Barbara Kingsolver

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Shoutout to one of our secretaries at work, Deb, who lent this to me. I do so enjoy reading books that are among other people’s favourites. Even when I don’t enjoy them as much, or when I dislike them outright, it’s nice to try things recommended by friends. Fortunately, I did enjoy The Poisonwood Bible. Barbara Kingsolver’s thoughtful story of a missionary family in Belgian Congo on the cusp of its independence combines an…

  11. Book cover for The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

    The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

    by Umberto Eco

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It occurs to me that, with the exception of The Prague Cemetery, since I bought that when it was released, I have basically been reading Umberto Eco’s books in publication order. This is entirely unintentional, and now I only have one more to go … but on the bright side, that sounds like an excuse, after I finish that one, to wrap around and start re-reading them all, in order again!

    But I don’t…

  12. Book cover for My Real Children

    My Real Children

    by Jo Walton

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    OH. MY. GOD. WHY DID NONE OF YOU MAKE ME READ THIS BOOK SOONER???

    I’ve previously read two of Jo Walton’s books. The first, Among Others, was a Hugo-nominated, Nebula-winning novel that I enjoyed but didn’t love. The second, Tooth and Claw, was a more straightforward story which was basically “what if Regency England was intelligent dragons” and, as such, was a delightfully clever romp of a book. My Real Children is a

  13. Book cover for Radio Girls

    Radio Girls

    by Sarah-Jane Stratford

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    What do you do when your friend Amanda gives you a $10 gift card for Chapters as part of a “pick me up” gift while she’s away?

    You unwittingly go to Chapters the same week they have select books on 3 for $10 and you are WINNING AT LIFE, my friends. Radio Girls is the first of the three books I bought (with my iRewards discount, even after tax, the total came to just under…

  14. Book cover for The Heartbeats of Wing Jones

    The Heartbeats of Wing Jones

    by Katherine Webber

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I was feeling rather emotional over the weekend while I read this, and … I’m not sure if this helped. There were a couple of points where I nearly or did burst into tears from what was happening. The Heartbeats of Wing Jones is an earnest, heart-warming book about a teenager trying to find herself in the face of an incredible family tragedy. The feels are real with this one, and Katherine Webber’s writing is…

  15. Book cover for How To Be Famous

    How To Be Famous

    by Caitlin Moran

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This is not a drill.

    I repeat: NOT A DRILL.

    Yes, Caitlin Moran has written a sequel to the sublime How to Build a Girl. I never expected this, never asked for this … and I definitely don’t deserve it, but young women do. This sequel is arguably better, brighter, more brilliant than the first book. I devoured it in a day, and I already want to go back and re-read it, underline it,…

  16. Book cover for And I Darken

    And I Darken

    by Kiersten White

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    So I read this book nearly a month ago but am only now getting around to writing a review, because I have literally spent all my free time knitting a SEKRIT PROJECT because I want to give it to my friend Amanda, who has been away and out of contact for a month. Project is almost done, and so now I can resume my regular reading and reviewing, just in time for summer! However, my…

  17. Book cover for Half of a Yellow Sun

    Half of a Yellow Sun

    by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s writings have, in various forms, influenced my life for a few years now. I often show her TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story” in my English class, particularly as we embark on studying stereotypes. Yet this is the first time I’ve read a novel by her—and it was a treat. Half of a Yellow Sun brought me back to my youthful summer reading of other postcolonial fiction, particularly that set…

  18. Book cover for Imperium

    Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome

    by Robert Harris

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    When I was in university, I had the immense privilege and joy of taking a course in classical rhetoric. Rhetoric itself is fascinating; classical rhetoric I found doubly so. There is something very rewarding about breaking down even the most modern of eloquent orations and finding, in their bones, the lessons learned and promulgated by voices from two millennia ago. I suspect that, in addition to my general interest in fiction set in ancient Rome,…

  19. Book cover for The Miseducation of Cameron Post

    The Miseducation of Cameron Post

    by Emily M. Danforth

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Sometimes the right kind of sad can help, even when you yourself are sad. I kept seeing this one bandied about on Twitter, and it turns out my library has a copy, so I was able to get to it sooner rather than later. I’m glad I did. The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a bittersweet book, definitely a coming-of-age story, about the eponymous character’s struggle with being a lesbian in a rural, conservative Christian…

  20. Book cover for The Radical Element

    The Radical Element

    by Jessica Spotswood

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Last year I reviewed A Tyranny of Petticoats, which came on my radar because I received it in a Book Mail box from Book Riot. When I saw The Radical Element on NetGalley, I wanted to see how the second volume of this anthology series compared. Thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for the eARC! I adored this book for what it is, and while I didn’t love every story, it was a great…

  21. Book cover for Infernal Devices

    Infernal Devices

    by K.W. Jeter

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Infernal Devices is the story of George, an unremarkable man with no major talents who has inherited his father’s watchmaker shop. Various zany characters show up and drag him into an intricate conspiracy reminiscent of H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft, and mostly, in my mind, Jules Verne. K.W. Jeter propels George through increasingly dangerous, nonsensical, over-the-top adventures powered by steampunk, bravado, and sheer imagination. This is an adventure in the classical sense, and as a work…

  22. Book cover for Burn Baby Burn

    Burn Baby Burn

    by Meg Medina

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It was OK, I guess? I expected more fire, given the title. Burn Baby Burn is more of a slow simmer, though, without much payoff. I sped through it in an afternoon, and while it was not a bad book with which to pass the time sitting outside, it also wasn’t too remarkable.

    There were a few places that Meg Medina made me angry—in a good way. It’s 1977. Nora Lopez is 17, and…

  23. Book cover for A Tyranny of Petticoats

    A Tyranny of Petticoats

    by Jessica Spotswood

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Women don’t need me to say this, because they know this, and many have said this themselves, but I’ll boost it: the thing about representation is that it isn’t enough to give people one character, one story, one thing and say, “There, you’ve representation, job done.” So I was excited when I received A Tyranny of Petticoats in a Book Riot Book Mail box. Those of you who have read my reviews for a while…

  24. Book cover for The Last Days of Magic

    The Last Days of Magic

    by Mark Tompkins

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I get a strong Charles de Lint vibe from Mark Tompkins’ The Last Days of Magic, at least as a result of the frame story. Tompkins reaches back into the less mainstream myths and legends of Europe to answer the question that often comes up in fantasy: why, if there was so much overt magic centuries ago, does our world seem so barren of it now? Some authors say it’s hiding in plain sight,…

  25. Book cover for Cryptonomicon

    Cryptonomicon

    by Neal Stephenson

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Look, this isn’t really a novel.

    Huh. Is there an echo in here?

    I was thinking it had been several years since I last read a Neal Stephenson novel, but it turns out to be just under a year. I borrowed Cryptonomicon from a friend’s mother, because it’s truly not on that I’m a mathematician by training yet haven’t read the most mathematical Stephenson work. I put off reading it for a few weeks, because…

  26. Book cover for Dr. Potter's Medicine Show

    Dr. Potter's Medicine Show

    by Eric Scott Fischl

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    OK, I tried to write this review without spoilers, but I can’t. I have to talk about the fates of certain characters, because the more I think about it the angrier I get. Trigger warning for violence against women used as a plot device. Buckle up.

    Do you want to live forever? I’m not talking to you, Starship Trooper. I’m talking to you, disposable poor person from 1878. Would you like to be a test…

  27. Book cover for Harbinger of the Storm

    Harbinger of the Storm

    by Aliette de Bodard

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    So my review for the first book in this series begins, “It took me forever to read Servant of the Underworld, and I don’t know why. It’s great.”

    That was two years ago.

    Yeah.

    I’ve had Harbinger of the Storm all that time, thanks to my wonderful subscription to Angry Robot Books … I’ve just been very, very, very negligent in actually reading these books! And I don’t know why, because they are great! Aliette…

  28. Book cover for The Story of Cirrus Flux

    The Story of Cirrus Flux

    by Matthew Skelton

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I had to dive into the children’s section of my library to get this one. I haven’t been in there for ages. There were short people around! And all the shelves are much shorter! Still, it was worth it. The Story of Cirrus Flux is an interesting attempt to set a children’s adventure novel in Georgian Britain. Matthew Skelton’s breadth of imagination makes for some entertaining characters and rambunctious action scenes. Nevertheless, the plotting is…

  29. Book cover for Amistad

    Amistad

    by Alexs D. Pate

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Sentences you thought you’d never read: Amistad (the movie) reminds me of Tropic Thunder.

    This seems like as good a time as any other to read Amistad, the novelization of the 1997 Spielberg film now played in high school history classes the world over (including in my Grade 12 history class). With only fuzzy memories of the film, I decided the $2 for this book at the library-affiliated used bookstore was a bargain.…

  30. Book cover for Rose Under Fire

    Rose Under Fire

    by Elizabeth Wein

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    “I am healing. I have scars that show and scars that don’t.”

    The tagline for Rose Under Fire is “I will tell the world”, and it is so appropriate. This book is about many things. It’s about women in World War II; it’s about the beauty and freedom of flying planes; it’s about the lengths to which people go to survive, or to help others survive, and the paradox of our immense capacities for both…

  31. Book cover for Arcadia

    Arcadia

    by Iain Pears

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Every so often, you read a novel that knocks it out of the park. And I’m not talking about the obvious classics, or the much-hyped new releases that also deliver on what they promise. I’m talking about the ones that sneak up on you. Arcadia is one of the best time travel stories I’ve read in a long while—more than that, it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a year already burgeoning with…

  32. Book cover for Fever at Dawn

    Fever at Dawn

    by Péter Gárdos

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I feel really bad, because I received an ARC of Fever at Dawn from House of Anansi in exchange for a review … and then my to-be-read pile of books quite literally swallowed this ARC and two others. In the chaos of real life and having to read other books, I just forgot these were around. I have unearthed them, however, and like precious gems I shall now read and review them diligently. If you…

  33. Book cover for Amriika

    Amriika

    by M.G. Vassanji

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I’m intrigued, because there are only 4 other reviews of Amriika on Goodreads as I write this, yet the book is over 15 years old. What gives? Is this just not one of M.G. Vassanji’s more popular books? Or did everyone read it back before Goodreads and hasn’t gotten around to re-reading/reviewing it now?

    In any event, I’ve really enjoyed some of Vassanji’s other books, but Amriika did not work as well for me. Although…

  34. Book cover for The Japanese Lover

    The Japanese Lover

    by Isabel Allende

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Oh look, an Isabel Allende novel hanging out on the New Books shelf. You treat me so well, library. So, so well. And I tried to love it, but I really only ended up liking it, and even then that might be a stretch. The Japanese Lover is the kind of novel that someone else will definitely love, but that person isn’t me.

    This is a parallel story of two women—Irini Bazili and Alma Belasco—and…

  35. Book cover for The Butcher's Hook

    The Butcher's Hook

    by Janet Ellis

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This novel has quite the body count. Normally I hate hiding ARC reviews behind spoiler-walls, but it’s got to be done in this case….

    I received an ARC of The Butcher’s Hook for free from House of Anansi Press in return for an honest review. And I will be honest: this book squicked me out a bit. I loves me the free books, though, and if you want me to talk about how much your…

  36. Book cover for Carry Me

    Carry Me

    by Peter Behrens

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I’m always fascinated by stories that examine the liminal space and time between the two World Wars. Take The Great Gatsby, for instance: it captures perfectly the weird mixture of fatigue and optimism that followed the Great War. In Carry Me, of course, Peter Behrens has the benefit of hindsight to allow him to trace the rise of Nazi Germany from the ashes of World War I. But he does this through a…

  37. Book cover for Lullabies for Little Criminals

    Lullabies for Little Criminals

    by Heather O'Neill

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Second review: January 26, 2016

    Wow, did I ever write more concise reviews in 2008!

    In that spirit, I don’t have much to add after this second reading. I’m teaching this to my Grade 12 English class of adult Aboriginal learners. We spend a lot of time reading texts by/about Indigenous people and issues, such as Indian Horse. I wanted to expose them to a slice of Canadian identity (Francophone culture) they haven’t encountered…

  38. Book cover for One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

    by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It’s books like One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich that make me glad I don’t do video or podcast reviews, because I cannot pronounce Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s last name. Indeed, as is often the case with books originally written in a language one does not speak, names of people and places would be a huge problem in this review. I don’t know how difficult a translation this was for H.T. Willetts, but I can…

  39. Book cover for The Chef's Apprentice

    The Chef's Apprentice

    by Elle Newmark

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    What do you want in life? Power? Money? Being really, really, really good looking like Derek Zoolander? Or maybe just a roof over your head?

    There are plenty of great stories about orphans and farm boys and farm girls and dragons who grow up to save the world. We call these adventures epic because of their scope. But there are also great stories on a smaller scale. The Chef’s Apprentice aims to be one of…

  40. Book cover for The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

    The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

    by Heather O'Neill

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Normally when I love a book, I inhale it, reading it so quickly that it’s gone before I realize how much I should cherish this unique experience of reading it for the first time. It took me a little longer than normal to read The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, enough that I started to savour it. Each brief, cleverly-named chapter was a small episode in the life of Nouschka Tremblay. And it was…

  41. Book cover for Victory of Eagles

    Victory of Eagles

    by Naomi Novik

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Second review: September 7, 2015

    Not going to write a lot here, because I covered most of it in my review of 4 years ago, below.

    Victory of Eagles is a lot of fun because Temeraire takes it into his head to form his own little dragon corps and even request a rank. That’s cool for many reasons. First, he wrests some acknowledgement of dragon sapience from Government. Second, Temeraire discovers that having rank is…

  42. Book cover for War of the Encyclopaedists

    War of the Encyclopaedists

    by Christopher Robinson and Gavin Kovite

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This is not the type of novel I am meant to enjoy. Even meant as satire, War of the Encyclopaedists just screams “I am the product of an MFA writer.” It flounders in its pretentiousness, then washes up on the rocky shores of “but … but … plot?” before an errant wave knocks it loose and the undertow drags it out to the sea of irrelevance.

    Hey, I can write metaphors too. Graduate degree, please!

  43. Book cover for Gould's Book of Fish

    Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish

    by Richard Flanagan

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Britain had some whack ideas. Remember that time they colonized an entire continent with convicts? That was whack.

    Gould’s Book of Fish is the epistolary adventure of William Gould, a convict imprisoned on Sarah Island. Somewhere along the way he picked up enough painting skills to become an artist, and he starts painting fish for the island’s science-and-status–obsessed Surgeon instead of working on the chain gang.

    I enjoy books (The Luminaries comes to mind)…

  44. Book cover for Fall on Your Knees

    Fall on Your Knees

    by Ann-Marie MacDonald

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Sometimes the best books are the books that are actually more than one story. Fall On Your Knees is a difficult book to summarize, or review, in a way that could do it justice. It is one of those sweeping multi-generational pieces of historical fiction, but at the same time it’s really just a story about four sisters. Against the backdrop of Cape Breton Island and New York City from the turn of the 20th…

  45. Book cover for The Golden Mean

    The Golden Mean

    by Annabel Lyon

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Let me summarize this book for you.

    Aristotle: Join me, Alexander. Feel the power of the Dark Side.

    Alexander: Never!

    Aristotle: Alexander, I AM YOUR FATHER.

    Alexander: No!

    Aristotle: Look within your heart, Alexander, which is actually a heart, and is not merely the shadow of an ideal heart, because how the hell did Plato think that would work anyway? You know it to be true.

    Alexander: Noooooooo!

    Aristotle

  46. Book cover for Razorhurst

    Razorhurst

    by Justine Larbalestier

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I love that truth—in this case, history—is often stranger than fiction. Take Razorhurst. The year 1932, and in a run down section of Sydney, Australia, gangs of men rove the streets, scarring each other with razor blades.

    Cool alternate history, right? Wrong. That’s true facts. Justine Larbalestier might have created some composite characters based on real people from that era, but the setting is real. These razor gangs of Surry Hills were real. That’s…

  47. Book cover for Empire of Ivory

    Empire of Ivory

    by Naomi Novik

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Most of my first review of Empire of Ivory stands, so rather than rehash that, I’ll just comment on where my opinion has changed or things I noticed that I didn’t mention in the first review.

    I’ve mentioned this in previous reviews, but Laurence is just such a delightful character. I think we’ve gotten used to seeing caricatures of women from the turn of the nineteenth century simply based on Jane Austen’s celebrity. It’s refreshing…

  48. Book cover for Servant of the Underworld

    Servant of the Underworld

    by Aliette de Bodard

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It took me forever to read Servant of the Underworld, and I don’t know why. It’s great. Aliette de Bodard has created a mystery set in the Mexica (Aztec) Empire in 1480. As a long-lived emperor under whom the Mexica have prospered lies on his deathbed, Acatl, a priest of the dead, finds himself investigating a murder or abduction where his estranged brother is the prime suspect. And rather than making this a straight-up…

  49. Book cover for Us Conductors

    Us Conductors

    by Sean Michaels

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Us Conductors notably plays fast and loose with its label as historical fiction. Michaels freely admits in his Author’s Note that the Termen he depicts is highly fictionalized—no kung fu or murder is on record, as far as we know—and points the reader in the direction of a more vanilla accounting of Termen’s real life. It seems, sometimes, like authors of historical fiction can’t win. No matter how close one adheres to historical fact, one…

  50. Book cover for The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

    The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

    by Padma Viswanathan

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I read, and greatly enjoyed, The Toss of a Lemon years ago. Now Padma Viswanathan is back, this time with a Giller Prize nomination, again with a book connected to India, but now one firmly grounded in Canada’s history and conflicted mixture of cultural obligations as well. The Ever After of Ashwin Rao is every bit as complex and emotionally sensitive as one might expect from a literary award nominee. While it didn’t quite…