Category Archives: Historical Fiction

A Casualty of War: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries) by Charles Todd

Reviewed by Teri Davis

A Casualty of WarThere are certain authors that you just can’t wait to read their next books. Charles Todd is one of those that many people who enjoy authentic historical fiction feel anxious in waiting for the next book. Personally, I feel that Todd truly seizes your mind immersing you in the World War I battlefield with the nurse, Bess Crawford. There is no male or female preference, just dumping you onto the war torn areas so much that you can smell it.

World War I, was coming to an end and for nurse Bess Crawford returning home is now within her future. While waiting for the transport, she chats with others and happens to meet a memorable soul, Captain Alan Travis, He is a wealthy Englishman from a prestigious family who have made money in Barbados.

Surprisingly, while is still working near the Frontlines, Bess finds again that one her patients as Captain Travis. While he is injured this time, he claims that his cousin, James Travis attempted to kill him. She agrees to investigate only to find nothing about this Lieutenant Travis. She does wonder if his possible concussion confused him and whether the Lieutenant even exists.
A while later, Bess meets Captain Travis for the third time. He again claims that his cousin attempted to kill him. He is badly wounded this time. Whether Bess believes it or not, someone did shoot at him.

Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

Reviewed by Teri Davis

CarolineMany of us have either read, heard, or watched Little House on the Prairie. These stories are told from Laura’s perspective. Did her mother, Caroline see things the same way? For author, Sarah Miller, her hours of research recreates the Little House experience, but from Caroline, not Laura.
Imagine moving in a horse-drawn covered wagon, likely carrying the equivalent of your entire household in a large car or van, along with two young girls, ages four and five, and being pregnant. Also, you probably can only move about fifteen miles a day. Any takers?

Their adventure begins in the Big Woods of Wisconsin during February of 1870 with her husband, Charles eager to sell his land and move his family to the Kansas Indian Territory. The reason for leaving in February is the hope that most of winter is over and opportunity for owning a large amount of land, even if far from their family and friends. The hope is that the sooner they arrive in Kansas territory, the sooner they can build a house, establish themselves in this unknown land and possibly even plant before the following winter.

The Reckoning: A Novel by John Grisham

Another very great story written I would say perfectly by the master himself. Grisham is very good at building stories, often moving back and forward in the time frame of the hero’s life, but never losing the main thread of the story. Perfect dialogue and always enough descriptive plotting to keep the reader alert and anxious for more.

 In The Reckoning the story is about a southern family and is pretty much centered on Pete Banning, the head of that family. Pete is the owner of his family’s cotton farm which has been in his family for many, many years. It all begins with Pete getting up one day and walking down to the family church where he walks in and with one bullet to the chest area kills the family minister.

Pete’s wife, Liza, had been put into a mental institution some time previously and was pretty much non-responsive to anyone or anything around her. So the only people close to Pete to rally for him in his defense were his sister, his children, and his friends. No one however could stand up to the pressure of the state’s judicial system and the feelings of the entire local residents.

 What all happens in the next portion of the book is how Pete is put on trial, convicted, and electrocuted in an electric chair that is set up in the county courthouse! Pete had done the deed for what he believed in his mind was the right thing to do.

The next part of the story actually moves backward and follows Pete’s life before all of this. He had been a very gallant soldier and not only fought hard in the Pacific in World War II but he actually had also been taken prisoner and had ended upmaking it through the famous Bataan Death March. That forced march instituted by the Japanese had killed many U.S. and Filipino soldiers.

However Pete had managed to live through the march.  Later he and another prison managed to escape from the huge prison camp that they were placed in. While hiding in the woods he was rescued by a band of guerillas who were fighting the Japanese from their various hideouts all over the Bataan woods. Pete and his buddy joined the guerillas and were eventually rescued and sent back to the states.

Pete had first been declared a prisoner and then later declared dead by the military so the folks at home had no knowledge of his escapades or that he was even alive until he returned.

 There is so much more of this great book as the Bannings have to fight to try to keep their property from the wife of the slain pastor. It becomes a real part of any Grisham as it gets very involved with the legal system and how it works for and against folks.

But then there is even more as the winding down of the story contains some very important facts that come out from the death lips of one of the Banning family.  And as they always say……And that is the rest of the story!!

Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel by Mark Sullivan

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Beneath a Scarlet SkyThis is a really great read. It is the story of a young Italian boy, Pimo Lella, who while growing up in Italy during the World War II Invasion by the Nazis lives quite a life. And one of the most interesting parts is that Pimo is a real life person and the story is his true story.

There were many Italians who were upset with the Nazi takeover of Italy and most of them fought against that takeover in their own way. The Lella family was one group that did all they could by working as a spy network and even used a radio to transmit information that was hurtful to the German army.

However perhaps their biggest achievement was raising Pimo to be one of Italy’s best spies. He started as a guide when he would help people get out of the country by taking them up into the mountains. There they were helped by a catholic priest, Father Luigi Re, who offered a sanctuary to those fleeing and helped them get into Switzerland, a neutral country. Those journeys are an interesting part of the story.

When he got to the age he was going to have to enlist in the ORG.TODT which was a branch of the German army that Italians served in. Pimo fought hard against it but was convinced by his family that it was the safest thing for him to do and that they had plans for him to help in their spy network.

Shortly after joining and getting out of boot camp he was summoned by a German general who had seen him repair the General’s automobile when the driver couldn’t do it. General Leyers immediately told Pimo that he was to report to headquarters the next morning to become his driver! Pimo’s family was thrilled because they knew with Pimo’s skills and hatred of the Germans he would be an important part of their spy network from a great spot. General Leyers was one of the highest ranking officers of the German army and actually was close to Adolf Hitler

The story than goes on and tells the true story of how Pimo works as a spy while driving the General all over that part of Europe. He is able to get lot of information back to his family about German troop movements and even some of their planned invasions of other areas.

While the war continues Pimo because of his closeness to the General not only meets Mussolini but many other high German officials. And he also meets the love of his life, Anna! Anna works as a maid for Leyer’s Italian girlfriend and Anna and Pimo within a short period of time fall in love.

There is much more to this great story and how this Italian boy who grew into a freedom fighter for the Italians lived his life. It is not all peaches and cream as there are some very sad moments in the book but it is still a great read. To the best of my knowledge Pimo is still alive at 93 and lives in Italy.

War of the Wolf: A Novel (Saxton Tales Book 11) by Bernard Cornwell

Reviewed by Teri Davis

War of the WolfHow could anyone teach about life in the late 900s or early 1000 A.D.? The time of Saxons, Mercians, Danes all battling over land that would become England. Along side the land issue is the decision of religion. Christianity is being followed by most of the inhabitants while the many of the Danes hold on to their beliefs and loyalties to the Norse Gods. Naturally, among each side are inner battles of ambitious rulers fighting and acquiring loyalties for power and possessions.

War of the Wolf is the eleventh book in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon series explaining how England became a single country. All of these books feature Uhtred, who in my mind resembles one of the larger fighting men in Game of Thrones with numerous scars and battle wounds from constant altercations.

War of the Wolf is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, now an older and wiser man. In the first book, I viewed him with distaste as his taste of fighting seemed impulsive. Throughout the series, Uhtred grows more interlining from his experiences and challenges so that now he thinks, plots, and attempts to outwit his enemy. Now, it is easier to see Uhtred as wise and even caring and protective of his friends, allies, and family.

Uhtred now has reestablished his life in his northern family home of Bebbanburg which took many years. He is comfortable in his northern home and would rather be home than fighting. He realizes that even though home, peace is always temporary with the constant threat of the Viking invaders, the wild fighting Scots from the northern lands and the battling for power from the Mercians, now in control of England.

Uhtred is summoned to King Edward in Wessex to decide the next king whether through oldest illegitimate sons, legitimate heirs, or other lesser leaders. Uhtred has no intention of going until he discovers the problems of his son-in-law. The needs and vengeances of the family outweigh the dangers.

In War of the Wolf, Uhtred proves his leadership and acquired wisdom in this battle of kings as well as a new challenger proves a threat to him, his family, and his ancestral homeland. His skills or lack of skills in this new world of diplomacy as well as his strategic fighting abilities demonstrates that peace is never permanent. There is always a new, younger, stronger, and perhaps smarter challenger.

War of the Wolf is thoroughly enthralling as Uhtred enters of a world of constant change.

For a reader unfamiliar with this series, I would strongly recommend to read at least the first book or to watch the television series The Last Kingdom before this particular novel. Being acquainted with the characters, especially the names is extremely helpful as well as understanding the people. Personally, I enjoy how each person matures and their previous life choices affecting their life in this eleventh book.

How could anyone learn of life in the 900s and 1000 A.D. in England. Read the Saxon series by Bernard Cornwell. Bernard Cornwell is a master storyteller with this newest book in the Saxon series, War of the Wolf.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Everyone Brave is ForgivenDoes everyone view the events of World War II the same way? Imagine living in London during 1939, before the Americans entered the War. Naturally, at first everyone believes it will be a short series of battles with the Brits leading the way. Everyone wants to do their part, with many able-bodied men immediately enlisting. The wealthy, or those from the “better” families”, became officers. A few chose to stay working in the city to maintain the continuity of life. The children were evacuated to the country. Some chose to remain. What was life like in Londen then?

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a story for those who search for the genuine experiences of the past. The strong voices of each character discloses the true life of the time period. Whether from Mary North being a single and pretty new teacher and finding her place in the world, or Hilda as Mary’s best friend, Tom is her boss and fiancé, Allistar going off to fight, or Zachary as the black and poor. Each voice explains living through a turbulent time of hardship.

Chris Cleave loosely based this novel on his grandparents. This London resident has won the Somerset Maugham Award in 2006, been on the shortlist for the 2006 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, also on the shortlist for the Costa Award and having his books on the New York Times Bestsellers’ List. He is the author of Incendiary, Little Bee, and Gold.

Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Fools and MortalsAre all mortals foolish? In Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the character Puck is quoted as saying, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

Yes, we have all done innumerable foolish things in our past. William Shakespeare revealed the true nature and foolishness of people of his time period through his keen eyes of observation. Whether death, romance, love, stupidity somehow he was able to develop his characters into real people in his comedies or tragedies. Even though Shakespeare wrote years ago, the time and place is different, but people are still the same. Surprisingly, even though the setting is different from four-hundred years ago.

Bernard Cornwell also wondered about the brilliant author, William Shakespeare. In Fools and Mortals, Cornwell explores the world of theater in London with Shakespeare during the late 1500s. The story is told through the perspective of William’s younger brother, Richard, who is an actor in his brother’s company.

Noir by Christopher Moore

Reviewed by Laurie Weatherlow

NoirFirst things first, I love the cover of this book! Do you ever pick a book because of the cover? I do and I would grab this one in a heart beat. The pin up girl in bright red and the two men in black suits and fedoras screams 1947. The golden gate bridge is also displayed lending a hint to the setting of the story. There is a snake and a green three fingered hand resting on the title that adds a bit of mystery to the overall design. This is cover love at it’s finest.

In the summer of 1947, San Francisco is changing. The war is over and work is hard to come by. Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin is a bartender at a seedy gin joint when one night a dame named Stilton, aka the Cheese, walks in and Sammy falls hard. They spend time together and enjoy some razzmatazz until one night the Cheese goes missing. Sammy sets out to rescue her and save her from the two mugs in black suits. However, what he finds he never expected. With a colorful cast of characters and bountiful twists and turns down dark alley’s, we are off on an adventure.

Chanting the Feminine Down by James C. McCullagh with Roy McCullagh

Reviewed by Chris Phillips

Chanting the Feminine DownOddly enough, when an author subtitles his book it is often more about the author then the book. However, McCullaugh here declares this to be a “Psychological, Religious and Historical Novel,” he is not being disingenuous.

This story is well researched and well documented. It is a tribute to the author’s dedication and abilities in research and correlation of large amounts of data and information. The author provides source references and other interesting information at his website, Chanting the Feminine Down.

Two Journeys Home: A Novel of Eighteenth Century Europe (Derrynane Saga) Book 2 by Kevin O’Connell

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Two Journeys HomeAt a little over six-feet tall, long raven hair, intelligent beyond her years and Irish, all describe the beautiful Eileen O’Connell as she returns to her home in Ireland after spending almost six years in the court of Empress Maria Theresa. Her duties in Austria are as nanny and friend to two of the young princesses, Archduchesses Maria Carolina and Maria Antonia. Part of her task is also to prepare each of them for their royal lives of the future, hopefully queens.

Many years ago, Eileen had been raised in western County Kerry in Ireland. Her family had earned their wealth by investing in illegal commercial maritime trading activities.
After her sixteenth birthday, Eileen’s family had arranged for her to marry a man, over fifty-years her senior. Unsurprisingly, she had hated being his young wife in this arranged situation, but within seven-months of the marriage, she had learned to love and cherish him. His death was a shock to her. The obvious solution for a wealthy young woman of the 1760s in Ireland is to be remarried.