April was another busy month for Historical Fiction reviews for the challenge with 25 reviews being submitted.
Whenever I sit down to write these round-up posts, I am not necessarily sure of which aspect I am going to focus on. Over the last couple of months I have concentrated on historical fiction for kids, the books which were reviewed multiple times and some older books that were reviewed.
This month though, I decided to go in a slightly different direction but I will just touch on a couple of other books first. Many of the books that I have featured over the last few months continue to have a strong presence in the review list. The book that was reviewed most during April was The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay with three reviews with The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth being reviewed twice (yet more glowing reviews to go with the ones that were featured last month).
When I looked at the list of reviews for this month it stood out to me that there were a number of books that were published by small presses or, in one case, self published and it is these books that I thought I would spotlight – the books that aren’t published by the big named publishers and so therefore may not get the same degree of attention.
The first of these is Lily’s Leap by Tea Cooper which was published by Lyrical Press and was reviewed by Brenda this month. Part of the attraction for Brenda was that the story was set in her area, but even without that added incentive for the rest of us it sounds like a rollicking good ride – a strong romantic thread, bushrangers, adventure and a spirited main character. Brenda says:
The history aspect of this book was very enjoyable, and so much of it was familiar. I enjoyed Lily’s strong character, and her determination and fighting spirit, plus her love of Nero. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a romantic historical fiction novel.
The second book to be featured is by Western Australian author Michelle Diener who grew up in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. In Daughter of the Sky, the story Diener tells is of the outbreak of the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, featuring a young woman who has been adopted by a Zulu tribe and finds herself spying for them in the British camp. In my review I said:
With the constantly changing world of digital publishing it is exciting to see small publishers taking chances to publish unusual stories, or when authors can publish the books of their heart themselves. Michelle Diener grew up in the area where the battles portrayed in this book took place, and you can tell that this is history that has come alive to her!
The challenge for readers is to find those small press or self published gems among some not so gem-like books. If you like strong historical fiction with romantic themes and an unusual setting, this could be the book for you. I truly enjoyed it!
Author Narrelle Harris reviewed Cyanide and Poppies by Carolyn Morwood which was published by Pulp Fiction Press. Cyanide and Poppies is a mystery that is set in Melbourne in the early 1920s and is the second book to feature Sister Eleanor Jones. In her review, Narrelle says:
The book is elegantly written, with well-crafted characters and a wonderful capacity to evoke the Melbourne of the era. It’s always a pleasure to recognise parts of my town in a book, and even moreso to get a feel for those places in other times and atmospheres.
Cyanide and Poppies has a slow build to a satisfying finale that cracks open light and air on lives as well as mysteries, and that’s a pretty fine thing.
Paula Grunseit contributed a review to The Newtown Review of Books of The Hanging of Minnie Thwaites by Judith Rodriguez which was published by Arcade Publications. Using a combination of ” traditional ballad form, lyrics and narrative non-fiction” the reader is introduced to Minnie Thwaites, also known as the Brunswick Baby Farmer, a young woman in 1890s Melbourne who is convicted of murdering two children.
This might look like a little book, but don’t be deceived by its size, as it packs quite a punch. In The Hanging of Minnie Thwaites, Rodriguez has successfully captured an important time in Australia’s history. While it’s not a cheerful read, there are moments of wicked humour in the verse, and I was completely drawn into Minnie’s world and felt very emotionally invested in her story. It’s a book for anyone interested in true crime, Australian history and women’s history.
The final book I wanted to spotlight this month is A Rose in No-Man’s Land by Margaret Tanner, published by The Wild Rose Press and reviewed by Louise on Goodreads. The book features a young woman who becomes a nurse during the Great War and her relationship with an English soldier. I do love a strong historical setting with a good romantic thread, especially when that setting is WWI or WWII! In her review, Louise says:
Margaret has truly captured the essence of the suffering and futility of World War 1 in an unexpected fashion, via a romance. Her diverse and imaginative scene-setting and her well-crafted and fast-paced story line kept my interest engaged throughout the book.
I look forward to seeing the wide range of historical fiction books that are reviewed during the month of May and to sharing a selection of them next month.
Marg has long been an avid reader of all genres but especially historical fiction. She has very strong memories of reading through the entire collection of Jean Plaidy novels in the school library and still loves to read about all different eras and locations. Marg has been blogging about all different genres and other things at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for more than 7 years, and was a founding member of Historical Tapestry, a group blog that has been focusing only on Historical Fiction for more than 5 years. You can tweet to her either @margreads or @historytapestry.