Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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Sail Into Adventure With ‘My First Five Years at Sea’

My First Five Years at Sea

And Other Tall Tales

By John M. Tabor

Fiction/Historical Fiction/Action & Adventure

Via: Author Request

Summary: A country boy from Kansas makes an unexpected U-turn into high adventure on the water.

Shanghaied onto a rum runner in the 1930s, MIT-bound James Tyler sails into history and adventure faster than you can say, “Captain Anne Bonny.” He manages to land on his feet, “moving from one unexpected maritime intrigue to another.”

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How One Woman Discovers Something Bigger Than Herself in ‘The Accidental Suffragist’

The Accidental Suffragist: A Novel

By Galia Gichon

Wyatt-McKenzie Publishing, Inc., 2021

Historical Fiction/Women’s Fiction

Via: Author/publisher review request

Summary: A family tragedy propels a working class wife and mother into the Women’s Suffrage Movement where she finds a part of herself she didn’t know existed.

“Ladies, do you believe in the importance of women voting?”

This is the salient question put forth in The Accidental Tourist. We may take the right to vote for granted now. But that wasn’t the case in the early 1900s, when a few stalwart women worked tirelessly to secure voting rights for themselves, their daughters, and future generations of American women. The Accidental Suffragist is part of that story.

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Why “Finding Dorothy” & The Land of Aahs Are ‘Forever Young’

You know that Good Book Feeling? Where you close the final page of a Really Great Read and sigh? Wish that it’d never end? Or maybe you just go, “aaah”?

Elizabeth Letts’ Finding Dorothy is that kind of book.

Sheer Genius

We turned Finding Dorothy’s last page and sighed. Because this book, like its protagonists, L. Frank Baum and his remarkable wife, Maud, is sheer genius.

Told through the eyes of L. Frank Baum’s indomitable wife, Maud, Finding Dorothy is the story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the beloved book that inspired the movie classic.

Finding Dorothy is also a love story. It traces the intertwined lives of Maud, daughter of a suffragette leader and a “force of nature” in her own right, and Maud’s husband, creative genius and author L. (Lyman) Frank Baum. The two were devoted to each other until the end of their days.

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‘The Red Tent’: The Sisterhood Lives, or ‘Meh’?

The Red Tent

By Anita Diamant

Based on the story of Dinah from Genesis 34, The Red Tent is “historical fiction.” Emphasis on fiction. Indeed, the author takes so many liberties with the original text, “historical” is kind of an afterthought. 

The story is also billed as a “retelling of a biblical story from the perspective of the female characters.”

That’s quite an assumption. It’s also a clue. A big one. As in, if you’re looking for a re-telling that’s faithful to the original account, keep looking. Cuz this isn’t it.

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‘The Red Thread’ Weaves Heartfelt Love Story, Surprises

Historical fiction with a twist.

The Red Thread (Level 4 Press, 2021)

By Rebekah Pace

Historical Fiction/romance/YA

“A red thread connects soulmates, linking them forever so they can always find one another…

The cord may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.”

Kimber here. You know Mom and I read a lot of historical fiction. Think truckloads. We’ve read so much historical fiction lately, we were getting kinda burnt out on it. Especially WWII-ish historical fiction. So when we were asked to read and review The Red Thread, we weren’t exactly turning cartwheels. In fact, we were kind of reluctant to take it on.

This book surprised us. Big time. Here’s why:

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Say ‘Aloha’ to Adventure With ‘The Refuge’

The Refuge (2021)

By John A. Heldt

Series: Time Box (Book 4)

Historical fiction/Time travel/ Romance/Adventure

Hold on to your leis and your Lanes for this fast-moving adventure through time and space!

The fourth book in the Time Box saga, The Refuge is set in 1941 Hawaii. A modern family of seven has transported itself back in time to escape the deadly clutches of a former technocrat and employer Robert Deveraux. He’s also nuts. The Lanes are being chased through time by an assassin hired by Devearaux.

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Redcoat & Rebel: Worthwhile or Red Light?

Kimber, were in a reading rut” Mom says the other day. “We need something new.”

And that’s how we wound up with a bunch of new historical fiction from The Reading Place. We’ll get to two recently read titles in a min. But first, I have a question: Why is so much “historical fiction” set during major conflicts? Ever notice that? Like, there’s enough HF set during WWII to sink a battleship.

So we looked around for a different historical setting. Someone who shall remain nameless recommended a couple new books. The first is Redcoat. The second is The Rebel Killer.

Here’s our take on both:

Redcoat

By Bernard Cornwell

Setting: Philadelphia, 1777

Things aren’t lookin’ good for George Washington and his rag-tag Continental Army. In fact, Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty, has just fallen to the lobster backs.  Families and fortunes are split on both sides of the war. Between loyalists to the British crown and patriots fighting for their independence. Anything could happen. And it does.

Told from both British and American points of view, the story unfolds through the eyes of Sam Gilpin and young Jonathon Becket.

Sam is a British private who joined King George’s army along with his twin brother, Nate. They’re as different – and sometimes as alike – as day and night. And that could get one of them killed.

Jonathon is a patriot from Philadelphia who rides better than he walks. He’s also desperate to free himself and his sister, Marlene, from the clutches of his loyalist uncle. There are also lots of Hessians and Hussars. Sons of Liberty. Brandy. Fog and smoke. “Camp followers.”

As the city settles in for winter, Washington’s army teeters on the verge of collapse. He retreats to a frozen refuge called Valley Forge. As the freezing months wear on, one side dreams of victory and the other of liberty. Meanwhile, Sam dreams of a forbidden love. Who will win, and at what cost?

This is a well-written story with sturdy, three-dimensional characters. The author’s expertise with the subject matter and all things military and strategic is impressive and immense. A fast-paced, action-packed historical fiction novel, Redcoat is also full of surprises. Just about the time you think you know where the story’s headed, the author drops in a U-turn. You better hold tight for the next plot twist. It’ll keep you hopping from start to finish.

There’s a lot of intriguing Revolutionary War history here and a lot of action to keep readers engaged. But Mom found the graphic accounts of savagery and sadism (Hi, Sergeant Scammell) too much to swallow. The needless use of profanity got old pretty fast, too. Hand over the Pepto!

***

OUR RATING: 3.0

 

The Rebel Killer

Jack Lark, Book 7

By Paul Fraser Collard

Setting: Mostly Virginia, 1861-62

Forget the Pepto. Hand us some industrial strength Dramamine. Or Nauzene. Because. Barf.

The main character in this revenge soap opera is Briton Jack Lark. He fights his own internal battle as the U.S. Civil War rages around him. Consumed with hate, this bloodthirsty automaton is “a mercenary; a man with nothing in his heart but a cold, remorseless desire for revenge.” Think Edmond Dantes comes to Virginia. On steroids. Cuz Jack is a “hardened, lonely killer” who’s “better at hating than he was (is) at loving.

Be still my heart. Pardon us, Jacko, but you’re hardly the kinda of fella we want to spend any real time with. Certainly not four hundred+ pages. (At least Martha Joseph was a pleasant reprieve. Coulda used more of that.)

Oh, and Jack is also a consummate fake. He’ll impersonate anyone and do anything to extract revenge on the Confederate major who killed Rose. So Torquemada Jack sets out on an “epic journey” across the Confederacy disguised as a Confederate captain. This after he ran from a prior battlefield disguised as a Union officer. Before that he was a Redcoat. And so on.

The narrative, though crisp, is savage. Dripping with butchery and brutality. It’s enough to gag a camel. Probably worse is the cruelty Jack the Jerk inflicts on animals.

So done with you, bub.

The Rebel Killer is historical fiction that you’ll either really like or really won’t. The title has a double meaning. The author exhibits a masterful command of military history. The story is briskly paced and there’s plenty of action. If you can call killing people every twelve seconds “action.

The U.S. Civil War wasn’t a garden party. Got it. No need to beat us over the head with it. Or continuously drag us around bloody battlefields knee-deep in carnage.

Bottom line: This book isn’t a party, either. If we’d known going in that its mountains of violence and profanity push the outside envelope of “R,” we wouldn’t have bothered. Not our cup of Kool aid.

OUR RATING: 2.0

 


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6 Literary Scene Stealers & Kimber’s New Best Bud

Dontcha just love scene stealers? That person or critter that outshines the rest of the cast, especially unexpectedly? You know. Like me?

“You gonna eat that?”

All modesty aside, Mom and I have been keeping a running tally of literary scene stealers in recently read books.

Some of the books they appear in are great. Some are awful. Not a main character, a scene stealer outshines everyone else, including a bad script.

Here’s a brief list of our top 6 scene stealers from recently read historical non-fiction and fiction fiction (that’s not a typo). A brief synopsis of each book is included:

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‘Acts of Dreams’: Where ‘Impossible’ Doesn’t Get The Last Word

Acts of Dreams (March 2021)

Book 3 of The Inquisition Trilogy

By Martin Elsant

Historical Fiction

How far would you go for freedom? Would you contest a centuries-old law? Throw in with a notorious privateer? Sail across an ocean? Challenge the Queen of England?

These questions and more are at the heart of a fast-moving historical fiction novel by Martin Elsant. There is so much in this story to keep both history lovers and bibliophiles turning pages until the very end.

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7 Skunkers & Clunkers

Ever get a whiff of skunk? You don’t need to get close. One whiff is Plenty. (Don’t ask how I know that.)

Mom and I, we read. A lot. Like, 300+ books a year on average. We know what we like. What we don’t. What works. What stinketh.

We try to approach every book with an open mind. Give it a chance. That being said, it doesn’t take us long to smell out a stinker. (We don’t look for this stuff. It finds us.)

When we can, we pass on our 100% unscientific, totally subjective “olfactory discoveries” to you. No extra charge. Consider it a Public Service Announcement.

So here’s our newest list of literary skunkers and clunkers. Four topped our most recent DNF (Did Not Finish) list. Here’s why:

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