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historical fiction

book review, recipe

The Island of Sea Women + Candied Sweet Potatoes

I recently joined a group of women in my town who were interested in starting a book club. With my other local book club disbanded (due to most of the members moving away), I was excited to have the opportunity to join another, and to be one of the founding members! The woman who brought us all together, Alissa, chose our first book, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See.

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

My Meetup-based book club really enjoyed Lisa See’s previous novel The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane when we read it last year, so I was looking forward to this one as well! Unfortunately, most of us didn’t finish it in time for the discussion (including me), but I made sure to finish it up afterward. I thought the story was very intriguing. 

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book review, recipe

The Woman in the White Kimono + Miso Soup

Ana Johns’ debut novel The Woman in the White Kimono is historical fiction inspired by true stories. It spans decades and continents, taking place in post-WWII Japan and the modern-day United States. I was intrigued by the description and excited to participate in this blog tour.

The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

In the late 1950s in Japan, Naoko has been promised to the son of her father’s business associate but she is in love with another—an American sailor. Though she attempts to get their approval of their relationship, Naoko knows it would bring shame on the family if she decided to marry him. Still, she can’t help but follow her heart. Will the consequences of her decision be something she can live with?

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book review, recipe

The Great Alone + Eskimo Ice Cream (Akutaq)

Many of you may know Kristin Hannah through her WWII historical fiction novel, The Nightingale, which was a huge hit when it was released a few years ago. It was the first of her novels that I’d read, despite her deep catalog. I found her storytelling to be powerful yet heart-wrenching, and though I loved it, I wasn’t exactly rushing to read another book that would wreck me. Yet, here I am.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

In 1974, Ernt Allbright is adrift. After returning home from Vietnam, where he was a POW, he has become increasingly volatile and can’t hold down a job. He decides to pack up his small family — his wife Cora, and their teenage daughter Leni — and explore the wild frontier; they will become homesteaders in Alaska. Leni finds herself in a one-room schoolhouse with only one other person her age, a boy named Matthew.

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book review, recipe

Marilla of Green Gables + Raspberry Cordial

Like many girls, I grew up with Anne Shirley. I adored her big imagination and found it amusing to watch her get into and out of trouble. Just as important to the story are Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, the brother-sister duo who give Anne a home at Green Gables. In her latest novel, Marilla of Green Gables, Sarah McCoy explores what life was like for the Cuthberts before Anne arrived.

Marilla of Green Gables

The young Marilla — idealistic and eager to please — reminded me a lot of precocious Anne, which is not what I expected. Still, we’re all young once, and I thought Saray McCoy did a wonderful job showing Marilla’s transformation from a clever, spirited teenager to the woman we came to know in L.M. Montgomery’s novels. Though for some reason the story felt more modern to me, I thought she captured Avonlea beautifully; I found myself wishing I were there yet again.

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book review, recipe

Where the Crawdads Sing + Shrimp and Pimiento-Cheese Grits

When Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing was selected for Reese Withersoon’s book club, it became an instant must-read. Equal parts coming-of-age story, mystery, legal drama and love story, I can see why! I came by it through my first HealthTea Book Crate, in which I received a signed copy, and I was excited that it was selected as one of my recent book club reads.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Kya Clark lives in Barkley Cove, North Carolina, and has watched her family leave her one-by-one, until — at the age of 10 — she is left quite alone. As she grows up, Kya chooses to stay close to home, preferring to get her supplies from a small store on the docks, where she can also fill up her boat with gas, rather than venturing into town. This fierce independence earns her the nickname Marsh Girl.

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book review, recipe

The Alice Network + Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Crostini

Whereas years past have seemed to be filled with WWII-centric historical fiction, I don’t think I’ve read a single book about it this year — until The Alice Network. Kate Quinn’s novel was a recent book club selection, and I was excited about it because I also happened to have a newly-purchased used copy at home. Unfortunately, I waited too long to start the 500-page monster and was still 100 pages short when it came time for our book club meeting. Still, despite some spoilers during our discussion, I couldn’t wait to finish the story. (Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here!)

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network follows two storylines — one during WWI (the mid- to late-1910s) and the other just after WWII ends. Both feature uncertain women who find themselves, their strength and their courage over the course of the story. Eve Gardiner is a stuttering typist when she’s recruited to become a spy, part of the so-called “Alice Network,” and go undercover as a waitress in German-occupied France. Charlotte St. Clair, more often called Charlie, is an American who travels to Europe after WWII to take care of a “problem” and find her missing cousin.

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book review, recipe

The Clockmaker’s Daughter + Fish and Chips

I have never read a Kate Morton novel, but I have heard amazing things — and a lot of buzz about her latest novel, The Clockmaker’s Daughter. So, I was naturally quite excited when I was granted my NetGalley request to read it early. It’s the story of an English love affair and a mysterious murder that begins in the 1860s and ripples into the present.

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

It all starts when Elodie, a modern archivist, stumbles upon a satchel with a notebook and old photograph inside. Elodie diligently researches their past, whisking us across time as the story develops. Chapters are told from multiple points-of-view, and it’s not always immediately clear at the outset whose we’re seeing or where we are in time and place. It’s a method that works well, getting us to the end without giving all the twists and turns away beforehand.

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book review, recipe

Homegoing + African Yam and Peanut Soup

My book club recently selected Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, a book that was selected in one of my other book clubs last year. It’s a book that’s gotten a lot of attention and praise since its release, and though it has an appealing premise, I’ve not felt compelled to read it — until now. I didn’t read it last time, but I knew I couldn’t neglect it again. I dove right in and didn’t look back.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Gyasi’s sweeping novel is about two half-sisters separated at birth and their descendants. Effia and Esi are born in different villages in eighteenth century Ghana. They share the same mother but have different fathers and very different upbringings. Effia marries an Englishman and lives her life in a castle on the African country’s coast. Esi, however, is sold into slavery, passing through the castle’s dungeons on her way to America. Each chapter following their own focuses on an immediate descendent for generation after generation.

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book review, recipe

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane + Scallion Pancakes

Lisa See’s historical fiction novel The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is a family saga that begins in a remote mountain village in China in the late 1980s. Life there revolves around tradition and tea farming, until a stranger arrives, bringing a glimpse into the modern world — and a proposal that will transform all of their lives.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Book Cover

Interspersed with Li-Yan’s story, as she struggles against the traditions of her village and family but fully embraces the rituals and importance of tea in their culture, is the story of a young girl growing up in Los Angeles, searching for a key to her past. The story is full of heart, and the plot full of coincidence. Some of the village’s traditions were a bit hard to stomach, but I think Li-Yan’s personal rebellion against them made her more relatable, at least to me.

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