Review: The Darkest Hour Anthology

The Darkest Hour Anthology: WWII Tales of Resistance


Title
: The Darkest Hour Anthology: WWII Tales of Resistance
Authors: Roberta Kagan, Jean Grainger, Marion Kummerow, Ellie Millwood, Alexa Kang, Mary D. Brooks, Deborah Swift, Kathryn Gauci, John R. McKay, Ryan Armstrong
Publication Date: 22nd January 2019
Pages: 710

Thank you to the authors for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was so pleased to be offered the opportunity to review some of the stories in this wonderful anthology. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I am fascinated by WWII historical fiction – and this anthology is extra special in that all proceeds will be donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.

There are 10 novellas featured in this anthology, and I’m reviewing two of them here on Sepia Tinted Window.

 

The Occupation by Deborah Swift

The Occupation tells the story of Céline Huber, who lives through the occupation of Jersey during the war. With a German husband and a Jewish best friend, she finds herself pulled in two directions with dramatic consequences.

Although I’ve never visited Jersey, I felt as though I was there with Céline as I read the beautiful descriptions of the island’s lush landscape. It was heartbreaking to think of such a lovely tourist location being run into the ground by the Nazi forces. On such a small island there would have been no hope of avoiding the soldiers, and Deborah Swift captured the claustrophobic atmosphere so well.

What I really loved about this story was the look at the complexity of war. Céline’s husband decides to fight for Germany, and throughout the story we see her struggle to come to terms with the fact that he is fighting for the same side as the men occupying her island and placing her Jewish friend Rachel in grave danger.

The plot is action-packed, with very high stakes and difficult decisions to be made, and as a result I simply couldn’t put this story down until I reached the end!

 

Catriona’s War by Jean Grainger

From the very first page of this story I fell in love with Catriona, a spunky young woman with an Irish father and French mother who has just graduated from a convent school in Belgium when war breaks out.

Catriona’s father, a well-known Irish journalist, is often required to travel with work – but when he goes missing in France, Catriona begins to realise that there might be more danger to his job than she could possibly imagine, and soon embarks on a dangerous quest of her own.

Throughout this story I never knew who to trust. I found myself guessing all the characters’ motives along with Catriona, and was terrified in case she made a wrong move. Jean Grainger made me care deeply for her protagonist in a very short space of time, and that ending literally had my heart in my mouth!

This was an engrossing story exploring the lengths a brave young woman will go to in her fight for what she believes in.

 

I hope those reviews have given you a bit of an overview of the moving and inspiring stories featured in The Darkest Hour Anthology, which is available to purchase from today!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JMVN3XF

Anthology website: https://thedarkesthouranthology.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

Blackberry and Wild Rose

 


Title:
 Blackberry and Wild Rose
Author: Sonia Velton
Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: 10th January 2019

 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blackberry and Wild Rose is an intriguing debut novel following female protagonists Esther Thorel and Sara Kemp at the heart of Georgian London’s silk weaving industry. The novel opens with Esther, the wife of a well-known Spitalfields silk weaver, rescuing prostitute Sara Kemp from a brothel and employing her as a lady’s maid.

The relationship between lady’s maid and mistress was explored in depth through each of the protagonists’ eyes, focusing on the unique position of the lady’s maid as a bridge between the upstairs and downstairs worlds of an upper class Georgian house. I thoroughly enjoyed reading from the perspective of a servant as well as the mistress, and felt it really gave an extra dimension to the story.

I would have liked to have had more distinction between Esther and Sara’s narrative voices, but on the whole I found Sonia Velton’s writing style to be very clean and easy to read. There was some beautiful descriptive prose, whilst maintaining a good pace to keep me engrossed in the story.

The plot focused in detail on the process of silk weaving and the politics surrounding the industry in the latter half of the 18th century. Although quite heavy on the detail, these portions of the story were always presented in an engaging way that was relevant to the plot, and never felt as though Sonia Velton was reciting from a history textbook.

Although the primary focus was on the two protagonists, there was an element of romance to this novel which I found a little predictable. It could have been developed a little more, but in a way I’m glad it wasn’t as I much preferred the interactions between Esther and Sara, in particular the exploration of duty and loyalty between the two women.

Overall this was a solid debut novel, exploring the hopes and ambitions of two very different women in a period when women were denied a voice of their own. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Esther and Sara’s story, and would definitely recommend Blackberry and Wild Rose if you enjoy historical fiction novels with complex female protagonists.

 

My Top Priority Reads for 2019

Another year of reading is upon us – and already I’m slightly overwhelmed by my rapidly expanding TBR. With so many amazing backlist books to read and exciting new releases every month, I often struggle to prioritise which books I actually want to get to next.

So this year I decided once again to write a post listing my top priority historical fiction reads for the coming year.

Here be Dragons (Welsh Princes, #1)

 

1. Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman

This first novel in Sharon Kay Penman’s Welsh Princes trilogy is recommended for fans of Ken Follett, so naturally it grabbed my interest straight away! Its medieval Welsh setting is also a bonus, as I love learning about my country’s history, so I’m eager to get to it early in 2019.

 

 

Edge of Eternity (The Century Trilogy #3)

 

2. Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

Not going to lie, I had a mini internal panic when I looked on Goodreads and saw how long this book is (1185 pages!!!). But I will find the strength from somewhere to work through this beast of a novel, because I need to find out what will become of all the families in this trilogy as the navigate the latter portion of the 20th century.

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

 

3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This WWII novel is recommended for fans of Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce, which was one of my favourite historical fiction books I read in 2018! There was also a film adaptation of this novel released last year which was highly praised, so I’m keen to read the book before watching it.

 

The Undesirables

 

4. The Undesirables by Chad Thumann

Another WWII novel, this time set in America and Russia. I read the first draft on Wattpad a couple of years ago, and found it both educational and very moving, so I’m excited to read the finished version!

 

 

The Darkest Hour

 

5. The Darkest Hour: An Anthology

Finally, I can’t wait to read this unique WWII anthology which will be released later this month. Featuring 10 tales of resistance from 10 different authors, this anthology promises to provide a variety of perspectives on WWII. It’s also a charitable publication, with proceeds going to the Washington Holocaust Museum.

 

So there we have my top priority historical fiction reads for 2019! Last year I managed to complete all my top priority books by June, but I think I’m being rather more ambitious this year so we’ll have to see how it goes.

Let me know what books you’re excited to read in 2019 by leaving a comment below 🙂

My Top Historical Fiction Reads of 2018

2018 has been my first full year of blogging on Sepia Tinted Window, and throughout the past 12 months I’ve read some incredible historical fiction novels. There’s been a great mixture of new releases and older books, and this post combines all my favourites.

For me, a favourite book is one that leaves a lasting impression – either because it was so hard-hitting, or because it filled me with so much joy. When creating this list, I didn’t want to focus on getting it to a nice round number, but rather on pulling together all the historical fiction novels that made me really feel something this year.

So without further ado, here are the best historical fiction books I read in 2018, listed in the order I read them. Click the cover images to read my full reviews of the books!

Winter of the World (Century Trilogy #2)

 

1. Winter of the World by Ken Follett

The second book in Ken Follett’s incredible Century trilogy, covering World War II from a variety of perspectives. This book gripped me, entertained me and had me in general awe of Ken Follett’s genius.

 

 

Homegoing

 

2. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

A stunning, unique novel following the lives of Ghanaian half-sisters Effia and Essi and their descendants, covering 200 years of African and American history in an eye-opening and heartbreaking way.

 

 

Glass Roses: A Victorian Fairytale

 

3. Glass Roses by Britain Kalai Soderquist

A Victorian retelling of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, told in epistolary form. Yes, it is absolutely as delightful and heartwarming as it sounds!

 

 

 

The Nightingale

 

4. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

I thought I was prepared for how heartbreakingly beautiful this tale of French sisters Vianne and Isabelle in WWII France would be.

I was wrong.

 

Dear Mrs Bird

 

5. Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce

This heartwarming WWII debut novel soared straight onto my all-time-favourites list when I read it back in July. If you’re looking for an authentic London Blitz novel that perfectly captures the essence of 1940s Britain, this is it.

 

 

Pachinko

 

6. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

An informative and engaging historical saga following the lives of a Korean family living in Japan throughout the 20th century. This novel taught me so much about a period in history I previously knew very little about.

 

 

Goodbye for Now

 

7. Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

I read M.J. Hollows’ emotional WWI debut just before Remembrance Day, which was the perfect time for it. M.J. Hollows captured the horrors of life in the trenches so well, along with the profound injustice of all the lives lost.

 

 

The Seven Sisters

 

8. The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

This may be my first Lucinda Riley novel, but I’m confident that I’ve discovered a new favourite author! I adored both storylines in this dual-timeline novel, and I can’t wait to read the other books in this unique series.

 

 

To round off 2018 on my blog, I would like to thank Feedspot for recently including Sepia Tinted Window in their list of Top 35 Historical Fiction Book Blogs, Websites and Newsletters To Follow! It is such an honour to be included amongst so many great historical fiction blogs and sites, which you can check out in their post!

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read any of my posts this year – it makes me so happy to be sharing the historical fiction love! I wish you all a lovely holiday period, and I’ll be back in 2019 with more historical fiction books to share 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best booktubers for historical fiction recommendations

One of my favourite ways to get book recommendations is by watching booktube videos. Although I’m almost certainly going to be sticking to blogging for the time being (the thought of talking to a camera and sticking it on the internet terrifies me!), I’m subscribed to a fair few booktubers, and want to share with you some of the channels giving the best historical fiction book recommendations.

In the interest of keeping this post to a reasonable length, I’m sticking to my top 3 for now – but if you’d like some more recommendations, make sure to let me know in the comments below and I’ll be happy to oblige!

So here, in no particular order, are my current top 3 booktube channels for fabulous historical fiction recommendations:

lucythereader

Lucy is a voracious classics reader, which is what makes her historical fiction reviews so interesting. Like me, she enjoys novels brimming with historical detail – and what I really love is that she compares the modern day author’s take on a historical period to that of an author who was writing at the time.

I love her discussions on how certain scandalous topics covered by historical fiction authors would have been censored in novels of the time, and I always head to her channel when I’m looking for an intelligent, in-depth review.

Books Michelle

Michelle is one of my favourite booktubers to watch at the moment! Her reading taste is pretty diverse, but she has a love of historical fiction and studies history at university.

What I love about Michelle’s reviews is that I can always trust them; she isn’t afraid to be critical of books she didn’t like, which I always appreciate. When Michelle says she enjoyed a historical fiction novel, I know it must be really good, and so it usually goes straight to the top of my TBR!

Hailey in Bookland

Hailey was the first ever booktuber I subscribed to, and her channel is one of my all-time favourites! I adore Hailey’s personality – she’s so hilarious and full of enthusiasm, and I think she would be the perfect bookish friend.

On Hailey’s channel you will find some great WWII book recommendations, which, as you know, is one of my favourite historical periods to read about. As Hailey mostly reads YA there are also a lot of historical YA recommendations, which I really want to read more of.

This post was so much fun to write! I love watching these amazing booktubers’ videos, so I wanted to give more people an opportunity to discover them 🙂

Who are your favourite booktubers to watch? Leave me a comment to let me know – I’m always looking for new channels to subscribe to!

Review: The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

The Seven Sisters

Title: The Seven Sisters
Author: Lucinda Riley
Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: 6th November 2014

 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll begin this review by stating that it’s slightly different from what I normally review here on Sepia Tinted Window, since it’s not 100% historical fiction. What I mean by this is that it’s a dual timeline novel – Maia, the main protagonist, lives in modern-day Geneva, but throughout the book she discovers her family heritage which we experience through the eyes of Izabela Bonifacio in 1920s Brazil.

That being said, The Seven Sisters is certainly 100% historical fiction in terms of the quality of research and ability to bring its setting to life. The story Lucinda Riley constructs around Maia’s heritage is fascinating and highly educational, merging vibrant fictional characters with some of the real events surrounding the construction of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue.

The whimsical premise of this novel (the first in a series of seven) instantly captured my interest. Each book centres around a different one of the D’Apliése sisters, who were adopted by a man affectionately known to them as Pa Salt as he explored different parts of the world. The story begins with the death of Pa Salt, and the subsequent discovery that he has left each sister a clue to their heritage, sparking Maia’s trip to Rio.

Lucinda Riley moves seamlessly between the past and present-day timelines, bringing colour and development to each of her protagonists’ tales. The only thing that really niggled at me was the heavy focus of the narrative on beauty, and the strong correlation between outward beauty and ‘goodness’ of the characters in a way which felt a bit Disney-esque.

I also found both the past and present-day romances pretty predictable, and they didn’t really do anything for me. Luckily there’s plenty more to be enjoyed from the story – I adored the interactions between the adopted sisters, and devoured all the historical detail surrounding the creation of the Christ the Redeemer statue.

Overall this was a light, dreamy read which made for a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. The next book in the series has been added straight to my TBR, and I’m excited to find out which time and place in history Lucinda Riley will take me to next!

Review: Goodbye for Now by M.J. Hollows

Goodbye for Now

Title: Goodbye for Now
Author: M.J. Hollows
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: 12th October 2018

 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This WWI debut novel initially caught my interest because of its Liverpool setting. The city holds a special place in my heart – my Nana’s family grew up there, and one of her uncles was killed in the First World War. I knew, then, that this novel had the potential to leave me an emotional mess – and oh boy, did it deliver on that front!

Goodbye for Now tells the heartbreaking story of the Abbott brothers throughout the First World War, demonstrating the hardships faced both at home in Liverpool and across the Channel in the fields of France. Joe, the eldest, firmly opposes the war and refuses to join the army – instead it is George, not yet old enough to fight, who signs up.

I love reading stories about siblings, especially those with a difficult relationship – and I felt that M.J. Hollows captured the complexity of the brothers’ familial bond so well. With such vastly differing opinions about the war, on the surface they were not close – but running through each brother’s respective narrative was their concern and hope for the other’s safety and well-being, which I found so touching.

Part of me would have liked to hear more about the Abbott sisters, and the effects of the war on their lives, but I appreciate that wasn’t the story M.J. Hollows set out to tell. The entire structure of the novel was set up to follow the paths of the two brothers, and it was executed very well.

The first third of the book did feel a bit slow for me – but once the plot really got going, I found myself completely swept up in the story. Once George reached the trenches in France, I was spellbound – the description of life on the front line was so heartbreakingly realistic that I almost felt as if I was there. A significant amount of research has clearly gone into the writing of this novel, and it is these finer details which make it such a powerful story.

Overall, this was an incredibly moving read, simultaneously enjoyable and harrowing. As we approach the centenary of the end of WWI, this is a timely debut novel from M.J. Hollows, and I really can’t wait to read more by this author.