Readin' and Dreamin'

Lighthouse Bay

Lighthouse Bay - Kimberley Freeman I really loved Kimberley Freeman's Wildflower Hill, so I could not wait to get my hands on Lighthouse Bay when I heard about it. Like Wildflower Hill, Lighthouse Bay is told is dual time lines in two different time periods about two different women. The stories are connected, of course.

There is the story of the present, which is about a woman named Libby who returns home to Lighthouse bay after living in Paris for twenty years. Then, there is the story of the past, which takes place in 1901 and is about a woman named Isabella Winterbourne. Isabella is the lone survivor of a shipwreck and has in her possession a very expensive item.

Both Libby and Isabella are flawed women who have just experienced something that has changed their lives forever. They both battle feelings of the past, and look to make for themselves a brighter future.

Both story lines wrapped up nicely at the end. I admit to speedily reading Isabella's story because it got real tense there at the end.

Highly recommended for Kate Morton fans. Freeman's style is about the same. And if you like this one, then definitely read Wildflower Hill, for I can't say enough positive things about that book.

The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women and Power in Renaissance Italy

The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women and Power in Renaissance Italy - Leonie Frieda There is nothing I like better than reading about empowered women who fought against the restrictions of their time. So, when I heard about The Deadly Sisterhood more than a year ago, I immediately put it on my wish list. And I was thrilled when I was able to read an advance copy.

The Deadly Sisterhood is mainly about eight women from the Italian Renaissance. And while the focus is on these eight women, we do hear about others.

The main point of this book was to see the lasting legacies the women of this time left: whether it was from their own extreme or lesser actions, or through their descendants.

The boldness of these women showed. When the last of the eight women featured here died - Isabella d'Este - with her died an end of an era. An era where women where able to take control, and even manipulate to gain power and status. After the death of Isabella, the world in which she lived changed, and became a place she and her contemporary women would have felt stifled in.

One of the women featured in this book is Caterina Sforza. I had read a fantastic biography about her last year, but was still thrilled that she was included here. I actually learned a bit more about her, not surprisingly considering the depths of this woman’s amazingness could not all be included in one book.

The Deadly Sisterhood is highly recommended to those interested in the Italian Renaissance and women's history. How appropriate that I finish it during Women's History Month.

A Spear of Summer Grass

A Spear of Summer Grass - Deanna Raybourn A delightful story set in 1920s Africa starring a scandalous flapper.

Even from reading the summary beforehand, I still didn't know what to expect when I started reading this. It was a fast read, although I'm not sure if the reason for that was the writing style or the fact that the story just moved quickly. Regardless, I never really felt a lull in the story. While it took a little while for the story to get going, once it did, there was no stopping it.

I admit to not reading a whole lot of historical fiction set in Africa, but that was because the books always looked so stuffy. A Spear of Summer Grass managed to evoke the beauty of a country without gagging me with it.

The characters were fantastic, although I admit to not being able to keep some of them straight. The main character Delilah started out as a frivolous, flighty flapper, but her character growth made for great reading.

A fantastic read set in a rarely visited time and location.

Promises Made Under Fire

Promises Made Under Fire - Charlie Cochrane I'm a sucker for m/m historical romance set during WWI. The problem, though, is that those stories are always heartbreaking, but I'm glad to say, that despite some sadness, Promises Under Fire did have happiness.

It's a novella, so I'm not going to bother with a rundown of what the story was about.

This was a satisfying quick read that delivered. While every novella could be longer, I felt this was just the right length for the story.

O Come All Ye Kinky

O Come All Ye Kinky - Sarah Frantz, Kim Dare, Jane Davitt, Joey W. Hill, Katie Porter, Elyan Smith, L.A. Witt, Ava March, Alexa Snow Only read the Ava March story.

The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart

The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart - Leanna Renee Hieber A really good sequel to Darker Still.

The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart picks up right where Darker Still left off. And due to possible spoilers, I will refrain from saying exactly what that is. I was wondering how the series would continue after Darker Still; I couldn't see what could possibly happen next.

I will say that the beginning of the book was slow going and I was a bit fearful that the whole book would be like this. Thankfully, once the story settled, it took off and I was engrossed. There was just the right amount of supernatural for me, and I was able to follow all of it. And the spooky moments even went up a notch from the last book. Reading this at night was not a good idea.

This installment of the series introduced some new enjoyable characters that I hope to see more of. And based on how the book ended, there will definitely be a third book, and I can't wait.

The Painted Girls: A Novel

The Painted Girls: A Novel - Cathy Marie Buchanan I have been sort of skimming books lately, not really engrossed with any of them. So, The Painted Girls came at the right time. I was completely taken with the story and the voices of the two sisters.

Taking place in Paris in from 1878 to the early 1880s, the book is told from the points-of-view of Antoinette and Marie, sisters. Marie is the subject of Edgar Degas famous statue Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. The story is based in fact of the lives of the sisters, and shows how their lives might have been.

I knew I would love this, because stories set in the Paris ballet scene absolutely fascinate me. The nitty gritty behind beautiful production, and the hard and brutal work that ballerinas put their bodies through make for good dramatic stories. And the writing in The Painted Girls perfectly captures the period and the city.

This was a great historical fiction novel, and books like this is why I read historical fiction novels. Highly recommended.

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World - Matthew Goodman 3.5

Eighty Days was a fascinating account of two women's race around the world, that of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland.

The race was not intended to be a race at all. The idea was to outdo the fictional character Phileas Fogg's eighty day journey around the world, an idea that Bly had been pressing to the World, the paper in which she worked. She was finally given the ok, and preparations had been set. However, The Cosmopolitan caught wind of this and decided to send one of their own, Elisabeth Bisland, to race Bly. Bly set out east, and Bisland set out west.

There's no doubt that Bly's quest was the most reported on. I honestly did not know about Bisland until I came across this book. I knew all about Bly's trip around the world, but was flabbergasted that there was another woman doing the very same thing at the very same time.

The book chronicles both women's trips around the world, the ups and downs, and the unexpected road blocks. It also gives insights to the places and people both women encountered.

Both women completed their journeys, with Bly beating Bisland by a few days. Bly had become a celebrity, while Bisland gained only a little fanfare.

However, one thing they both accomplished was what they did for other women, especially in the field of journalism. More women were hired in the aftermath of the race, and the 'new American woman' was established.

One thing that bogged the book down was the endless detail. The text would sometime veer off into pages and pages about the city either women was visiting. It was nice and all, but it felt like way too much. I skipped much of this, honestly. It seemed as though there was not enough to write about either woman's trip to make a whole book, hence all the unnecessary detail.

Still, this was an informative book, and like me, you can always skip the stuff I did.

His Spanish Bride

His Spanish Bride - Teresa Grant Lovely, lovely.

The Aviator's Wife

The Aviator's Wife - Melanie Benjamin Sometimes it's hard to pick up on good writing when all the characters in a book are infuriating. That was the case here; it could have been a literary masterpiece and I still would not have cared for it.

I didn't care a fig about any of the characters. Charles Lindbergh was controlling and domineering, and Anne was spineless and just went along with whatever her husband said, even when she knew it was wrong. Towards the end, Anne finally found her voice and empowerment, but by then I ceased to care.

I really, really need to care about characters to keep interest in a book, even if the characters are evil, as long as I give a care what happens to them, I will continue reading. Well, I did finish The Aviator's Wife, but I skimmed the second half of the book, just to get it over it, because I frankly did not care what happened to anyone.

I really loved Alice I Have Been, but I just could not get into this one.

Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer - Jennifer Kloester A decent biography about an insufferable person.

I'm not big on Georgette Heyer's books anymore, but I'm always interested in learning about the real lives of authors. Well, Ms. Heyer and I would not have been friends, let's just say that.

The book in itself had problems keeping my attention. Dry biographies that basically just state fact after fact bore me to tears. I can find that stuff out on the internet. I never felt engaged, and often skimmed pages.

The book was highly researched, and it shows, almost too much. There aren't that many Heyer bios out there, so I recommend this if you want the facts of her life. Unfortunately there's not much else I can think of to say.

The Mists of Avalon

The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley Probably 3.5.

Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde

Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde - Franny Moyle Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs. Oscar Wilde is a good account of the life of an often overlooked figure.

I admit, I've been interested in the life and work of Oscar Wilde for years, but have never given a second thought to his wife Constance. Shame on me! I feel like I need to apologize to her. She was a woman ahead of her time: intelligent, progressive, for women's rights, etc. She was also a children's writer.

From reading this biography I learned that Constance was an incredibly real person. She had her flaws, but some of them can be excused for the time she lived in. I also learned just what her husband's trial and eventual imprisonment did to her.

In the book are exerts of unpublished letters that Constance wrote to friends and family. Also included are some fabulous photos that I have never seen before.

Constance Wilde was truly an inspiring woman whose life ended much too soon. She was incredibly eager to learn anything and everything, not to mention wanting to do anything and everything. She understandably wore herself out. And even when her husband went to prison, she still continued to support him, showing just how compassionate she was.

Highly recommended biography. I'm thrilled that Constance's story is finally out there.

Midnight Never Come

Midnight Never Come - Marie Brennan The ending was quite the emotion roller coaster that I wasn't expecting. This was such a unique book, and I really didn't have any expectations when I started it. There were a few times in the book that I thought it might be losing momentum, but it then quickly picked back up.

And I love stories where the villain is redeemed, which is probably why the ending was so emotional for me. I love when a villain has a complex background that made them they way they are, but then find redemption in the end. I didn't think it would happen for Suspiria, but it did. LOVE IT.

Courting Trouble

Courting Trouble - Jenny Schwartz 3.5

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen - Mary Sharratt An absolutely fantastic book about the inspirational Hildegard of Bingen. Although a fiction book, Illuminations is steeped in truth about the real life of Hildegard.

Illuminations imagines how Hildegard's life really was, starting at the age of eight, when she was given to the church as a handmaiden for a young nun named Jutta. For the next thirty years, Hildegard was enclosed with Jutta in two rooms, bricked in, with the only way of communicating with the outside world being through a screen.

Expected to spend the rest of her life in submission to the church, Hildegard finally breaks free once Jutta dies. Using her own resilience and sharpness of mind, Hildegard strives for a life of freedom for herself and her fellow nuns. There were trying times to get there, and a few times she almost gave up, but she eventually prevailed.

Illuminations was fabulously written. The story flowed very fast, and I found myself reading large chunks of the story without realizing how much time had gone by. I was completely enthralled with the story of this amazing woman who defied the odds in the 12th century. I was also amazed with how her spirit didn't break once while she was cut off from civilization for thirty years. Her thirst for freedom kept her sane, despite the eventual madness of the woman she was enclosed with.

I highly recommend this book. It's not a long book, but I got so much out of it. It's sparked my desire to read more about this amazing woman.