Posts tagged ‘historical fiction’

February 10th, 2011

A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor by Robert G. Pielke

by Gwen

A New Birth of Freedom The Visitor

A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor by Robert G. Pielke

  • Civil War – Check
  • Abraham Lincoln – Check
  • Robert E. Lee – Check
  • Dire Consequences – Check
  • Man from the Future Asking for Help- What?! – Check

Now this is Historical Sci-Fi that I can get excited about and I usually hate anything Sci-Fi related.

In 1849, Abraham Lincoln has a strange encounter on a train. A man, Edwin Blair, says that he needs his help. The catch is that he doesn’t need his help now; he needs it in 14 years, but he will give him the retainer now.

Fast forward to 1863, the Civil War is raging and Edwin Blair is granted an audience by then President Lincoln. Edwin Blair isn’t selling anything, but what he has to get them to buy is hard to swallow. You see, he is a 19th century history teacher from the future, 2203 to be exact, and he needs both the armies of the North and the South to join together in order to ward off some “pests” that are going to endanger America in the future.

Blair has to walk a razor thin line between telling them enough to believe him and do what he needs them to do or tell them too much and blow their minds to the point that they won’t take action and lock him in the booby hatch as a crazy person.

Once he convinces Lincoln and his cabinet, his struggle isn’t over. He has to then go convince Robert E. Lee and the great army of the South to join he and the North in a united cause. It isn’t easy and the clock is ticking. The pests are coming on July 3rd and he needs everyone to be ready to defeat them.

What I loved about A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor is that even though the sci-fi aspect is hugely important to the story, it really takes a backseat in the action. It isn’t like Edwin Blair blasts onto the scene in a funny Star Wars getup and yells, “I am from the future and aliens are coming to attack!” The aliens aren’t even called aliens, they are pests and Edwin Blair uses his knowledge and love of 19th century history to prove his point, not cool gadgets and tools from the future. Well, he does use a few of those, but he does it sparingly.

He convinces these important men to stand together by being able to tell them things that he shouldn’t and wouldn’t know if he was just a man off of the street from 1863. By showing Lincoln a message that he had written, but at that time, hadn’t even sent yet. (He got these from the National Archives of the future just like we could)

The Visitor’s strength also lies in the dialogue. When Lincoln talks, it sounds like what I think Lincoln would say. When Robert E. Lee interacts with Blair, it feels real, not like total poppycock. Pielke has taken a pivotal point in our American history and created another outcome that I couldn’t have imagined pulling off. Even better, he does it well.

My one gripe- this is a trilogy so the ending is a cliffhanger. That was intentional and I understand that. The thing is, I am not really a fan of cliffhangers, especially when I can’t go and buy the next book right away. I want the next one, now!

A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor by Robert G. Pielke

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Altered Dimensions (August 15, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 1936021234
  • ISBN-13: 978-1936021239

    I received a PDF copy of this book from Tribute Books, but that fact didn’t influence my review above.

  • June 14th, 2010

    A Ranting of the Reviews of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

    by Gwen

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    I have been steaming about this for almost a week. Should I post about this or not post about this? Then I figured that if it was still brewing in my head, I should do it. Here goes…

    Loving Frank, I liked it. I love everything Frank Lloyd Wright, so that was sort of a foregone conclusion. My rant isn’t about that, but I want to make sure that you know that I liked the book. Nancy Horan brought to life a woman that is largely forgotten in history, Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Over time, she became a footnote in the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, his mistress that died. Seldom is she even mentioned by name. Horan gives her a name and a depth that no one has before.

    Read the book if you want, but my rant is with many of the reviews that I found online.

    FIRST ISSUE-I don’t know about you, but when I am going to read a book that is either nonfiction or historical fiction, I tend to know a bit about the period or event that it covers. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t really have been interested in reading the book in the first place.

    The thing that shocked me about some online reviews is that people were mad that previous reviewers talked about the ending of Loving Frank. They ranted about spoilers. Um, this part of the story isn’t fiction, it is fact. Telling the ending of this book wasn’t a spoiler. I bet these same people would read a book about the history of WWII and be pissed about reviews that revealed that we won.

    SECOND ISSUE-One of the things that struck me about the book is how, in many ways, the style of journalism has changed. Today’s paparazzi have nothing on the yellow journalists of the early 1900’s. They hounded, judged, & wrote outright lies about FLW and Mamah Borthwick in order to sell papers, often creating insane headlines. You may not realize how much things have changed, but they have.

    While I noted this change, current day readers/reviewers and their judgments haven’t. I was absolutely floored when I read many reviews that stated that Mamah got what she deserved. Funny that she supposedly got what she deserved, but FLW is still celebrated today and lived to a ripe old age of 91. What was his comeuppance, assuming that these people feel that she got what she deserved? Why the double standard and what right do you have to judge?

    MY TAKE AND WISHES- I do a bit of research on a book before I choose to read it. Whether it is looking into the author or subject matter, it makes my reading experience a lot more fulfilling. I would encourage others to do so.

    Lastly, this one may be too much to ask, but you will never get anything if you don’t try. Stop the judging of women and the choices that they make in their lives. First of all, we are not in their shoes and don’t have the same life experiences they do. Second, there is a big difference between judging and disagreeing with a person’s choices. One is constructive, the other is destructive.

    {This is me, getting off of my soapbox}


    If you like historical fiction that is much more fact than fiction or appreciate the genius that was Frank Lloyd Wright, read this. Just don’t read the reviews on Amazon.


    April 16th, 2010

    31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan – Review

    by Gwen

    Cover Image

    Who killed Dr. Harvey Burdell?
    Though there are no witnesses and no clues, fingers point to Emma Cunningham, the refined, pale-skinned widow who managed Burdell’s house and his servants. Rumored to be a black-hearted gold digger with designs on the doctor’s name and fortune, Emma is immediately put under house arrest during a murder investigation. A swift conviction is sure to catapult flamboyant district attorney Abraham Oakey Hall into the mayor’s seat. But one formidable obstacle stands in his way: the defense attorney Henry Clinton. Committed to justice and the law, Clinton will aid the vulnerable widow in her desperate fight to save herself from the gallows.
    Set in 1857 New York, this gripping mystery is also a richly detailed excavation of a lost age. Horan vividly re-creates a tumultuous era characterized by a sensationalist press, aggressive new wealth, a booming real-estate market, corruption, racial conflict, economic inequality between men and women, and the erosion of the old codes of behavior. A tale of murder, sex, greed, and politics, this spellbinding narrative transports readers to a time that eerily echoes our own.

    I LOVED this! The era and the setting made it such an escape and it was amazing to think of how trials were conducted at the time. You think that they are a media circus now, you should see how it was done in 1857.

    The defense attorney, Henry Clinton, and his wife were people that I would like to have as friends. They were thoughtful, never quick to judge and the romance and respect between them was uplifting.

    It was one of those mysteries that you change your suspect with every chapter. Your minds changes as the story evolves and your judgment of the characters changes with every page. I really enjoyed that aspect of it.

    Set in a New York that you can only dream of having lived in, 31 Bond Street made me grateful that I live now. Women were nothing unless they were married or trying to get married. We were defined by our husbands, not our own minds. Just how does a woman stand up for herself in a time where she couldn’t vote, couldn’t own property unless she was a widow, couldn’t really do much of anything except for trim roses and pop out kids?

    You will have to read it to find out.

    31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (March 30, 2010)
  • ISBN-10: 0061773964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061773969
  • Special thanks to Harper Collins for sending this to me!

    March 29th, 2010

    The Detective and Mr. Dickens by William J. Palmer Review

    by Gwen

    Detective and Mr. Dickens

    “In Victorian London, Charles Dickens and his protégé, author Wilkie Collins, make the acquaintance of the shrewdest mind either would ever encounter: Inspector William Field of the newly formed Metropolitan Protectives. A gentleman’s brutal murder brings the three men together in an extraordinary investigation that leads Dickens to the beautiful young actress Ellen Ternan, who would become the love of his life but who now stands accused of murder”

    Reminding me of Sherlock Holmes, this was written in the form of a journal of sorts by Dickens’ sidekick, Wilkie Collins. I love how it mixed fact, fiction, and a murder mystery all in one delightful story that was a gentle reminder of the horror that was 1850’s London.

    Dickens meets Inspector Field at a ghoulish hanging and is immediately drawn to learning more about what it means to be a detective. Eventually the right case for him to tag along on comes and Dickens and companion, Wilkie find themselves exposed to all sorts of things that gentleman are not usually. Read: Brothels, Victorian pornography, prostitution and in general the lowest class of the slums of London.

    If you are a fan of Dickens or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this is a very pleasing read. My only complaint is that the copy I read was done in really small type. I don’t wear glasses, but this was tiny even for me!

    The Detective and Mr. Dickens by William J. Palmer

    Publisher: Fawcett; First Thus edition (September 23, 1992)

    ISBN-10: 0345374711

    ISBN-13: 978-0345374714

    March 16th, 2010

    Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher

    by Gwen

    Walking to Gatlinburg

    Walking to Gatlinburg by Frank Mosher

    Picture The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Huck Finn getting together and giving birth to a book set during the Civil War. You know that you are curious now.

    Mosher serves up 17 year old, Morgan Kinneson on the odyssey of his life in Walking to Gatlinburg. Morgan loses his ‘passenger’ as the last conductor before Canada on the Underground Railroad and then begins an odyssey to find not only his MIA brother, but to decipher a rune given to him by the murdered slave. The trip starts out in Vermont and ends months later in Tennessee, hence the Gatlinburg in the title.

    This book was downright crazy pants! I had a hard time getting into it at first because of the backwoods language. Just when I started to get into it, Morgan met up with a talking tortoise. Yes, a talking tortoise. Okay, so he was sick with fever, but really? Honestly, I thought of putting the book down right there, but I hung in there.

    Morgan meets a great cast of interesting characters on his quest to finding his brother, Pilgrim. There were times that it got sort of predictable though. He walks for a while, meets someone weird that points him in a new direction, walks for a while, and so on. He learns something about himself and the world around him with each new escapade.

    There is a lot going on in Walking to Gatlinburg and in some ways that really makes it hard to review. I think that for me, the strongest part of the book was the setting. Mosher did an outstanding job of painting the Civil War period as the world gone mad. Soldiers were going off for a big adventure, yet coming back haunted and missing limbs. No one fighting really knew understood what they were fighting for. People were chattel and while people were so willing to cheer for the Emancipation Proclamation, they really had little intention to making room in their lives for this influx of newly freed slaves.


    It’s 1864, and seventeen-year-old Morgan Kinneson is helping a runaway slave named Jesse to freedom in Canada. But the chance to kill a moose that would feed his family for months lures Morgan away, and on his return he finds that Jesse has been murdered.

    Desperate and guilt-ridden, Morgan decides to travel south from northern Vermont through war-torn America to the Great Smoky Mountains, searching for his older brother Pilgrim, who is now missing from the Union Army. Morgan’s determination to locate the brother he idolizes and reclaim what little family and honor he feels he has left is a dangerous gambit, at best.

    When Morgan learns that Jesse’s killers are on his tail, and that he unknowingly possesses something of dear value, his trek to Gatlinburg becomes a journey of intense survival.

    I am left with this suggestion, do not trust the synopsis blurb above. It is about the most misleading one I have ever come across. Pick Walking to Gatlinburg up and turn the pages with an open mind. Let it take you on an adventure and take from it what you will.

    Walking to Gatlinburg by Frank Mosher

    • Hardcover: 352 pages


    • Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books (March 2, 2010)



    • ISBN-10: 0307450678



    • ISBN-13: 978-0307450678Thanks goes to Read It Forward for the copy they sent me.