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HistoricalFiction

Lord of Formosa by Joyce Bergvelt

A limp start, but pretty strong finish for this exiting book about the Ming loyalist, pirate, and military commander, who was responsible for pushing the Dutch out of Formosa.

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How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

Another tale of sexual slavery, 'comfort women', in Singapore during World War 2. This story is told from the future, looking back in the past. The focus of this story is how the experience devastated the women for the rest of their lives. After their terrible ordeal, they had another one to enduring – being were shunned and ostracized, by family and friends.

The story follows one of these comfort women, Wang Di, as she is reaching the end of her life. She has never told anybody what happened to her during the war, not even her own husband. Now that her husband has passed away, she feels regret for not telling him. Another part of the story is picked up by a young boy, Kevin. His grandma had something that happened to her during the war too, but he doesn't discover it until he discovers old letters. Between the present stories of Wang Di, and Kevin, we get flashbacks of what happened to Wang Di in the 1940s. The stories all converge at the end due to a discovery, and subsequent investigation, by Kevin after his own grandma dies.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked how the stories were woven together, and there was a glimmer of happiness at the end of the story. These women have had such a tough life: first being abused by the Japanese soldiers, then by their families, and even governments didn't want to know anything about it. I like how Wang Di takes control of her story by telling it. By telling her story, she unburdens herself a little bit, and hopefully teaches those who are listening about this terrible time, so that it may never be repeated.

I always get angry when reading books about 'comfort women'. Everyone knows about the Holocaust and what Germany did during the war, but it seems that Japan made it through the war with minimal damage to its reputation. I guess America felt pity for them after dropping two nuclear bombs on them? Many people who don't live in Asia know precious little about the horrors the Japanese Imperial army inflicted on people in Taiwan, China, Korea, Manchuguo, Malaya, and Singapore. To remember these stories, is to honor their memories.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #43 in my My 2020 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #ComfortWomen #JingJingLee #HistoricalFiction #WomensPrize2020 #Fiction

The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar

A magical journey of one family through the turbulent times in Iran right after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. I've read lots of history, and historical fiction from Iran, and they had such a rich culture of poetry, music, and writing. It has been through a lot with outside forces coming in and imposing their will on the people.

This book was incredible but you really have to let go and let it take you. There are mermaids, ghosts, and other magical occurrences that don't 'make sense' but they actually do. This was a beautiful book about life, death, politics, and history if you have the patience for magical realism in your stories.

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Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman

I don't read comic books anymore (not since I was a teenager) but I do like Neil Gaiman and history so this graphic novel was a good fit for me. The story was interesting. I could see at points where Gaiman was trying to tie things into the Marvel universe. I recognized most characters but will admit that I didn't recognize them all. I read many reviews of this graphic novel, and I have the same gripe as most others do – where the heck is Wolverine? He could've been the perfect character to replace Rojhaz with. Oh well, it was still a fun ride. I will look up the characters I didn't know and re-read again some day. A solid graphic novel, especially for fans of Gaiman and history.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #98 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #GraphicNovel #BookReview #HistoricalFiction #NeilGaiman #Marvel #superheroes

Feast of the Innocents by Evelio Rosero

A doctor who's in a terrible marriage, living in Pasto, is trying to yeah people the truth about the venerated Simon Bolivar on a holiday called Feast of the Innocents in Columbia.

It has a super strange setup for this kind of book in my opinion. I did learn more about Bolivar and the terrible things he did in Pasto, but did I enjoy this book? It was OK. I didn't hate it but the ending was unsatisfying. The book just fizzled out at the end, there wasn't a strong ending.

There are lots of interesting interesting elements in the book:

  • Doctor's very weird relationship to his wife
  • Doctor writing a history book about Bolivar
  • Professor in town also shares unconventional views of Bolivar
  • Marxist group trying to stop professor and the doctor
  • Retelling of stories about Bolivar from survivors

I really wanted to like this book but it didn't come together for me despite all those interesting elements. I wouldn't recommend it to anybody unless they are specifically interested in Columbian history and/or Simon Bolivar.

Rating: ★★ Book #82 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #HistoricalFiction #Columbia #EvelioRosero

To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

In 1885, Alaska is still the Wild West and hasn't been tamed. A soldier is tasked with traversing the Wolverine River with a small band of men bu he has to leave behind his wife as he undertakes this difficult journey. We are told this story through journal entries from the soldier and his wife. We also get some news clippings, pictures, sketches, and even poetry from another member of the mission.

There are difficulties and mysterious happenings along the way to do with the Native Americans who live in the river. The men have to navigate these relationships as well as the wild Wolverine River.

This was an exciting adventure story. You have to give it a a few chapters to draw you in though. I would say this is an example of great historical fiction – I am drawn into a story while also learning about the historical context of the men and women at this time.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #64 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #EowynIvey #HistoricalFiction #Alaska

The Good People by Hannah Kent

This is the sort of historical fiction that I enjoy. It's well researched enough that you are learning a lot about the time-period but the story is also compelling enough that you want to keep reading; you don't always get both of these in every historical fiction.

The setting is 1825, Ireland. The story is primarily about Nance Roche, who is a herb woman, and about Irish folk beliefs, more specifically, fairies. The way of life in Ireland at this time is well detailed and the details of 19th century village life really draw you into the story. Kent uses lots of Irish phrases which you can look up to learn more about them but I'm not sure I'll be able to ever pronounce them properly!

At the heart of the story, this is a story about superstitions but sometimes superstition is so rooted in everyday life, it is hard to see it as such. Superstition in this story gives a poor widow, Nora, hope that her child can be changed back to normal with the knowledge of The Good People (fairies) that Nance possesses.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #61 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #HistoricalFiction #HannahKent #Ireland #fairies #BookReview

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Lisa See writes about what she knows and wants to learn more about. She's has a Chinese American background and most of her books explore themes of being a Chinese immigrant. Her books usually have a woman as the protagonist who has to deal with a difficult tradition of their culture.

This book is no different. It has all the ingredients that Lisa See is known for and make for an enjoyable read:

  • historical setting in China
  • tea culture (growing tea, processing tea)
  • Chinese culture (Ahka hill tribe people marriage culture)
  • Chinese American kid looking for their roots

It was a good read. It brought me sorrow, pain, happiness, and taught me a lot about Pu'er tea and the whole system of tea cultivation from growing, picking, selling, and even drinking.

Ms. See's books are always very well researched and it shows in her books. I appreciate that in her acknowledgments she's very specific with things she researched, or people that helped her and how these elements shaped the story. It gives you insight into how she develops her stories.

Other books I enjoyed from Lisa See were: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and China Dolls.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #57 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge #BookReview #LisaSee #tea #HistoricalFiction

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is another intense, heart-wrenching historical fiction book a war in Africa. I seem to be reading a lot of these books lately. I guess I just need a good cry. Half of a Yellow Sun is about before and during the 1967-1970 Biafra-Nigerian Civil war. It's one of those wars we have never heard about in the Western world because as it's mentioned in the book, 100 black men dying are not as important as 1 one white man.

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I thought I was getting into a sci-fi short story about the ability to look back into time, I didn't realize the story was actually about who owns history – historians, or the people who were affected by it? should we go back to analyze history or just move on? forgive and forget? This was a much more satisfying, thought-provoking and gruesome story than I could've imagined.

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