10 Books to Recommend

A Writer of History is NOT a book blog – however, I have written reviews from time to time on books I’ve chosen to read or books selected by one of my book clubs. Below are ten to recommend with links to each more detailed review.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – I powered through this novel in two and a half very satisfying days. The story is “based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country.”

Educated by Tara Westover – Book club unanimously endorsed Tara Westover’s well-received novel of growing up in a survivalist Mormon home in the hills of Idaho.The words used to describe it included: compelling, horrifying, unbelievable, shocking, inspiring, and head shaking.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan – author Patti Callahan has written a poignant and clear-eyed story about these two well-known writers and I had the pleasure of reading the novel for an article published by the Historical Novel Society.

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin – This compelling look at two famous women – actor Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion – entertains and informs while transporting readers to the magical kingdom of the movie industry. Highly recommended.

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng – the verdict at book club was resoundingly in favour of this powerful novel of memory and forgetting, war and peace, love and hate, which was nominated for the Man Booker prize.

The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George On every dimension – superb writing, feeling immersed in time and place, characters both heroic and human, authenticity, and compelling plot – The Splendor Before the Dark is a winner.

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie Beginning in 1777 with a victory against the British at Saratoga, My Dear Hamilton tells the story of Alexander Hamilton through the eyes of his wife Eliza. Superb historical fiction.

Mary – Tudor Princess by Tony Riches – I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Mary Tudor, sister to Henry VIII. The history is fascinating and Tony’s superb writing brings Mary’s character to life with a strong and sympathetic voice.

The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson – This work of non-fiction “chronicles a glorious English summer a century ago when the world was on the cusp of irrevocable change … That summer of 1911 a new king was crowned and the aristocracy was at play, bounding from one house party to the next. But perfection was not for all. Cracks in the social fabric were showing.”

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – In the two years since reading The Alice Network, I’ve recommended it to dozens of people. Why? Because it grabbed me from the very start and wouldn’t let go. And what special ingredients does it have? Flawed, heroic, and intriguing characters – check. Tension that builds and builds – check. A superb sense of history and setting – check. Strong writing – check. An immersive experience – check. A flawless weaving of two timelines – check. What more could you ask for?

I hope some of these add to your reading piles! If you have feedback on any of them, please add your voice to the comments.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

A Year of Reading 2018

I read 33 books this year not as many as previous years – although I feel as if some are missing! I’m delighted to share them with you. Below is the rating scheme I developed in 2014 – the first year I posted a list. Part way through 2018, I took a break from historical fiction 🙂

LR = light, enjoyable read; GR = good, several caveats; ER = excellent, few caveats; OR = outstanding; DNF = did not finish; NMT = not my type.

Title Author Comment
Jan My Dear Hamilton (brief review) Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie OR Fascinating portrayals of the men and women who played pivotal roles during the revolution and the founding of America.
Born a Crime (book club) Trevor Noah ER Humour – pain – emotion – and unique stories of growing up bi-racial in South Africa make this an outstanding read.
The Tuscan Child Rhys Bowen NMT There was so much the author could have done with this story.
Small Great Things (book club) Jodi Picoult ER This was a can’t-turn-the-pages-fast-enough book for me.
Only Time Will Tell Jeffrey Archer ER The first of Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles and I’m sure to read more.
Feb Mary – Tudor Princess (review) Tony Riches ER Full of excellent period detail, this novel will transport you to 16th century England and France with intrigues, wars and upheavals.
The Woman in the Window A.J. Finn OR My husband read this and said I HAD to read it. And he was right.
Trumpocracy David Frum ER An alarming, clear-eyed, and well-articulated view of what’s going on in the US.
Mar March Geraldine Brooks GR Not as compelling as her other novels.
Full Disclosure Beverley McLachlin GR Debut novel from Canada’s former chief justice.
Apr Citizens of London Lynne Olson OR A fascinating look at US involvement in WWII; superb non-fiction
All is not Forgotten Wendy Walker ER Suspense, family drama, unexpected plot twists and a unique storyline.
The Wife (musing on titles) Alastair Burke GR The pacing and cliff-hanging chapter endings are well done and the twist at the end is quite the surprise.
May Off Season Anne Rivers Siddons GR At times disjointed and with too many digressions.
The Litigators John Grisham GR Novel doesn’t get going for a long time.
The Fire By Night Teresa Messineo DNF Full of inner monologue and backstory and lengthy descriptions.
Dreams of Falling Karen White ER A plot that slowly simmers its way to a surprising and satisfying ending
Jun Simple Truth (guest post by the author) Carol Bodensteiner ER Great dialogue, pacing, and engaging characters.
News of the World Paulette Jiles GR Took a while for me to ‘get into it’

Quite a mix of genres, time periods and impressions. I’ll post the rest on Thursday.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

Development of a Tudor Historical Fiction Series

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He’s a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony and I have never met and yet I consider him a good friend. He’s been on the blog before talking about what makes historical fiction tick, being a second career author, and how he researches locations for his novels. His latest novel is Brandon – Tudor Knight

Guest Post by Tony Riches – Development of a Tudor Historical Fiction Series

It all began with my research for a novel about the life of Henry Tudor, who like me was born in the Welsh town of Pembroke. I collected more than enough material for a substantial book – and discovered there were no novels about his amazing story. I think this was partly because Henry had been (mistakenly) labelled as dull and miserly, when in fact he was an extravagant gambler, who knew how to broker peace and end the Wars of the Roses.

I also discovered there were no novels about Henry’s Welsh grandfather, Owen Tudor, or Owen’s son, Jasper Tudor, who helped Henry become king. The Tudor trilogy provided the perfect ‘vehicle’ for Henry to be born in the first book, ‘come of age’ in the second, and become King of England in the third.

I’m pleased to say the books of the Tudor trilogy became best sellers in the US, UK and Australia, with the final book being the only historical fiction novel shortlisted for the highly competitive Amazon Kindle Storyteller award. (Henry was a runner up but I won a Kindle Oasis and a large bottle of good Champagne.)

The challenge I then faced was how to follow a successful trilogy. I’d enjoyed developing the character of Henry’s daughter, Mary Tudor, and realised the story of how she became Queen of France is little known. (In the TV series ‘The Tudors’ Mary was ‘merged’ with her sister Margaret – and some people understandably confuse her with her brother’s daughter, also Mary Tudor.)

I wrote Mary – Tudor Princess, which has become my best-selling book this year, then followed up with my latest book, (published just in time for Christmas) Brandon – Tudor Knight. Readers are probably familiar with Charles Brandon’s story of how he risked everything to marry Mary Tudor against the wishes of her vengeful brother, Henry VIII. What they might not know is how Brandon found himself seriously out of his depth fighting Henry’s wars in France, or that after Mary’s death he married his fourteen-year-old ward, wealthy heiress Lady Catherine Willoughby.

Now I have two ‘sequels’ to the Tudor Trilogy, with the five books forming a series providing a continuous narrative throughout the reign of the two King Henrys. Where to go next? I’m busy researching and writing the amazing story of what became of Catherine Brandon after the death of Charles. Her story deserves to be told – and leads right up to my next series, which will explore the fascinating world of the Elizabethan Tudors.

A fascinating tale, Tony. I’ve yet to read Brandon – Tudor Knight, but I can tell you that Tony’s novel about Mary – Tudor Princess is a great read and one I highly recommend. I suspect someone on my list will be receiving Brandon – Tudor Knight for Christmas 🙂

For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on  Facebookand Twitter @tonyriches

Brandon – Tudor Knight by Tony Riches

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy:Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell. Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.