{Rachel’s Mini Reviews} I’ve Been Enjoying Some Historical Fiction Lately, Can You Tell?

Posted March 31, 2016 by Rachel Lightwood in Reviews / 21 Comments

Last week, I announced that I was switching up my reviewing style. I was a little nervous about it, I’m not sure why, but everyone’s overwhelming support and encouragement meant the world to me. And I’ve decided this is definitely where I want to be reviewing-wise for the time being. So here we are, with the second:


Rachel’s Reading Update: 

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes // ★★★★★ (+★)

I don’t think I can explain how much this story is perfect. I just… *dramatic sigh*. This story is beyond belief. It was intense, raw, enthralling. I read it in a single sitting. I wept, I cried, I laughed, I cried a little more. The writing style is stunning. Absolutely bloody gorgeous. Our protagonist was flawlessly developed. I was completely immersed in her story. She is one of the most complex, unique characters to ever grace the YA genre. The plot’s pacing was spot on too. It unraveled slowly but inevitably and kept you wanting more, but not enough that you were impatient. It explored gender, race, religion and mortality without bias – letting us draw our own conclusions. And best of all? It had an open ending so that we were left hoping, but satisfied. I cannot give this book anything more. I loved it. It was beyond belief. I’m trying to refrain from giving it six stars… but I might have to cave.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella // ★★★★

This was cheesy, ridiculous and one of the best chick-lit novels I’ve ever read. I honestly loved it! It’s my third Sophie Kinsella book, and I think I enjoyed it even more than Remember Me?. It was the perfect blend of funny, emotional, swoony and engaging. The plotline was a mix of romance, suspense, paranormal and contemporary. It was artfully told. I loved the we dipped and dived between different subplots, but followed a larger universal plot too. I loved Lara so damn much. She was funny and realistic. She was random and had a weird sense of humour and was a great friend and I loved it. Eddy was a little random too, but sweet and I couldn’t help but love him too. I thought Sadie was a bit of a brat, but at the same time, she was kind of meant to be and she grew on me. I loved her story. I loved the way Lara learnt about the importance of family, of legacy, of history and laying down roots. If you love feel good rom-coms with paranormal aspects thrown in for the hell out, look no further – this will be your new favourite.

The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan // ★★★★

I was nervous to pick up this book, and have put it off for ages – it came out late last year so it’s actually been quite awhile. Oops! If you didn’t know, Ranger’s Apprentice is one of my all-time favourite series (even if I only discovered it last year), and there seemed to be quite a few people saying that this prequel didn’t live up to the original series. But young Halt? There was no way I could resist that for too long. And I’m did finally pick this up. I enjoyed it so much! It has a very similar feeling to RA and I think that was a problem for some readers too – it was too similar, Halt and Crowley’s relationship was a little bit like Will and Horace’s in RA. I’m not denying that, but Halt and Crowley’s personalities are so different that it is easy to dismiss that. Crowley quickly became a massive favourite of mine. He reminds me of Ron Weasley a little bit, and Halt was perfect. Exactly as I pictured him. The story was a little slow starting, but quickly grows. It was great to be able to draw the paralells between what’s happening in the story, and knowing its impact in RA later. It takes place smuch earlier than I realised though, but that’s even better since it means we’ll definitely get a sequel. Well, we better! Anyway, Flanagan sense of humour definitely shines through in this book, and makes it a standout as always.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly // ★★★★

This story was the perfect combination of mystery & suspense, character development, elegant writing, on-point world/era building and subtle romance. It’s 100% a new favourite of mine.

  • Jo Montfort was the perfect protagonist to tell this story. There was so much complexity to her character. She struggled to understand her place in the world – whether she should pursue her career ambitions or her follow her family’s dreams. I loved that she didn’t know exactly what she wanted at first, or whether she was willing to loose her family. I loved that she began to question what she was taught. I loved that she learned over the course of the story more about herself, and what she wanted. I loved that she was a little naive, but admittedly so. It was just a consequences of the way she was raised, and she wanted to overcome that. I loved that it wasn’t simple, it was hard and painful process. I felt so realistic.
  • The complexity of the mystery Jo and Eddie investigated was spot on. I loved the twists and turns and how Jo didn’t stand back and let everyone do the running around for her, she went out and got what she wanted. I did, however, realise who the culprit was immediately. I think if you’ve read a few mystery books before you probably were able to spot the foreshadowing early on too. It was a little disappointing to be proved right, but it didn’t stop my enjoyment of Jo and Eddie getting to that conclusion at all. Just a bit disappointing.
  • Oscar. He was hilarious. I want a sequel with him as the protagonist. Please.
  • And Eddie was so charming. I couldn’t resist him.
  • The romance was passionate and adorable at the same time. I loved the tension but it could have done with a little less drama – as almost always seems the case with YA.
  • Like I said, the building of the ‘world’ (era, whatever) was done fabulously. The dialogue, the characters, the setting…. yes, yes and yes to it all.
  • The story was a little slow however. I’m not sure if that’s my fault for reading it across a longer span of time than I normally do, but it was a large, hefty book and I’m sure some of it could have been cut a little.
Overall? I’m so glad I gave Jennifer Donnelly another chance. I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future… and more historical fiction in general.

Currently Reading & Listening To: 

Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay

I’m about fifty pages into this story, and floundering with the story line. There’s so much background information and history of their world that I have to know, and I’m feeling overwhelmed. I almost wish there was a guide or prequel or something I could read, just to help me head wrap around it. The writing is blowing my breath away though. It is absolutely bloody gorgeous. I want to rip it off the pages and ink it on to my skin… well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but damn, Stacey Jay can write. Oh, and I’m not enthused by this pretending-to-be-a-boy situation. We all know that there’s going to be a romance developed here, and a romance developed on lying to one another isn’t appealing to me. I’m worried this is going to be a deal-breaker. We’ll have to see…

A Spark Unseen by Sharon Rook, narrated by Fiona Hardingham

I said last time how much I was enjoying this… and I haven’t made any progress whatsoever. My official excuse is that I lost my iPad charger so I didn’t have anything to listen to it on, but I think it was mainly me being lazy. I really need to listen to more of this soon. I’m loving what I have read though.


Have you read any of these before – thoughts? And what’s your current favourite genre? Mysteries/thrillers have always been my favourite genre but now historical fiction is trying to push them out the way. Do you go through fave genre phases?
Rachel Lightwood

About Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella raced into the UK bestseller lists in September 2000 with her first novel in the Shopaholic series – The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (also published as Confessions of a Shopaholic). The book’s heroine, Becky Bloomwood – a fun and feisty financial journalist who loves shopping but is hopeless with money – captured the hearts of readers worldwide. Becky has since featured in six further bestselling books, Shopaholic Abroad (also published as Shopaholic Takes Manhattan), Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic & Sister, Shopaholic & Baby, Mini Shopaholic and now Shopaholic to the Stars! Becky Bloomwood came to the big screen in 2009 with the hit Disney movie Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Sophie has also written six standalone novels which have all been bestsellers in the UK, USA and other countries around the world: Can You Keep A Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number and her most recent standalone book, Wedding Night.

Sophie wrote her first novel under her real name, Madeleine Wickham, at the tender age of 24, whilst she was working as a financial journalist. The Tennis Party was immediately hailed as a success by critics and the public alike and became a top ten bestseller. She went on to publish six more novels as Madeleine Wickham: A Desirable Residence, Swimming Pool Sunday, The Gatecrasher, The Wedding Girl, Cocktails for Three and Sleeping Arrangements.
Sophie was born in London. She studied music at New College, Oxford, but after a year switched to Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She now lives in London, UK, with her husband and family.


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21 responses to “{Rachel’s Mini Reviews} I’ve Been Enjoying Some Historical Fiction Lately, Can You Tell?

    • Ooh, I’ll have to check that one out. As you can tell, I’m in such a historical mood at the moment that I’d be silly not to try and find some new favourites. Yes! I’m so glad you’re going to check out The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. I really, really hope you love it.

    • It’s such a fantastic feeling to be on a roll. And the best part? It’s still going! I’m on such a serious roll. I hope that you enjoy them both, if you decided to pick them up – they obviously have my highest recommendation.

    • These Shallow Graves was truly amazing. I’m glad you loved it too! And Twenties Girl is such a fun, fluffy read – if you’re ever in the mood, it’s perfect for something light. A lot of historical books tend to be largely romance-heavy, unfortunately. I hope you find some you love that aren’t soon!

  1. Nathan

    I haven’t read any of these books. I have gone through genre phases. When I was a teen I was more into science fiction, like the STAR WARS, STAR TREK, Monica Hughes works, as well as some Harry Potter and like stuff and so on. Now I am more into paranormal romance, but I am trying different genres.

    • I think we all go through different phases. I was way into spy/action/thriller books when I was younger. Think Alex Rider and CHERUB. The only genre I’ve always, always loved is mystery/thrillers which is probably my fave genre. Obviously I’m in a massive historical mood at the moment too. Paranormal romance is always my fall back, guilty pleasure genre.

  2. Yaas, I’m so glad you enjoyed These Shallow Graves! Definitely one of my favorite historical books from 2015. 😀 The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly seems to be quite popular too, so I must pick that up when I get the chance soon!

    Kinsella’s books always seem so cute and light and fluffy. I’ve always been meaning to pick one up, so maybe I’ll start with Twenties Girl! It just seems like the type of feel-good read with just enough cheese to make me smile. Wonderful reviews, Rachel!

    • These Shallow Graves was amazing! I’m so glad I picked it up, I have no idea why I put it off for so long! Definitely need to check out the author’s other hisotrical novels. And I’m trying to convince more people to give The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly a go because it was incredible so yes, you have to try and get to it soon. No pressure or anything… 😉

      Kinsella’s novels (from my experience) are the perfect pick-me-up. They’re hilarious and fluffy and cheesy and fantastic. Twenties Girl is definitely a good one if you like a little something with your chick-lit – not just straight romance/contemporary stuff. Remember Me? is realy good too, simply hilarious.

      Thanks, Aila. <33

  3. I’ve wanted to read The Secret Life for such a long time now. I really need to get myself a copy because you made it sound 1000x more amazing, Rachel! I’m nervous about the open ending, but if it’s hopeful, I’m all for it.

    I remember really enjoying Twenties Girl too. I think it’s the last Kinsella book I enjoyed aside from Finding Audrey. It really was cheesy though, but a fun kind of cheesy.

    I also have a copy of These Shallow Graves. I want to experience this adorable and passionate romance! And the MC sounds really great too, so I’ll have to get to it soon.

    I’m sorry to hear about Princess of Thorns not really working for you. I really liked it myself, but I can see where you’re coming from. We can’t all love everything. I hope it gets better for you!

    Wonderful reviews, Rachel!

    • Gah, I hope you love it then! I thought it was absolutely incredible (obviously). Open endings can be a touch-and-go sort of thing – personally I don’t usually mind them though. In this case, I thought it was kind of perfect. It couldn’t have gone any other way really. I think you’ll like it though.. it is hopeful! And well-written so *fingers crossed* it doesn’t ruin it for you.

      Cheesy chicklits are my guilty pleasure! Twenties Girl was super, super cheesy but I loved it. I haven’t read Finding Audrey yet, but I need to. Kind of worried since it hasn’t gotten that many good reviews though…

      Yes, yes, yes. I loved it. The romance isn’t a massive plotline. It is definitely more of a historical mystery, but it’s pretty cute. A little rushed, but what isn’t in YA lately?

      I ended up mildly enjoying Princess of Thorns. I know everyone else loved it, and I didn’t dislike it, but I had massive problems with the plotline. I loved Niklaas and his transformation towards the end, but it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me unfortunately. But exactly, we cannot love everything. I wish I could have enjoyed it more!

      Thanks, Nick! <3

  4. Wow looks like a good run of books there!! I have wanted to read The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly since it came out. I need to just go ahead and get it already!! I need to pick up Sophie Kinsella books. I read Finding Audrey by her but not her other stuff. I love chick lit so I will have to change that. Great reviews!

    Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog recently posted: Rebel Mommy Right Now (3)
    • I was pretty luck in this steak, I think! I’ve read so many 4 star reads lately – counting my lucky stars that it keeps up for the rest of the year, if possible. And AHHH, I’d definitely recommend Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. It’s just fantastic. And I haven’t read Kinsella’s YA book yet, but I’ve read a few of her chicklit books and they’re hilarious and great fluffy, light-hearted reads if you’re ever in the mood (well, the ones I’ve read were). And thanks, Grace.

  5. I haven’t read any of these! Obviously I have to read The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly! You’re review alone makes me want to read it 🙂 I do read a lot of historical romances. Have you read His Fair Assassin series? I think you would like it.

    • None of them? You put me to shame, Liza! 😉 Kidding, kidding… but you must read The Sacred Lies. It’s my latest obsession. I loved it so very much! I just wish it got more love.

      I don’t think so…? Is the first book in that series Grave Mercy? ‘Cause I own it but haven’t read it. And if you rec it, I’ll have to get to it ASAP.

  6. I do like my historical fiction myself, so I am glad you’ve been able to enjoy all of these so much! In fact, each of them sounds unique to the other in some way and so intriguing. I didn’t have any of these on my tbr beforehand, but after reading this mini review two of them have made them on there. Happy reading x

    Olivia Roach recently posted: Monthly Wrap Up ~ March 2016
    • I had forgotten how much I loved historical fiction until now, but thank God I rediscovered my love for it – there are so many good historical YA books out there! I’m glad you were able to find something that appealed to you. Can I be nosy and ask which ones you’re interested in, just out of curiosity? 😉

      Thanks. You too, Olivia. <33

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