Tag Archives: Civil War

Review: A Slant of Light by Jeffrey Lent

I received an advanced review copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley.

My Review:

A Slant of LightOne of my favorite places to visit is The Finger Lakes region in New York so I was thrilled to find an historical fiction novel that is set in this beautiful place.  Malcolm Hopeton moves from New Hampshire with his elderly grandfather and buys a plot of land to farm near Seneca Lake.  Malcolm toils from dawn to dusk for years in order to yield a fertile bounty and he is very successful.  He hires a young boy named Amos Wheeler as farm help which will prove to be one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

Malcolm also meets Bethany and they have a brief and whirlwind romance and settle down to a blissful, married life.  When Malcolm decides to go and fight in The Civil War, and chooses to stay away for all four years of the war, his farm, his wife and all that he holds dear are taken away from him.  He commits a horrific act of violence against Amos and Bethany for which he stands trial.  As the story unfolds we learn that Malcolm is an honorable man who is driven to his breaking point.

The narrative also focuses on the character of Augustus, who I found to be the most interesting character in the novel.  Augustus is also a hardworking farmer that has suffered tragedy very early on in his life.  His pregnant wife, Narcissa, dies in childbirth and he vows to be alone for the rest of his days.  He quickly realizes that he needs someone to help take care of his house and feed him, so he hires Becca Davis and they get along very well.  But Augustus is so focused on staying faithful to his dead wife that he refuses to see what a great match he and Becca would make.

One theme that is carried throughout the novel is the abuse of women.  Bethany is treated poorly by her father and is beaten mercilessly when he perceives that she has committed a sin.  She finds solace and love with Malcolm, who turns around and abandons her to go off to war.  When Malcolm is gone she is emotionally and physically abused by Amos Wheeler.  Bethany’s life comes to a tragic end at the hands of her husband who, brought to his breaking point, kills Wheeler and in the ensuing struggle accidentally kills her as well.

Becca is treated well by Augustus but it becomes clear that she feels more for him than an employee feels for an employer.  When Augusts takes in Becca’s teenage brother the three of them live together as a pseudo-family and Becca seems especially content with her living situation.  But at two kept points in the novel Becca tries to have a serious conversation with Augustus and she is frustrated that she is still treated by him like nothing more than the hired help.

The bucolic language of the book captures the beauty and peacefulness of this region and the serene landscape stands in sharp contrast to the turmoil of the characters’ struggles.  A SLANT OF LIGHT is an intense read that comes to an abrupt and incomplete ending.  I was happy to read on Jeffrey Lent’s website that this book is the first in a two book deal with Bloomsbury.  I look forward to the next installment.

Visit the author’s website for more information about his other novels: http://www.jeffreylent.com/

1 Comment

Filed under Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Review and Giveaway: Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy and Beck Hepinstall

Today I welcome Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours back to the blog with a very interesting historical fiction novel set during the Civil War. Scroll down to the end of my review to win your own copy of the book.
My Review:
01_Sisters of Shiloh_CoverJosephine and Libby are sisters living in the south just before the Civil War breaks out.  They are very close and do everything together, although Josephine seems to be the stronger of the two and serves as Libby’s protector.

When Libby’s husband, Arden, joins the Confederate Army and dies on the battlefield, Libby is beside herself with grief and cannot figure out a way to deal with the loss of her husband until she meets a wounded boy in an army hospital.  The boy has lost his arm in battle and is disappointed because he to fulfill his vow of killing at least 18 Yankee soldiers while he was serving in the army.  Libby decides to dress up in disguise, join the Confederate army, and kill 21 Yankee soldiers, one for every year that her husband Arden was alive.

Josephine cannot let her sister go into battle alone, so they set off together and join the army.  What I found the most interesting about this story is that the sisters take a lot of time to learn the traits of a man which include how a male walks, shakes hands, and even plays cards.  They do not want to be discovered so they are very meticulous in the study of all things masculine.

When they are finally assigned to a Confederate Army camp, they are befriended by their fellow soldiers.  Josephine is especially attracted to a young soldier named Wesley.  The romance in the book is intriguing and keeps the reader in suspense.  Does Wesley suspect that Josephine is really a woman?  Will she reveal herself to him before either one of them are killed in battle?  What will Wesley’s reaction be when he finds out that Josephine is really a woman?

The contrast that the authors build between the two sisters is very interesting.  As Josephine is falling in love, Libby seems to be going mad.  In addition to dealing with lice, lack of food, sleeping on the cold ground, and the horrors of war, Libby is also haunted by her dead husband.  She keeps having visions of Arden who goads her on to kill more Yankee soldiers.

My only complaint about the book is that there are a lot of very odd phrases and sentences that the authors use that are distracting and awkward.  For example, Libby’s love for Arden is described with a clumsy metaphor: “She loved him that much, in a way that made no space for herself, as though he were a full glass of tea and she was that piece of ice that would cause an overspill onto the tablecloth.”  The pause in a battle when men are reloading their weapons is described as, “The cacophony paused for a split second, and Libby heard the sound of a single curse, so absent of God it seemed to come from the idea of war itself.”  When metaphors in a book are overwrought, they do not enhance the story but instead distract from what is otherwise an excellent plot and set of characters.

If you enjoy historical fiction set during the Civil War then the SISTERS OF SHILOH is a must read.  Seeing the atrocities of this war through the eyes of two strong female characters makes for a fabulous and entertaining read.

The publisher is giving away one print copy of the book to one of my readers.  This giveaway is open to US residents only.  To enter, please leave me a comment below and let me know you want to win!  It’s that easy.  The winner will be notified via e-mail and will have 48 to respond with a valid U.S. mailing address.  Giveaway ends March 16th.

-Must be 18 or older to enter
-Only one entry per household.
-All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

About The Authors:
Sisters of ShilohKathy Hepinstall grew up outside of Houston, Texas. Kathy is the best selling author of The House of Gentle Men, The Absence of Nectar and Blue Asylum She is an award-winning creative director and advertising writer. She currently resides in Santa Barbara, California with her husband. Visit Kathy’s Blog.

Becky Hepinstall grew up outside of Houston, Texas. She holds a degree in History from the University of Texas in Austin, and currently resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband, a Navy pilot, and their four children.

Sisters of Shiloh Blog Tour Schedule:

Tuesday, March 3
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Review & Giveaway at The Book Binder’s Daughter

Wednesday, March 4
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Thursday, March 5
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Review & Giveaway at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Friday, March 6
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish

Saturday, March 7
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court

Monday, March 9
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, March 10
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation
Review & Interview at Books and Benches
Spotlight at Layered Pages

Wednesday, March 11
Review at Beth’s Book Nook

Thursday, March 12
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation
Interview & Giveaway at Forever Ashley

Friday, March 13
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Monday, March 16
Guest Post & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf

 photo edbfacb0-95b4-48b7-a9ce-48ce7bb36a0e.jpg


Filed under Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction Book Giveaway

In order to show a little appreciation to my faithful readers, I am giving away three different historical fiction novels, all of which are hardcopy versions.  The entry is very easy.  Just leave me a comment below and let me know which book you are interested in winning and reading!  Open to US/Canada only. I will pick a winner of each book at the end of the week.  Winners will be notified via email and have 48 hours to respond.  Happy Holidays from The Book Binder’s Daughter!

Book #1: Neverhome by Laird Hunt

NeverhomeConstance is a farmer from Indiana who wants to see more of the world outside of her rural farm. She decides that fighting in the Civil War will give her this chance. Her husband Bartholomew would not be a good soldier and so she decides that she will make the sacrifice and march off to war and fight for her country in his place. She puts on the Union uniform, hides her feminine qualities and in this disguise travels down south to the heart of the battleground where she takes on the name of Ash Thompson.  Read my full review here


Book #2: Juliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen

Juliet's NurseI enjoy stories that are retellings of classics, so I was delighted when I had the chance to review a book that narrated the Romeo and Juliet story from the nurse’s point of view.  This story begins with Angelica and her husband Pietro who are peasants living in 14th century Verona.  Although they are poor, they love each other dearly and have had a wonderful life raising 6 boys.  When the plague claims the lives of all of their children, they think they will never have the chance to rear another.  Read my full review here.


Book #3: Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie

Gutenberg's ApprenticeWe all take for granted the written word, especially in the 21st century when not only are physical books readily available but so are books in electronic form.  In Muniz, Germany in the 15th Century an Elder by the name of Gutenberg had a crazy and obsessive idea of finding a way to mass produce books instead of having them laboriously copied by hand through scribes.  Peter is one such scribe and is recalled from his scribal duties in Paris at a monastery by his foster father.  Peter’s foster father, with whom he has been living since the age of 10, wants Peter to become Gutenberg’s apprentice as Gutenberg works on his new printing press.  Fust, Peter’s adoptive father is a merchant who has heavily invested in Gutenberg’s new invention.  Read my full review here.


Filed under Giveaways, Historical Fiction

Review: Neverhome by Laird Hunt

I received an advanced copy of this book from Little, Brown and Company through NetGalley.

NeverhomeConstance is a farmer from Indiana who wants to see more of the world outside of her rural farm. She decides that fighting in the Civil War will give her this chance. Her husband Bartholomew would not be a good soldier and so she decides that she will make the sacrifice and march off to war and fight for her country in his place. She puts on the Union uniform, hides her feminine qualities and in this disguise travels down south to the heart of the battleground where she takes on the name of Ash Thompson.

Ash has many interesting adventures that make her a legend among her fellow soldiers. At one point she is given the nickname “Gallant Ash” and a song is written about her. She fights alongside men and oftentimes is a better fighter, and certainly a better sharpshooter, than the men. She is constantly afraid that her secret will be revealed and it is amazing that throughout the entire story only a handful of people suspect her true identity.

NEVERHOME is brilliantly written in Constance’s own voice and we see the horrific landscape of the civil war through her eyes. I admire this book as a well-researched historical novel and Laird Hunt even uses the correct accents and turns of phrase from someone in this era. The dream sequences that Constance has are vivid and haunting and I suspect that she has what we would call nowadays PTSD. She is so disturbed by some of the horrors she witnesses that reality and dreams start to blend together.

One final aspect of the book I want to mention is Constance’s relationship with her husband.  They have a unique marriage in which they seemed to have reversed what would have been the traditional roles of husband and wife in the 19th century.  Constance is the strong and brave partner while her husband is docile, passive, and even weak.

The story is so interesting and captivating that I actually read it in one day. I could not wait to find out what happens to Constance and the ending was unexpected. I would not be surprised if NEVERHOME becomes an instant American classic that all students of history will find on their course reading lists.

There are many historical fiction novels set during the Civil War.  Leave me a comment and let me know which ones you have read and would recommend.


Filed under Historical Fiction, Literature/Fiction