The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

I did not want this book to end!

Beatriz marries Rodolfo. He’s a businessman and owns a large estate. He leaves to do business so Beatriz runs the estate in his absence. Juana, Rodolfo’s sister, believes she’s the one in charge and she treats everyone gruffly. Beatriz starts to feel like she’s being watched and things get creepier from there, to the point that she’s afraid for her life. She asks the local priests for help and all but one shun her. Padre Andres helps her under the guise of being a priest to help the estate workers. He has knowledge from his ancestors that can help exorcise evil. The house has an extremely powerful, angry spirit and it’s harmful. This is an elaborate and beautifully written horror story that I didn’t ever want to put down. I also didn’t want it to end. 5 stars!

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Love the historical aspects of this story!

A young woman disguises herself as a man to look for her missing father. She visits the sister she hasn’t seen in five years and there’s still much animosity between them. The sisters have a history in the forest. When they were younger, they were lost and then found unconscious in the midst of a crime scene. Now the sisters work together to find out what’s happened to their father after he went searching for thirteen missing girls in the forest. The mystery surrounding the missing girls and their father twists and turns until the sordid truth is unraveled. Based on the forced sacrifices of young women of Korea around the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the historical aspects are the most fascinating parts of the story and the danger builds suspense. 3.5 stars!

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz

A great mix of mystery and historical fiction!

The setting is early 1800’s. Hazel is fascinated with science and specifically medical applications. She sneaks in to watch a medical lecture because women aren’t allowed to attend. Jack scrapes by with odd jobs, such as digging up recently buried bodies to sell for medical studies. Hazel and Jack meet when he helps her sneak into a medical presentation. Hazel later disguises herself as a young gentleman so she can attend classes to become a physician. She’s found out but the professor makes a deal with her and gives her some help to prepare for the physician’s exam. Her family is away so she can study as much as she wants. She also begins treating people that aren’t taken care of by the hospital. She ends up treating patients with Roman Fever; a plague that seems to be appearing again. Jack brings exhumed bodies to Hazel for studying and live patients for her to treat. Jack and Hazel become close, even though she’s been betrothed to a viscount’s son since she was a child. Jack and Hazel get involved in the horrible experimentation of an eccentric doctor and everything gets turned upside down for both of them. I love Jack and Hazel. They’re both strong and selfless and they have an adorable relationship. I would love a sequel to be written to continue the story but at this point, I can’t see any sign of that happening. A mix of mystery and historical fiction to be enjoyed, 5 stars!

They Went Left by Monica Hesse

A beautiful story!

Zofia returns home to Poland in hopes of finding her younger brother Abek after WWII ends. She arrives to an empty home and unwelcoming neighbors. She learns of a camp that helps survivors retrain for jobs they can do so they can move on with their lives. She’s hoping to find Abek near there. It takes a few weeks to travel to Germany but Zofia is welcomed into the camp while she searches for her brother by visiting nearby camps, writing letters and making phone calls to organizations set up to reunite family members. There, Zofia meets Josef and makes friends that show her how to overcome the trauma she’s been through. Her mind plays tricks on her and she’s unsure if some of her memories are real or skewed. A post WWII story that encompasses PTSD, perpetual hope and the importance of support in all its forms. A beautiful story, 5 stars!

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Tugs at the heartstrings!

The Smell of Other People’s Houses is a historical fiction story set when Alaska was just barely made into a state of America. Young acquaintances tell their points of view of their lives and their perspective of each other’s. Ruth ends up pregnant with Ray’s baby, Alyce spends her time on the family fishing boat with her father and uncle, Dora lives with Dumpling and Bunny after their father protects Dora from her abusive father and Hank and his brothers stowaway on a ferry. Selma doesn’t know her birth parents but lives with her loving adoptive parents. All of their lives intertwine in different and unique ways. This book is a fairly quick read that pulls at the heartstrings and builds empathy, 5 stars!

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

Wonderful character building!

Hanneke lives in Holland with her mother and father. She’s a young woman who has lost her boyfriend in the war, who works as the undertaker’s receptionist and also helps the undertaker with black market dealings. Her jobs support her family. On one of her deliveries, an elderly woman confides in Hanneke that she’d been hiding a Jewish teenage girl, in her home, in a secret compartment behind her pantry. The girl is missing and there’s no evidence of how she left the house. The woman pleads for Hanneke to help her find the teenage girl, Mirjam. Hanneke reluctantly agrees to help so she starts searching for any information she can find on Mirjam. As she’s searching, she inadvertently ends up at a resistance group meeting and becomes accidentally involved in a delivery of a Jewish baby, to an adoptive family, after the baby’s family had been detained by the Nazis. Hanneke learns about all of the ways that young adults around her have been helping with the resistance and she sees how selfish she was by keeping to herself and not becoming involved but that changes during her search for Mirjam. The young adults work together to find Mirjam and help everyone they can in this inspiring story of young heroism and perseverance. A wonderful character building historical fiction book, 4 stars!

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Based on the tragically true story of the Donner Party.

Eerie prologue opens the story with a perfect creepy and ominous tone. This book is so much more than just a horror story! The author takes historical facts and mixes them with some historical fiction and then adds a touch of supernatural horror to create a scary tale out of a true horrific tragedy. The characters are many and we get to know each of them in turns as the author reveals their background stories and personal secrets. The characters range from timid, blustery, brave and to all out dangerous. The tragically true story of the Donner Party gives the perfect backdrop for a horror story and the author blends truth and fiction together seamlessly, 5 stars!

All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

Not what I was expecting!

This is a historical fiction book about a serial killer in 1958 that’s committing the Bloodless Murders. Police find a fifteen year old girl among the latest victims and she’s unharmed but drenched in blood. This is a story told from an observer’s point of view and the observer becomes friends with one of the accused murderers. At the latest victims’ home, Marie is captured by police when she’s found standing by the bodies. Once she’s in custody, she’ll only talk to the sheriff’s son Michael. Michael tells this story that really leaves more questions than answers. I wanted the mystery to be solidly solved and to know if Marie committed these murders on her own or if she really was being trained by an older man. I can see her being delusional and thinking there’s someone with her or being vague to throw suspicion off of herself. Then the ending…? 3.5 stars for a truly atmospheric experience that made me feel like I had been transported to the late 1950’s and the characters that pulled the tale along!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Remember history!

Lale is transported to an Auschwitz concentration camp in a rail car with many other men. He arrives and is requested to help the camp tattoist because of his fluency in several languages. On his first days of tattooing prisoners, Lale tattoos a woman that he immediately feels a strong connection with. Her name is Gita and their relationship continues to grow. As the tattooist, Lale gets extra food rations and he befriends the camp residents that take the prisoners clothes and belongings to sort them out. They find many valuables and share with Lale so he can get supplies, such as food and medicine for needy prisoners. He comes face to face with Mengele, the infamous and horrible doctor that experiments on prisoners. His assistant is castrated by Mengele and I had no idea that he performed terrible acts like castration, which was probably tame compared to his other experiments. Years go by as prisoners, and eventually the camp, is liberated. Lale searches for Gita as soon as he possibly can. This is a true story that’s heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s full of historical information that the world needs to remember, 4 stars!

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

A story of great strength, determination, and unbelievable perseverance!

Elsinore has grown up feeling ugly, unloved, and like she’s a burden to her family. They tell her she’s too tall, not pretty, and sickly. It’s the 1920’s and women tend to be married and have children by the time they’re twenty years old and Elsinore is twenty-five. She wants a change and wants to enjoy life so she cuts her waist-length hair to her chin and buys red silk and creates a flapper dress. She sneaks out one night to go to the speakeasy in town but they won’t let her in and tell her to go home when they realize it’s her. She walks down the street and meets an eighteen-year-old Italian man who wants to have fun. They both admit they’re lonely and see each other a few times to have sex. Rafe calls Elsinore “Els”; she likes the nickname and feels wanted when she’s with him. She ends up with morning sickness and her parents disown her and her father takes her and one packed suitcase to Rafe’s family farm. Elsinore’s father tells Rafe’s parents what’s going on and leaves her there, stating that their family is done with her. Rafe’s parents have saved for him to go to college for a better life but he seems happy to stay on the farm with Els and says that he doesn’t want to go to college anyway. Elsa and Rafe have a girl then a boy. His parents are grateful for Elsa because she’s strong, brave, a hard worker, and a good wife and mother. When the Great Depression hits, Rafe leaves his family behind because he can’t stand staying on the farm anymore. His parents help Elsa raise their grandchildren and they all take care of the farm together. When the land turns into a dust bowl, life gets even worse! The people and animals struggle to survive the heat, the powerful winds, and the extreme dust everywhere. Ant, the youngest grandchild, becomes deathly sick with dust pneumonia and that’s when they decide it’s time to leave the Great Plains behind. When Elsa leaves for California with her children, she’s terrified but sees no other solution. They make it to California but find discrimination and harsh prejudice, horrible working and living conditions, and struggle to survive because of little and sometimes no income. The three do discover strength and loyalty and what they are truly capable of. A story of great strength, determination, and unbelievable perseverance, 5 stars!