Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Historical Book Review: The Braided Stream by Harper Swan

The Braided Stream (The Replacement Chronicles Part Four): by Harper Swan 
Genre: Historical Fiction, Prehistoric Fiction
Published September 2019
Pages: 268
Available in ebook and paperback

Reviewers Note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. If you are interested in purchasing this book or viewing it on Amazon click on the book cover which has a link to its page. 

The Plot: The Braided Stream is the fourth is a series which chronicles the lives of Raven and Leaf who lived in a prehistoric world alongside the Neanderthals. I read it as a stand alone novel. (I will now go back and read the earlier books!) but I never felt lost in the series. The Neanderthals, known as the People, are dying out and Elder Woman, the cagey leader of her clan is determined to see to the survival of her family. To do this, she kidnaps Leaf and his daughter Wren, members of the Wind Clan, and a separate race, known as Them. Elder Woman hopes they will mate with her children and grandchildren and propagate a new generation. Raven tracks the pair back to the clan's cave and struggles to free her child and mate even as she reunites with Elder Woman's son Chukar.

The History: Little is known about the cultural lives of our prehistoric ancestors. When did they achieve true speech, when did religion arise and in what form, what was the nature of their relationships? This void gives authors, a blank canvas on which to create the world of prehistoric peoples almost from scratch. Jean M. Auel's 1984, Clan of the Cave Bear, is one of the most celebrated books in this genre. That being said, fans of Ms. Auel will be delighted with the world and characters created by Harper Swan. She paints a vivid, realistic picture of the lives of these people. I felt like I was squatting in front of the hearth fire alongside Raven eating raw liver.

The author does a great job of creating language, cultural norms and religion for her characters as well a differentiating the abilities between the two early hominid species. I appreciated that Swan created strong women in Raven and Elder Woman, both take charge women who lead their clans with their intellect and their nurturing natures.

The Writing: Harper's writing is clean and crisp and very well edited. The pace clips along and there are no slow bits. I was never tempted to skip ahead. I was happy to see that the dialogue is written in modern English with no manufactured words or stilted grammar meant convey an archaic language.

Overall: I really enjoyed diving into the prehistoric world of Raven and Leaf. I read Auel's books back in the day and was a huge fan. I found this book equally enjoyable.

Recommendation: I would highly recommend The Braided Stream to fans of Jean Auel, you're sure to enjoy it. Anyone who is curious about prehistoric peoples and how they may have lived. There is a fair amount of 'conjugal relations' in the book, but it is not graphic and in keeping with the rest of the book.

Rating: I give this book 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Monday, October 7, 2019

Historical Book Review: A Thousand Mothers by Brenda Marie Webb

A Thousand Mothers by Brenda Marie Webb
Released: November 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction; Holocaust/ Jewish history
Pages: 378
Available: ebook and paperback

Reviewers Note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Plot: A Thousand Mothers is the moving story of a group of women who come together in Ravensbruck, a Nazi Concentration Camp in Germany, to save the life of a newborn child. 

Characters: The first half of the book focuses on a large group of women who steal, lie, cheat death, and allow unspeakable things to happen to themselves and others, in order to preserve the life of Flora, an infant born at the camp. Against a backdrop of brutality and the constant killing of prisoners, the women sacrifice themselves for this child. For a while, I feared there might really be a thousand mothers. Because there are so many of them, I had a hard time keeping track of who was who and had to go back and reread bits to refresh my memory. It was difficult to see much difference in their personalities. 

Part two of the book whizzes through Flora’s life after she is rescued from Nazi Germany and adopted into an American family. Her early life is given a brief outline before the final segment of the book which takes place when she is a grandmother. We learn what became of many of the women who protected Flora as a baby as she reconnects with her past. There is a whole new set of characters to keep up with in this part. The story is told in third person omniscient, so the voice and point of view changes rapidly as well. 

The History: Webb nails the history of Ravensbruck, in all its gory details. The plight of the women, each from a different background, is terrifying. The conditions of the camp are told in graphic detail as is the despicable nature of the German prison guards, doctors and staff. I do have to say, not to diminish what anyone suffered in these camps, I thought there might have been too much focus on the atrocities which I found took away from the story. 

The Writing: The writing is good, the book well edited. I don’t like third person omniscient as a point of view, but I understand why the author chose it, with so many characters, clamoring to get her attention. 

Overall: It might sound as if I didn’t enjoy this book, which is not true, I did. I found the story of Flora compelling and well told. But, I was overwhelmed by the cast of characters, and sorry that I did not know them a little bit better. 

Recommendation: I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, stories of determined women, readers interested in holocaust stories and Jewish history. There is a lot of death and dying in this book, as one should expect in a book set in a death camp, so reader beware.

I rate this book 4 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟

My Ratings: 

1  Star: Not good at all, do not read!

2  Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available

3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations

4 Stars: Really good, read this book!

5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend

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