The Bar and the Bookcase Tag

Old Fashioned (insert a picture of a cocktail): Historical Fiction Recommendation

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Time Period and Setting: Late 1930s to contemporary times.

Description: On an island off the South Korean coast, an ancient guild of women divers deals with modernity’s challenges from 1938 to 2008. An unflinching look at the hardships suffered by Jeju island residents during years of successive occupation by various outside forces. 

I loved the history of the women divers of Jeju Island, known as haenyeo, and the matriarchal society that developed on the island. Told in first-person narration, we learn about the protagonist, her family, and her ill-fated friendship with Mi-ja. 

Lisa See did extensive research, including interviewing haenyo from Jeju Island and other residents, to understand the detail of haenyeo traditions and the mass murders on Jeju beginning in 1948, which were covered up for decades by the South Korean government. The characters are terribly affected by the decimation of Jeju villages, and the author brings in the complex web of politics and tyranny that the islanders faced. Occupied for decades by the Japanese, it was eye-opening to me to discover that the island residents were let down by other nations afterwards.

I’ve linked my in-depth review, which includes a little more about Jeju-Do. Let me know whether you’ve read The Island of Sea Women and what you thought; it’s currently rated 4.28 on Goodreads, 4.3 on Storygraph, and 4.8 on Audible, and I rated it a full 5 stars.

Card and add video link

Sidecar: Book with a strong supporting character

Code Name Verity was originally marketed is a young adult historical fiction it’s more generally considered historical fiction these days.It focuses on the friendship between two young British women, one English and one Scottish, in World War II – one a spy captured by the Nazis in German-occupied France and the other the pilot who brought her there. It was named a Michael L. Printz Honor Book in 2013, and shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.

At the end of the war one of the girls goes on trial and …it’s not an easy read and that’s not just because it’s a novel dealing with the atrocities or war, but also because the structure is unconventional and in the end it’s all like different puzzle pieces being slotted into place. 

 It’s currently rated 4.02 on Goodreads, 4.19 on Storygraph, and 4.3 on Audible, and I rated it 4 Stars.

Manhattan: Book set in NY 

Passing is a novel by American author Nella Larsen, first published in 1929. Set primarily in the Harlem neighbourhood of New York City in the 1920s, the story centres on the reunion of two childhood friends—Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield—and their increasing fascination with each other’s lives. The title refers to the practice of “racial passing” and is a critical element of the novel. It has a twist that I didn’t see coming, and this novella kept me hooked from start to finish.

It’s currently rated 3.93 on Goodreads, 3.97 on Storygraph, and 4.2 on Audible, and I rated it 4 Stars.

BLOODY MARY: Book that scared you/messed you up

The Diviners is set in the roaring twenties (1920s), the dialogue is filled with slang, and the obsession with celebrity rivals our modern times. I didn’t expect the story to get more and more sinister. First, there was just a slight hint of the supernatural, and then suddenly, there were gruesome murders and such gory, skin tingling, hair raising nastiness that I found myself creeped out!

The Diviners offers scares, thought-provoking sub-plots and beautiful characters. The main character, Evie, is joined by such an incredible cast of supporting characters. 

It’s currently rated 3.94 on Goodreads, 4.0 on Storygraph, and 4.5 on Audible, and I rate it 4.5 Stars.

Espresso Martini: Book that kept you reading into the night 

The Seven and a half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest at Blackheath Manor. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others. Stuart Turton unfurls a breakneck novel of intrigue and suspense with a locked room mystery that kept me riveted but at the end of the book I kept puzzling over some elements of the book and in the end I rated this 3.75

It’s currently rated 3.88 on Goodreads, 3.91 on Storygraph, and 4.1 on Audible.

Sazerac: Book that left you disoriented

Life of Pi, which s is a fantasy adventure novel.The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy who  explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. 

I was disoriented and it left me thinking about the story and the processing of trauma for a long time after I’d finished it. I rate it 4.5.

It’s currently rated 3.93 on Goodreads, 3.8 on Storygraph, and 4.6 on Audible

Long Island Iced Tea: Book that is doing TOO MUCH (bonus point if it works anyway ;)) 

The Shadow King 

As the war begins in earnest, Hirut, Aster, and other women long to do more than care for the wounded and bury the dead. When Emperor Haile Selassie goes into exile, and Ethiopia quickly loses hope, Hirut offers a plan to maintain morale. Hirut helps disguise a gentle peasant as the emperor and soon becomes his guard, inspiring other women to take arms against the Italians. But how could she have predicted her own personal war as a prisoner of one of Italy’s most vicious officers, who will force her to pose before the camera of a young officer named Ettore?

I found some of the writing in this book stunning and wonderfully descriptive. The pace worked well and kept me interested, but I did find the unusual story structure a bit of a challenge. The story unravels in a fragmented way, and while I eventually got used to this, I would have preferred a more conventional style.

The story itself is informative, and I found myself looking up more details about Haile Selassie. We have the viewpoints of Hirut, Ettore, and Haile Sailesse. The story is brutal, violent, cruel – and it’s not just violence between the Italians and Ethiopians at war but cruelty between Italians and cruelty between Ethiopians. 

Mengiste is a gifted writer and  I think she did an excellent job of depicting several different perspectives of a tragic war. While I didn’t love this book, I appreciated the author’s writing and the balanced way each side of this conflict is depicted. 

I rate this 3 Stars. It’s currently rated 3.71 on Goodreads, 3.65 on Storygraph, and 4.1 on Audible

Negroni: Book with a love triangle

I’m still not over my dislike off the overused love triangle and don’t even want to engage with this trope. And while it’s not restricted to YA I think my answer to book with a love triangle will just be: any young adult novel from the early 2000s

Bay Breeze: Book with light, chill/heartwarming vibes 

Eyes like Stars

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith (“Bertie” for short) consorts daily with fairies, spirits, pirates, kings and queens. Left in infancy on the doorstep of the Theatre Illuminata, Bertie’s confidants and acquaintances step from the pages of plays. When the Theatre decides to evict her from her home of seventeen years, Bertie fights to stay where she is as the curtain goes up on a drama of longing and discovery- with Bertie searching out the well-concealed secrets of her past.

I loved the closed setting of the theatre, the light hearted tone, and the rich language and world building. In this threatre all one needs to do is call a change of scene and the stage will be set for another production. The magic that allows the stage changes also has an affect on all the actors and the story felt fresh and original when I first read it ten years ago. 

I rate it 4 stars. It’s currently rated 3.72 on Goodreads, 3.6 on Storygraph, and 5 on Audible

Dark and Stormy: Book that’s dark, thrilling, and menacing (bonus point if the setting matches!)

Vita Nostra Sasha Samokhina has been accepted to the Institute of Special Technologies.

Or, more precisely, she’s been chosen.

Situated in a tiny village, she finds the students are bizarre, and the curriculum even more so. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, it is their families that pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.

Dark academia at its best It’s a mind bending book so I recommend checking out the deep dive on Fraser Simon’s book when you finish reading it. .

I rate it 4.75 stars. It’s currently rated 4.06 on Goodreads, 4.05 on Storygraph, and 4.4 on Audible. 

Martini: Classic Recommendation

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – accompanied of course by a viewing of the BBC TV series 

This is an example of how the early days of the Industrial Revolution felt to those who lived through them and was written from Elizabeth Gaskell’s personal experience. It explores the tensions of a city becoming run by a system that values profits over people. North and South inspired and informed other works from the time period and originally appeared in 20 weekly episodes from September 1854 to January 1855 in Household Words, edited by Charles Dickens.

I love the main characters and it’s one of the best classic enemies to lovers tales.

I rate it 5 stars.  It’s currently rated 4.14 on Goodreads, 4.12 on Storygraph, and 4.7 on Audible. 

That concludes the tag! If you have a blog, booktube, bookstagram, booktok and fancy doing this tag then consider yourself tagged by me 🙂


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