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Pick-a-Shelf: Monthly -Archive > 2018-06 - Biographical Fiction Book Reviews

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Lyn (Readinghearts) (lsmeadows) | 2836 comments Mod
Here it is the beginning of June. Time to start reading and reviewing our Biographical Fiction Books

The summer is always really busy for me as both of my boys have birthdays in the summer, as well as a nephew, my dad, and other family things, BUT this is one of my favorite genres, so I am really going to try to read and review at least 1 book.

As always, in order to be considered to pick our shelf for August, you must post at least 1 review in this thread!

In addition, don't forget to check out the


message 2: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) | 1431 comments I read Rob Roy by Walter Scott. I would have enjoyed it more had I known more about the history of the Jacobite rebellion, and especially if I had understood the Northern English and Scottish dialects. As it is, reading most of this book was torture to me. I enjoyed it a lot where I didn't have to decipher just what was being said. Pity.

2.5 stars.


message 3: by Joyce (new)

Joyce (eternity21) | 611 comments Book: The Autobiography of James T. Kirk
Finished: 6/6/18
Rating: 5 stars
Review: This was the story of James T. Kirk from childhood to the end of his career. As a fan of Star Trek it was really interesting. Hearing of his childhood and things that formed him. His meeting all of his future crew members that we know and love.


message 4: by Karin (new)

Karin | 811 comments Here be Dragons
Finished June 20, 2018
3 stars

Set in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century, this is a novel centering on King John, arguably the worst British king ever, his daughter Joanna/Joan and Llewellyn Ab Iowert (anglicized spelling of LLwellyn). There is a summary, so I'll simply say that while it was well written and Penman tells you at the end which characters she made up and which ones she made guesses at, etc, I have simply read enough of this sort of family saga/political/long historical fiction type of book. If you like this sort of thing, or this is an area of history you enjoy reading novels about, then I recommend it.


message 5: by Elvenn (new)

Elvenn | 722 comments For this month's shelf I read The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry.

Dr Grene- psychiatrist in a mental hospital- needs to "assess" Roseanne, a patient of 100 years old that has spent the last five or six decades confined there, to decide if she'll still have a bed once the institution opens in a new building. So we follow his investigation jumping from Roseanne impromptu diary ("Roseannes's testimony of herself") to the professional's notes ("Dr. Grene's Commonplace Book"), these quite messy and far from systematic as, while he tries to uncover the circumstances that led to his patient's admission to the asylum, he's also dealing with 100 other patients, the hospital's daily troubles and a personal life that's reaching the point of collapse.

The book was very interesting and well written and I learned a great deal of Irish social history from the first half of the 20th century but it's also a slow and sad story that many will find deeply depressing and if in all the plot reaches a certain balance, I think it's mostly for the mercy the author shows the characters from time to time.

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Rating: 3.5 stars


message 6: by Elvenn (new)

Elvenn | 722 comments Marina (Sonnenbarke) wrote: "I read Rob Roy by Walter Scott. I would have enjoyed it more had I known more about the history of the Jacobite rebellion..."

I read it as a teen and I remember liking it but thinking the title had been totally misleading...


message 7: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) | 1431 comments Elvenn wrote: "Marina (Sonnenbarke) wrote: "I read Rob Roy by Walter Scott. I would have enjoyed it more had I known more about the history of the Jacobite rebellion..."

I read it as a teen and I remember liking..."


Yes, Elvenn, it IS misleading. I was sure it was going to be about Rob Roy, while it's not that at all. I was a bit disappointed.


message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan | 3478 comments Mod
I read Salt to the Sea, and - as Bea told us last month - it was wonderful! My review here .


message 9: by Rosemary (last edited Jun 29, 2018 01:07AM) (new)

Rosemary | 874 comments I read Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkuhn as Told by a Friend by Thomas Mann.

This is fiction, in that this composer didn't exist. But it's set up as if it was a biography written by a biased and rambling friend.

Unfortunately, I hated it. I only finished it because it's on the "1001 books" list, and I make a big effort not to give up on those. But it was the kind of book that made me question whether I really want to read that list.

I couldn't connect with anything relating to the main character, Adrian Leverkuhn--not his music or his philosophy or his faux antique way of talking. The only parts I engaged with were descriptions of places or the sections that focused on other people. A big disappointment for me, after enjoying some of Thomas Mann's other books.


message 10: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) | 1431 comments Rosemary wrote: "I read Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkuhn as Told by a Friend by Thomas Mann.

This is fiction, in that this composer didn't exist. But it's set up as if..."


Uh, I deleted this from my wishlist after being told that it's even more difficult than The Magic Mountain, with which I struggled a lot. It looks very interesting, but I don't think I will ever have the courage to read it (perhaps when I'm older and wiser, though I doubt it). Your comment confirms that I'm right, especially if you say you enjoyed other books by Thomas Mann.


message 11: by Rosemary (last edited Jun 29, 2018 08:39AM) (new)

Rosemary | 874 comments Marina (Sonnenbarke) wrote: "Uh, I deleted this from my wishlist after being told that it's even more difficult than The Magic Mountain, with which I struggled a lot. It looks very interesting, but I don't think I will ever have the courage to read it (perhaps when I'm older and wiser, though I doubt it). Your comment confirms that I'm right, especially if you say you enjoyed other books by Thomas Mann. "

I certainly found it more difficult than The Magic Mountain. It's a long time since I read that one, but I have good memories of it.

I'd recommend Death in Venice, which is super-short! And I'd still like to read Buddenbrooks sometime.


message 12: by Karin (new)

Karin | 811 comments Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly 3.5 stars rounded down

Another novel about World War II, this one containing two characters who lived in real life and another two based on two real women. This one centres around the "rabbit women" of Ravensbrück--mostly Polish women who were brutally experimented on, leaving those who survived with permanent disfigurement and problems.

The three POVS are the real life Caroline Ferriday, a former Broadway actress who was then a phillanthropist, the based-on-a-real-person Kasia, a teen who was arrested along with her mother and others for aiding the resistance and who became one of the rabbit women, and the real-life German Dr. Herta Oberheuser who worked at Ravensbrück. While Kelly has worked at making different POVs, they are not all fully three dimensional. Oberheuser is very poorly developed and two dimensional. Of course we're not supposed to like her, or at least not for long, but making the antagonist, however nefarious, two dimensional does not make for good writing. The other two were somewhat better, but not as riveing as I'd have liked, but of course the actual story itself is given that it happened.

That said, I think Martha Hall Kelly is a shows promise and I do hope she develops her ability to fully develop more three dimensional characters, both POVs and secondary ones.


message 13: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) | 1431 comments Rosemary wrote: "I'd recommend Death in Venice, which is super-short! And I'd still like to read Buddenbrooks sometime."

Thanks for the recommendation - I already read Death in Venice and liked it a lot! So far my favorite by Thomas Mann is Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family, but I also liked Tonio Kröger a lot.


message 14: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary | 874 comments Marina (Sonnenbarke) wrote: "So far my favorite by Thomas Mann is Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family"

Oh, that's good to know! :)


message 15: by Jamie (new)

Jamie Zaccaria | 99 comments So I tried to read Loving Frank about Frank Lloyd Wright's mistress but I couldn't get into it. The book is good, don't get me wrong. I think I'm just not into romantic dramas. I wanted to read it because I'm going to Chicago tomorrow but I should have realized it's not my genre.

I may try to finish it anyway but for now, it's marked as DNF.


message 16: by Tyra (new)

Tyra | 15 comments I read the book What Is the What for biographical ficion month. I wanted to read something from the recent past and while skimming the shelf this book caught my eye. It was a fantastic book, very well written and educational.


message 17: by Bea (new)

Bea | 4815 comments Mod
I finished Doc one day late. I enjoyed this book and gave it 4*. I did find myself wondering how much was fiction and how much was truth, so reading the author explanation at the end was interesting to me. This is the story of Doc Holliday...a notorious "gun-slinger" of the Old West. Turns out he may not have been so gun happy as the stories sounded...and I think that view might have been closer to the truth. Very interesting read.


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