KiraKira Treasure Box

Random Readings: Women with stories to tell

Tell me a story of hardships that will move me.

After the amazing feedback you pretties gave me in my last RR post my "want to read" list has practically doubled. I've already begun reading some of the titles you lovelies gave me, and I've been reading maaaaaany more books than what I've actually let on, but I decided to take a break form all that to make another Random Readings post with a new theme: women with stories to tell.
Yeah, I know, I'm the queen of cryptic titles, har har har. I decided my last assumption that badass women = queens had actually been a rather stupid one, especially because it lead to disappointment and I never found what I was looking for. Then I realised that what I really wanted was simply the story of a woman that, through overcoming trials, becomes strong and wise — kind of like, well... Yona from the manga series Yona of the Dawn. It dawned on me (no pun intended, I swear, my hands are clean) that this was, in fact, what I was really looking for.
So after adding "historical" to the list of requirements (because who am I kidding, I'm a sucker for the genre, no shame in that) I set out to find books that would quench my thirst for strong female leads who, in the face of adversity, held their chins up high and strode forward with confidence.

Incidentally the header image is from the 2004 film King Arthur. It's not that I recently re-watched it or that it's a personal favourite of mine — I just like Keira Knightley (〃▽〃) (and the image was appropriate).

Song of The Sea Maid

AUTHOR: Rebecca Mascull
GENRES: Historical fiction; Romance; Adventure

I actually added Song of the Sea Maid to my "want to read" list back when I had that urge to read books on pirates and accidentally read a short novel on mermaids. I added it with the idea in mind to later on do a post on mermaid fiction, but what do you know! Once again Laura got fooled by the cover (because that rarely happens, amiright?) and when she actually read the sinopsis she realised the story wasn't actually about mermaids...

Dawnay Price is an orphaned girl in the 18thC with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. She has the good fortune to meet people that are willing to further her studies, despite being a woman. Against all of society's conventions Dawnay becomes a woman of science, and tempted by the call of adventure she sets sail to Portugal. But her journey to uncover the secrets of the flora and fauna of a small island near the coast of Lisbon will be thrown into mayhem by circumstances Dawnay cannot control.

I enjoyed reading Song of the Sea Maid so frikinn' much!! It took me a while to get used to the writing style, seeing as it's written in imitation of 18th century prose, but eventually it added charm to the novel and really pushed me towards believing Dawnay was real. She isn't in the literal sense, of course, as this is a work of fiction, but her struggles as an intellectual woman in the 18th century are very, very real. Her thirst for knowledge was awe-inspiring, and her rebellious fuck-it-all attitude made her a memorable character. I admired how she pushed forward with her ideas even when everyone around her was against them. I just can't get enough of her — I was so moved by how passionate she was about science and discovery!!
I was a little bit sceptical about the romance at first, though. I was here to see Dawnay peruse her dreams, and for a moment I thought the romance would take over. I though the morally conflicting romance would ruin the book, but it was sewn neatly into it, and Dawnay dealt with it like a champ. The book isn't about angsty romance and it's not out to make you feel guilty whilst reading — Song of the Sea Maid is about Dawnay's free spirit and her need for exploration and adventure.
Personally my favourite chapters where those that describe a natural disaster that very unfortunately takes place whilst Dawnay is on her trip. The depiction of it was brilliant, hair-bristling and nerve wracking. Honestly, best part of the book!!
I can't say I'm satisfied with the very open ending it was given, but it suited the overall tone of the novel. All in all, Song of the Sea Maid was exactly what I was looking for — a woman with  an unconventional story to tell. You can see how passionate Dawnay was about what she did in the way Rebecca Mascull described the world around her, which made for some incredibly beautiful passages. It delivered more than I thought it would, and I really urge you pretties to read it!!

House of Shadows

AUTHOR: Pamela Hartshorne
GENRES: Historical; Amnesia; Time travel(?) (sort of not really but yes?)
TOPIC HIT? Umm... not really the vibe I was going for.

For you pretties that follow me on tumblr, this is the book that gave me the heebie-jeebies despite it not being meant to be scary...

Kate Vavasour wakes up in the hospital after a terrible accident, but doesn't remember who she is. She recognises iPads, televisions, bicycles... but the memories that start coming back to her are of a Isabel Vavasour, who lived and died at her home, Askerby Hall, over four hundred years earlier.
Confused and lost, Kate returns to a family she does not really know, and a four year old son that doesn't believe she is his mother. Yet as the memories of Isabel become vivider and vivider, Kate begins to realise the Vavasours aren't really what they seem, and that this house is full of shadows.

So this book deviated a bit from what I was looking for, but the fact that it didn't dwell on romance really pulled me in and I ended up buying it anyway. The catch here is that for most of the first half you don't know whether Kate is being haunted by the ghost of Isabel and being forced to see her memories, or if she herself is the ghost of Isabel and Kate is no longer here. The book also plays on the overhanging mystery that surrounds Kate's accident, as nobody knows whether Kate attempted suicide by throwing herself off of Askerby Hall's tower or if something else caused her fall.
I actually enjoyed reading House of Shadows a lot, especially because of the clever way Pamela Hartshorne laced Kate's flashbacks to Isabel's life into the narrative. It happens suddenly and out of the blue, and the suspense was good enough to keep me hooked. It was clear the Vavasour family was messed up, and watching how their obsession to preserve their family image had twisted their relationship with the outside world was incredibly creepy.
HOWEVER. I found the book incredibly predictable. I mean, I think that was the point to being with, that you realised what was going on before Isabel/Kate did, but it frustrated me that the "mystery" was left to be dealt with until the very end and that Hartshorne didn't give us some unexpected twist to the story. The climax of the book reaaaaally dragged and was needlessly long ┐(´-`)┌.
All in all —and speaking objectively, regardless of the fact that the book didn't really fit what I was looking for— House of Shadows is a good read with a beautiful narrative, but I can't help be a little disappointed in how the story ended up playing out just how I predicted it would. I'll probably give Pamela Hartshorne's historicals another go further on, but House of Shadows left me hoping for more.


AUTHOR: Marina Fiorato
GENRES: Historical; War; Romance

Oh boy, are you ready for the star book of this post? Hold on tight peeps, because I made a perfect hit with this one.

Dubli, 1702. The very beautiful Irish woman Kit Kavanagh runs an alehouse with her loving husband, Richard. But her life takes a turn the night Richard is pressed into the army and taken away from her. Unable to simply sit down and watch life pass her by, Kit cuts off her hair and enters the army disguised as a man in order to find Richard. Far from home and in foreign lands, Kit will be pulled into the War of the Spanish Succession and set upon a path full of thorns, and lace her fate with that of her commanding officer, the handsome Captain Ross.

Sweet baby Jesus, where to begin? How do I express how much I loved this book, how much I enjoyed reading through Kit's struggles and her efforts to keep her sex concealed from everyone around her? How exciting it was to see her become every bit the soldier the men around her were? This was exactly what I was looking for, and I am so very glad I picked up Kit. It is an extraordinary story beautifully written, but what makes this book so mindbogglingly interesting is that this freakish badass woman was actually →fucking real(yes bro, I'm not kidding), and there is nothing, I repeat, nothing more exciting than knowing that the tale you're reading, however impossible it may seem, has some truth to it. I do advise, though, that if you're planning on reading this book you don't read through the wikipedia page beforehand, because though Fiorato has most definitely embellished the story, the blanket details still remain the same.
I especially loved how Fiorato explored what it meant to be homosexual in 18thC Europe through the many side characters Kit comes across in her travels. The novel has a fantastically diverse cast, that practically sprung to life right off the pages. This woman has such a talent for telling epic stories!
I can't say I enjoyed everything the book had to offer, though. I confess I lost track of all the war manoeuvres and what exactly was going on with France (I'd make a terrible strategist, and I am not ashamed to admit it), and found myself not giving much importance to these details ¯\(◉‿◉)/¯. I initially found the second half of the book a lot more boring than the first half, but the book eventually escalated towards a perfect climax and a perfect ending. The excitement that pulsed through me in those last chapters was just. too. frikinn'. much!! And because the ending of any story is paramount for me, the fact that Kit delivered so well in this aspect had me bouncing up and down the house all day. Every soul should read this book. Every. soul.


My thirst is quenched!! Though I doubt I'll be fully abandoning these sort of adventures, for the time being I feel that I can put this "genre"(?) to rest. I think out of the three books, though Song of the Sea Maid was the one that moved me the most (almost to tears, in fact), Kit is definitely the one that left the deepest impression on me. I feel that House of Shadows would've done better if left for a rehash of my "inappropriate readings for a scardycat" RR post, but it was still a very good read nonetheless.
Additionally, I leave you with another book I think follows this theme of women with stories to tell: Under a Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee. This isn't a book I read for this post, but one I picked up after one of you pretties recommended it to me in one of my previous RR posts. It's the survival tale of Samantha, a Chinese girl, and Annamae, a runaway slave, in 19thC Missouri. This book actually falls within the YA fiction category more than adult literature, but I enjoyed it a lot, so I'm also throwing it in for you lovelies to check out.

In other news: I've actually completed my book challenge on Goodreads by reading 40 books this year, whoa ∑(゚ロ゚〃) This is, like, the first year I actually complete my challenge. And I actually started at 25, pumped it up to 30, and then finally up to 40! I'm so proud of myself °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖°
If you have any recommendations of your own or want to share your own opinion on the books above, feel free to leave a comment bellow! Remember to keep it spoiler free for those who may not have read the books!!

Make sure to read the About Kira Kira and F.A.Qs pages before commenting so that your comments may follow the rules of the blog!

Posted on: 11/12/2016

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  1. Nice! i'll try to find Kit in the bookstores around here!

    1. Even if the book is mostly fiction, the story is EXTRAORDINARY when you think this woman was actually REAL........ if you find it you should totally buy it!!


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