Tag: Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Published: June 1, 2005
704 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating:  5 stars

Book Description:

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history….

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of, a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.

The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself–to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive.

What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler’s dark reign and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.

Kim’s Review:

Kim reviews The Historian twice, she loves it that much. She also reads it every year….

Favorite. Book. Ever.

I read this for the first time back in college. I found it in Bargain Books at Barnes and Noble and once I opened it, I was hooked. What was most intriguing was the “Note to the Reader” section . . . I sat there literally arguing with myself about whether or not this was fiction or an actual history book. Does the author not understand that she’s writing fiction? Wait, does she think this story is real?? I needed to find out, so I kept reading. 600 pages later, I am absolutely convinced that this story is real. This book became the gift that I gave to everyone for whatever event called for a gift. I gave a copy to my mother in law, and she loved it! We’re talking about the lady who had never read a single book that even mentioned a vampire in her life! It became a sign of rebellion for her that she reveled in. Whenever her uptight friends came over, she made sure to display The Historian to prove how cool she was! And I haven’t even started talking about the story yet!

I try to read this book once every year. And in between readings, I crave the story like no other. Adventure, intrigue, horror, culture, history, everything is in this book. I learn something new every time I read it. This year, I read it while we were on our cruise, I finished it in 3 days. I recommend this to everyone. I don’t care what kind of book you enjoy reading, everyone will love this book.

~~~

I wrote a review for The Historian a while ago, and when I went back to read it over again, I realized just how incomplete it was. Nothing has changed since I wrote the review, it’s still my favorite book, I still start longing to read it again before my year is over, it still holds me enthralled while I read it yet again! In fact, this year’s reading meant a little more because I was reading it while on a train traveling through Italy, and I saw some of the places mentioned in the book! I sat in Saint Marco’s Square at Florian’s drinking a rich, thick hot chocolate!

It still amazes me that a work of fiction can sound so much like history, and that I want to believe it all really happened. Kostova has such a wonderful way of telling stories and then intertwining history and fact, making everything feel so realistic and authentic, like you’re living all the action. I’ve added traveling through the Balkans, by train in the autumn and Budapest and Romania to my list of places that I want to see. The characters are so real that you feel like you’ve made new friends when you finish; when I say to Ivan that I want to visit Istanbul, part of the reason is because I expect to meet Turgut and have him invite us to his house for lunch. You root for them on their search for the Count and the anticipation of “what’s gonna happen next??” glides you through page after page.

My historian soul has so much fun year after year, discovering more details and reveling in the search and research. And this book even satisfies my scare addiction! There are times that it’s just creepy enough to give a shudder but not enough to make you put the book down in fright. (Are y’all impressed with how professional I sound in this review? Ha!) And a huge shout out to Elizabeth Kostova for being such a kind and gracious person! I went to her book signing in the spring and she acted genuinely happy to see me. I geeked out all over her, and her response was to buy me a copy of her newest book, The Shadow Land. I’ve met authors who act like they couldn’t care less about their fans; she is not one of them! This book sparked my imagination in such a way that has me coming back to it over and over again, year after year.

The Historian is one of the few books that I would allow myself to read more than just once a year . . . if I could bring myself to displace all the millions of other books I need to read before December 31! 😉 I cannot recommend this book highly enough to pretty much everyone. Even older teens would enjoy it and hopefully help them to see just how cool the study of history can be!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

The Shadow Land

Author: Elizabeth Kostova
497 Pages
Published: April 11, 2017

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi—and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by political oppression—and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger. Elizabeth Kostova’s new novel is a tale of immense scope that delves into the horrors of a century and traverses the culture and landscape of this mysterious country. Suspenseful and beautifully written, it explores the power of stories, the pull of the past, and the hope and meaning that can sometimes be found in the aftermath of loss.

Kim’s Review:

Elizabeth Kostova is one of those authors that I will read no matter what. The Historian is one of my all time favorite books and The Swan Thieves was also excellent. Somehow, she managed to publish a book in April and I missed it until the beginning of December . . . sad I know! But as soon as I saw it, I didn’t even read the description, I automatically bought it. I tried very hard to not compare it to The Historian; I didn’t always succeed, but I did try!

From the beginning, I liked Alexandra. There were some times that I got a little tired of her letting one event, an important event, long in her past, define her present. Other than that, her willing and helpful spirit was very refreshing. She didn’t give driving all over Bulgaria for a family she only interacted with once for a short time, a second thought. Bobby, became one of my favorite characters! I was so disappointed when I found out that he was gay! (ok, calm down snowflakes, I’m not homophobic!) He and Alexandra had such cute chemistry and even a bit of a physical relationship that could have blossomed into such a good romance!!! I kept waiting to find out that Alexandra had turned him straight!!

The history in this story was fascinating! I’ve always loved Eastern European/Russian history, but I’d never studied Bulgaria specifically. Kostova was able to combine her easy story telling skills with history that kept me turning the page. The scope wasn’t nearly as big as The Historian, but I felt that The Shadow Land was the more emotional of the two. The one thing that keeps me from giving this book 5 stars is the odd relationship that exists between Alexandra and Neven. I don’t want to give anything away, I’ll just say that it seemed to be a stretch for me. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone looking for great historical fiction. I would also recommend this to every single older teenager, especially the ones who look at communism thru rose colored glasses. This book did a great job of showing just how bad communism is on a practical level.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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First Line Friday #26

Today’s First Line Friday is one I have heard about that sounds intriguing.  I have heard good things about it, despite it’s 640+ page length in my hardback copy I own. and apparently vampires are involved somehow.  Sign me up for this long roller coaster of a novel! This First Line comes from “A Note to the Reader“:

The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper.

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history….

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive.

What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed-and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler’s dark reign-and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad’s ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova’s debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions, a relentless tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present, with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful-and utterly unforgettable.

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