Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical fiction. Show all posts

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Reviewing The Secret Book of Flora Lea

Ai creation of girl on river bank

Just when I think I've read my fill of World War II historical fiction, 
our book club picks another one for our May meeting.   After reading just a few pages I was totally engrossed in the story and happy to read another WWII historical fiction.

The Secret Book of Flora Lea is based on Operation Pied Piper, a true event during WWII.  In this plan the British Government is looking for a way to keep the children of London safe during the bombing.  They find people willing to take care of the children until the war is over, these people are located in far off lands like Australia and America and many of them are sent to the English countryside.

Brief Summary of the Book

In this book the author, Patti Callahan Henry, tells the story of two young girls, Hazel age 14 and Flora age 5 who are sent to the English countryside.  The story begins with the girls boarding a train that takes them to towns in the countryside where people choose from the children to see who they want to stay in their home.

The girls are fortunate to be placed in a lovely cottage near a small English town and the river Thames.  Here they live with Bridie and her son Henry.  They are very kind and good to the girls.

The girls spend their times going on walks and playing games, which include a wonderful fairy tale that Hazel makes up to entertain Flora and distract her from missing her mother.  In this story the girls escape to a magical land with a cast of delightful characters.  The secret place they escape to is called Whisper Woods.  All is going well until one day Flora goes missing and everyone searches for her but are unable to find her.  The police believe she fell into the river and drowned.

We next meet Hazel 20 years later when she is working in a rare book store.  She is doing well but still misses her sister and feels guilty that she took her eyes off her a few minutes and Flora went missing.  While sorting through a batch of new books that came to the book store, Hazel finds one with the title Whisper Woods.  When she looks through the book she finds many similarities to the story she made up for Flora.  The story that they hadn't told to anyone.

After this, Hazel is on a quest to find her lost sister.  Along the way she meets some Americans who have had the book published and also an English journalist who writes articles about the lost children.  

I will leave the rest of the story for you to discover as you read the book. I highly recommend this book.  

Purchase the Book on Amazon

You can find the book at your local library, or you may purchase it both in paperback, hardback or electronic formats on Amazon.  Here is a link to the book on Amazon. The Secret Life of Flora Lea

 




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Silent Lady Catherine Cookson Book Review

The Silent Lady Catherine Cookson Book Review

I recently picked up and read the last Catherine Cookson novel, The Silent Lady. It met the standards of the previous Cookson novels that I have read and I particularly enjoyed the dedication from the author, which starts, "This story was not meant to be written." What follows in that chapter is the story of how she wrote this novel when she was bedridden and believed that she was finished on this earth. I think that it is pretty amazing that someone could compose such a manuscript entirely in his or her head and then record it on cassette tape.

The Silent Lady is a historical novel, set in the richest and the poorest areas of London, England, and ranges in dates from the year 1929 to the year 1959.

The main character, Irene Baindor, becomes known in the pages of the book more simply as The Silent Lady. Unbeknownst to her new family she had been a lady of high society and a wife to a well-known and respected businessman. However, what family and friends did not know was that he was abusive. The story follows Irene as she trades that horrific position as his wife for a life on the streets in the poorest areas of London. It tells of kind folk who, though hardly able to feed themselves, were willing to help others that have less than they do. Thirty years later, after good times and bad, Cookson tidies the story of this lost lady up nicely.

The title on my copy of the book calls The Silent Lady Cookson's "magnificent final novel." I agree with the first part as I think that it was a magnificent novel and equal to any of her nearly 100 published books. However, it turns out that it was not the last book ever published bearing the author's name. It was published in 2001 and there are at least three books that were published after that date.

Find your copy of The Silent Lady here on Amazon.

See you
at the book store!

Quick Links:

Did I or didn't I read a Catherine Cookson novel that year?

Another great novel for fans of historical fiction.

How Did I Become A Bookworm in which Louanne discusses how she was introduced to Catherine Cookson by her grandmother.
  






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Thursday, January 11, 2024

Book Review-Daughters of Green Mountain Gap

 

Book Cover



I love reading historical fiction and time period novels and I also love reading books that are real page turners.  Teri M Brown fits the bill in both of these areas.  Last year I reviewed her book An Enemy Like Me and I loved it, so I was really excited to have the opportunity to review her latest book, Daughters of Green Mountain Gap. In this book we meet three generations of women living in North Carolina at the turn of the twentieth century.

The Book on Amazon

The book will be released on January 23, 2024.  You can order it at the following link on Amazon. Daughters of Green Mountain Gap

Daughters of Green Mountain Gap

Three Generations-Three Exceptional Women

    Maggie

Maggie is the granny, who is known throughout the small Appalachian town and surrounding area as a healer.  She believes and relies on traditional methods for her healing.  She has learned her skills through family tradition, folklore and also from visits she makes to the healer in the local Cherokee tribe. 

    Carrie Ann

Carrie Ann is Maggie's daughter.  She has graduated from nursing school and feels strongly that modern medicine should prevail and that her mother's methods are not only outdated but could be harmful.  Carrie Ann works for the local doctor and feels that all should see him for their medical needs and not her mother.

    Josie Mae

Josie Mae is Carrie Ann's daughter and because of her mother's job she stays much of the time with her grandmother, Maggie.  While she is there Maggie teaches her all about her traditional healing methods.  Josie loves her grandmother and believes that her methods are important, however she is caught between the vastly different methods of Maggie and Carrie Ann.

My Thoughts on Book

I was engrossed in the book from the first chapter.  The author, Teri M Brown, does a wonderful job of bringing you into the lives of these three women.  You find yourself smiling at their victories and feeling sad as they deal with sickness and death.  The family dynamics are a great way to show the spirit of the times with the struggles between folk medicine and science, old and new methods, and dealing with the change in society.  I highly recommend this fascinating book.

Reviews of other Teri M Brown Books

Two of Teri M Brown's previous books have been reviewed on Review This.  Our reviewer Olivia reviewed Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, and I reviewed An Enemy Like Me.  Here are links to those reviews.







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, January 1, 2024

Book Review: Saga of the Mountain Sage: A Classic Historical Western Series by W. Michael Gear

This historical fiction western begins in 1825, when Richard is a young Boston gentleman attending Harvard. He is a talented and bright student studying philosophy. Richard can quote all of the greatest philosophers and he knows what is real and what is right. He is the only son of wealthy businessman Phillip Hamilton. His mother is deceased, having died during childbirth and Richard has essentially been raised by their servant, Jeffry. How is a story set in the city of Boston able to become a historical western? It begins when Phillip decides that it is time for Richard to take some responsibility, ends his financial support for the Harvard education, and sends Richard on a business trip to St. Louis - the edge of the wild frontier.

Book Cover of Saga of the Mountain Sage Book 1

The Morning River: Sage of the Mountain Sage, Book One: A Classic Historical Western Series 

Thank goodness I was on vacation when I started this book (this series of four books)! I read the series across a handful of days; including the one day that I forced myself to finally close my kindle at 3:30 am. I resumed reading immediately after breakfast the following day.

Richard begins his trip west to St. Louis with his father's bag of bank notes. He expects to make the long journey to St. Louis, make the business transaction, and return to Boston. 

The chapters take us from Richard's journey to Heals Like A Willow. Her people are the Dukurika (Shoshone), the sheepeaters of the high mountains. She had married her husband, a Ku'chendikani, and lived with their tribe. We meet her as she is burying and mourning her husband and son high on a rocky slope, during a blowing snow. We later learn that she is a very powerful woman, a medicine woman, and breaks some of her People's important traditions and expectations about a woman's role in their society. However, she continues searching for what is real and what is right.

While Phillip is right, and Richard's entire world has been limited to their home, the city, and the university I was immediately concerned that sending Richard on such a journey with such a large amount of money was a very risky idea. During Richard's long journey on the river, he is aloof and stand-offish. He is not impressed by the cities and towns along the way. He looks down his nose at the people he sees in boats, on the riverbanks, and on the farms along the way. Richard was amazed at the river he traveled on but uncomfortable when he stared into the deep forests.

"... he'd watched the forest as it passed, uneasy at what might lurk in those dim shadows. Like a child hearing the ghouls in the winter wind."

During brief conversations with another gentleman, Mr. Eckhart, on the steamboat, we begin to see Richard's thoughts. When Mr. Eckhart observes that Richard may not have the ambition and character needed for frontier life, Richard responds:

"My duty, sir, is to go to Saint Louis, see to some arrangements, and return to Boston with the greatest dispatch. Thereafter, I shall retire to the university and never again endure such bad food... ill company, or the human dregs such as you see floating along on flatboats"

It is a wonder that Richard doesn't make enemies when he repeatedly and snobbishly refers to others as "animals". Oh wait, he does make enemies.

Richard arrives in St. Louis with plans of finishing this errand for his father then returning to Boston to begin courting the beautiful Laura Templeton. He has written letters to her along the journey. 

But there is trouble in St. Louis. Big trouble. Life-threatening and life-changing trouble that irrevocably changes Richards life. If he survives, it is very unlikely that he will ever return to Boston.

Travis Hartman, a rugged frontiersman who is disfigured from a bear attack has partnered with long-time friend Dave Green in a business plan. They are planning an illegal trip up the Missouri River, in a keelboat, to the Upper Yellowstone River to open a trading post. During this time of unrest between the Indian tribes and each other, and the tribes and whites, permits are required to do such a thing. But Dave Green has a dream and a plan.

It is up this river and on the frontier that the lives of Richard and Heals Like A Willow, surrounded by the likes of Hartman and Green, converge. Will they collide and self-destruct or join forces and survive.


This series kept me engrossed. It was not only entertaining but educational (I had no idea how Keelboats were moved upriver) it was also thought-provoking. How do we decide what is right and wrong? And who is right? Who are the animals and who are civilized? 

While many descriptions in the book are beautiful (descriptions of the people, the land, the settings) and took me to those places, it was also a time period set during a great deal of violence. There are plenty of "mature" and difficult scenes, words, and themes in this book. However, it was the reality of those times.

If you begin The Morning River, book 1 in the series, and have any inkling that you like the story, I highly recommend buying the next 3 books. I do not recommend jumping into the series somewhere in the middle or end. I wish that these 4 books had been kept in one single book (I read somewhere that the series began as either one or two books - I don't recall which - but had been separated out into 4 somewhere along the way. I would have preferred it to be one volume).

I would like to tell you more about the characters. And about the parts of the story that made me laugh and made me cry. I would like to discuss the "right", the "wrong", and how God does or doesn't work in our lives, based on the story. But telling any of those things would create spoilers and I don't want to do that.  I can say that this story and these characters (and the people the characters represent from our history) will be with me for a very long time. 

Thank you W. Michael Gear for writing this bit of history in this way.


You can find there series here: The Morning River: Sage of the Mountain Sage, Book One: A Classic Historical Western Series 




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Thursday, December 7, 2023

Netflix Series Review - All the Light We Cannot See

 

Netflix Series Review - All the Light We Cannot See
A couple of weeks ago, Fran was looking for something to watch on Netflix and came upon this Netflix limited series, "All the Light We Cannot See"

If you love historical fiction, like I do, you will love this limited series. We were hooked from the very first episode and binged the whole series in one night.

All the Light We Cannot See is based on the critically acclaimed novel by Anthony Doerr. 

The book was published in 2014 and was a New York Times Best Seller, and also won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. 

Netflix released the limited series on November 2, 2023. This series will have you on the edge of your seat through every episode.

Set during World War II the story follows two young individuals whose lives intersect amid the chaos of the war.

Newcomer Aria Mia Loberti as Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French teenage girl and the daughter of Daniel LeBlanc played by Mark Ruffalo. 

Aria Mia Loberti is really blind and this was her first acting experience. 

Louis Hoffmann as Werner Pfennig, a young German orphan who eventually becomes a soldier specializing in detecting and tracking radio frequencies.

Lars Eidinger as Reinhold von Rumple, an officer of the SS who certifies and evaluates art, and jewelry.

Hugh Laurie as Etienne LeBlanc, a reclusive World War I veteran suffering from PTSD and the great uncle of Marie-Laure.

The series spans from the years 1934 to 1944. When Nazi Germany invades France, Marie, and Daniel flee to Saint-Malo to take refuge in her great-uncle's house.

All the Light You Cannot See is a rollercoaster of emotions as the series balances moments of intense drama, heart-melting romance, and the harsh realities of war.

 I was emotionally invested in the journey of each character. I found myself rooting for their triumphs and feeling their heartaches as their lives intertwined. You find out early on in this series what bonds Marie and Werner, and you are eager to find out how it ends.

Watch the YouTube Official Trailer here:



Now that I have seen this masterful limited series, I must read the book.



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, November 20, 2023

Book Review: October in the Earth: A Novel by Olivia Hawker

Mrs. Wensley is a proper preacher's wife living in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1931. Life has always been hard in coal country but it became even more difficult after the Great Crash of 1929. Is it blasphemy that Adella questions her life in the largest home with 100 miles in any direction, her difficulty becoming pregnant after 8 years of marriage, and her role as the preacher's wife? Is it wrong that she disagrees with him in how to respond to the homeless folks passing through? 

book cover photo of October In The Earth


While she ministered to the women of the county tirelessly and she felt as though she were failing. Something did not feel right to Adella. 

"That afternoon, I came up the last shaded rise of the old road with that loaf of bread tucked under my arm, and I rounded the bend, and there before me was home - the only place that had ever felt like home to me, even after I'd settled with my eminent husband in the finest house in the whole danged valley. My parents' place could scarcely be called a house at all." - October in the Earth

Adella was visiting her family's shack when her brother pulled up; pale and shaken. Miners were in the midst of strikes after the mining companies had slashed wages due to the economy. Violence was breaking out, men killed during a shooting related to a mining company. 

"A couple of fellas pulled up in a truck that was all painted with the sign of the Evarts company". "They jumped out of the cab" Benjamin went on, "hollering and wringing their hands about a full-on war."  - October in the Earth

Benjamin drove Adella back to her home so that she could share the news with her husband and they could minister to the local families involved. 

As the plans to help defuse the situation were made, Adella found herself questioning the responses. Internally questioning what should and shouldn't be done - what is a sin and what isn't. Adella finds her husband in the midst of what is clearly a sin and yet she cannot openly address it. She cannot bring herself to question things aloud. 

"It's the baby. My thoughts tripped over one another, tangling themselves. No baby. I haven't given him a family. No wonder he's losing interest." - October in the Earth

Adella visits the Granny Woman, as her mom has advised. The Granny Woman who can help women with their health problems. But it wasn't fertility help that Adella finds during that visit. She finds a woman willing to speak truth aloud. The shocking truth.

In her desperation, she prepares to flee. Adella follows the hobos that she has secretly fed - against her husband's wishes - during their trip through town looking for work. The proper preacher's wife dresses as a man, takes the few belongings she is able to carry, and hops a train away from it all.  The remainder of the story is a peek into the life of hobos on the rails. Riding from one town to the next, in a desperate search for work and food during the great depression. If the hobos are barely able to survive, will Adella be able to transform from a proper preachers wife living in plush comfort - thanks to the collection plate - to a lone woman traveling from town to town to find work? 


October in the Earth by Olivia Hawker


Unfortunately, I am not doing this story justice. I have clearly become an Olivia Hawker fan and find myself drawn into the stories of people living lives very different than mine. Olivia Hawker writes about believable characters with descriptions that immerse me into the story. 

I previously read and reviewed One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker. You can read my review here. 





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, October 16, 2023

Book Review: The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies

Nora Jennings is a 17 year old in England during the 1930's which is a time of war and a time of mental asylums. While Nora is a privileged young lady, she is also found to be a "moral defective" and as such she is moved to an asylum. Based on a true story The Girl Behind the Gates is a harrowing, moving, and hopeful account of a young lady trying to survive her mental health treatment the best she can and the few people who are kind to her and help her stay alive.

photograph of the book cover for The Girl Behind the Gates
The Girl Behind the Gates


The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies

The book begins with the Author's note that ensured I would tear through this story in every free moment. The author is a medical practitioner, who came to work in the asylum when Nora had been held for decades. 

"Over the years I tried to encourage Nora to tell her story, but she always backed away from doing so. However, several times she asked me if I would write it for her. I always refused. Then following her death in 1995, one of her friends sent me a note and included a letter from Nora reminding me of her request. So, at long last, this is a true yet fictionalised account of Nora's story."

At 17, Nora made two life-changing decisions that began with falling in love. Those decisions were deemed by her parents, The local religious and governmental folks  in charge, and by the mental health practitioners of the day as morally defective. A person that needed to be kept out of the public in order to protect society. 

Little to no patient records were kept, many who worked in the asylum were abusive, and it was acceptable to slap a patient into line. It was extremely easy to find yourself placed in an asylum and impossible to find your way out while still alive. 

Some staff were kind, but those staff had little to no power in the hierarchy. Kind staff were reprimanded and/or did not remain employed at the facility. The treatments of the day included sedation, ice baths, removal of personal belongings, and electric shock therapy. Nora experienced all of those treatments.

The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies

Forty-two years later, in 1981, Dr. Janet is newly employed at the Hillinghurst Hospital and is working in the acute ward when she is directed to do a review of the patients on the back wards. Dr. Janet begins with reviewing the files before entering the back wards and meeting the staff and patients.

"She's been at it for hours and feels pretty over-whelmed. No real patient notes, just individual sentences, often separated by bald patches where nothing at all was recorded, as though the patient simply stopped existing for months at a time."

It is in those back wards that she meets the woman who has been kept there since age 17. A woman who has learned to survive the abuse, neglect, and psychological trauma. A woman who inspires Dr. Janet to re-examine her own life and eventually write a book to tell the story.

A Personal Note

Having worked in mental health for decades, this story was profoundly meaningful to me. Dr. Janet's thoughts and approaches rang true. So many "patients" (then and now) have exceedingly important stories to be told yet go unheard due to the issues of confidentiality, difficulty with timelines, and hazy details. Yet, they are stories that should be shared. 

I am thankful that Brenda Davies found a way to share this story to not only educate about the common treatments used decades ago but also the personal story of a woman who survived it all. 

Nora Jennings survived. But how? And did she thrive or remain merely the shell of a person? You'll have to read the story to find out.





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Thursday, May 25, 2023

Book Review - Lost Roses

 

roses
AI Image
In this exciting prequel to Martha Hall Kelly's best-selling Lilac Girls, we follow the lives of Eliza (Caroline Ferriday's mother) and her two friends from Russia-Sofya and Luba Streshnayva.  Sofya and Luba are cousins of Tsar Nicholas II and although all three women have grown up in privilege, they all have a strong desire to help others.

Background

Like Caroline Ferriday from Lilac Girls the characters in Lost Roses are real people from history.  Martha Hall Kelly did meticulous research to make sure her facts were correct and then built a wonderful work of historical fiction around events from history.  This second book in the Lilac Girls series takes place in 1914 in the days leading up to and during the Bolshevik Revolution.



Plot Summary

The book begins as Eliza Ferriday from New York City is going to visit her good friend Sofya in St. Petersburg, Russia.  They had met years before in Paris and become good friends.  Even though it is 1914 and the world would seem to be on the brink of war, Eliza is excited for her trip and a visit with her good friend.  She arrives safely and all seems to be going well till there is word that they must flee the city because of the revolutionaries are nearby and are trying to overturn all the wealthy ruling class.  Eliza sails home to New York and Sofya and her family escape to their summer home in the countryside.

While they are in their summer home they hire a local fortuneteller's daughter, Varinka, to work in their household.  This turns out to be a very bad decision. As time goes on the revolutionaries kidnap the family and keep them captive in an outbuilding of the family's luxurious summer home.  The storyline continues and keeps us on edge as we wonder how the family will survive and will they escape to Paris as they hope.

As the story continues, we see the ways both Eliza and Sofya work in these troubled times to help those in need.

I found this book to be very interesting.  Martha Hall Kelly has a way of making her characters come to life and I found myself reading into the night to find out what would happen next.

Book One of the Series

The first book in the series, actually chronologically comes after Lost Roses.  It is set in a World War II time frame and features Eliza's daughter Caroline.  It too was a very compelling story that I had a hard time putting down.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Book Review - A Girl Called Samson

 

historical female soldier
A Girl Named Samson (photo created in AI)


I love reading historical fiction, and although I have read lots of books from the World War II era, I had not read any from the American Revolutionary War period.  The title on this book is what first intrigued me to download this book.  What an amazing story!  It kept me interested from page 1 and now I feel I know a lot more from that period of history.
 




The Story

Deborah Samson was born in 1760 in Massachusetts.  When she was quite young her father abandoned her family, and her mother was unable to provide for Deborah and her siblings.  Deborah ended up being bound out to be an indentured servant at age 5.  She stayed with various people in her early years, but when she was 10, she was indentured to a young farmers family that had 10 boys.  It was Deborah's duties to help look after the boys.

The family was very kind to Deborah and from them she was able to learn a lot.  Although she didn't go to school herself, she had a thirst for knowledge and was able to learn from the boys as they were growing up.  She had a friend and mentor in the Reverend Conant and when she was 15, he gave her a journal for her birthday.  In this journal she would discover her longings through her writings.  The Reverend also put her in touch with his niece Elizabeth, who became Deborah's pen pal. Elizabeth was older and married and provided Deborah with advice and someone to share her ideas.

When the American Colonies were gearing up for war, each of the 10 boys in turn ended up enlisting in the Continental Army.  Deborah yearned for a life of freedom and equal rights for women.  She had learned much from the boys and could shoot a rifle with the best of them.  

When Deborah turned 18, she was free from her bounds and could go out on her own.  The family welcomed her to stay on with them, but Deborah wanted adventure.  She ended up dressing up as a young man and enlisting in the Continental Army.

The story now gets really interesting as Deborah works hard to maintain the secret of who she really is.  Eventually she falls in love in a surprising twist to the story.  

My Recommendation

I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in historical fiction.  This story is loosely based on a young woman from history named Deborah Samson.  It is a great testament to the power of a young woman daring to chart her own way despite the circumstances.













Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Tobacco Wives- Book Review

 

woman in fields
The Tobacco Wives- A Book Review

This thought-provoking historical novel takes us to North Carolina in 1946.  We are introduced to a small town that is reliant on the tobacco industry and the pride the community takes in the industry. During the war the community survived by the women taking the place of the men who normally worked in the tobacco factories. We are also introduced to the wealthy women who are the wives of the tobacco company executives.

The Book on Amazon



The Story

We are introduced to the community of Bright Leaf by Maddie, a young girl who is brought to live with her Aunt Etta. Maddie has visited her aunt in the summers for several years and has learned from her how to be a seamstress.  This year, however, is different when her mother unexpectedly drops her off much earlier at a time when Etta is very busy sewing gowns for the wealthy women to wear to the annual Gala. When Aunt Etta suddenly falls ill, Maddie is tasked with being the lead dressmaker and in getting all of the gowns ready for the Gala.  

Maddie is enjoying her challenge as the dressmaker and even starting to feel comfortable working with the wealthy women of Bright Leaf till she discovers some of the secrets of the small town. She now has to worry about how much she should say and just who she can trust.

This book is a very interesting look at activism of women in the post war era and how the freedom they were given during the war years changes how they see life.    It is a book that shows the courage of a young woman and the challenges she faces.

My Recommendation

I really enjoyed this book and once I got started felt I could not put it down.  Maddie was such a delightful character who became real in the pages of the book.  I would highly recommend this book and also feel it would be a great book to read in with a book club.





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, February 20, 2023

Book Review: Alaska by James Michener

Alaska is an epic novel by James Michener that spans an unimaginable length of time and describes Alaska and it's people from the beginning. From the formation of mountains and land masses to Mastodons to modern times. As soon as I pick up where I left off in the story I find myself surrounded by the people in the unique land that eventually became a U.S state.

Alaska by James Michener


Introduction by Steve Berry

Steve Berry explains how he came to read his first James Michener novel then goes on to tells us a bit about James Michener the man and author. Michener was reportedly an orphan, adopted by Mabel Michener. He lived in poverty in Bucks County, Pennsylvania for at least a portion of his childhood. Then as a young adult, he traveled the country by train (in boxcars to be more specific) and found odd jobs. James Michener wrote his autobiography in 1991 titled The World is My Home. He attributes his curiosity about people and their lands. I feel that his curiosity about people, their cultures, and their lands as well as his love of travel shines through his writing.

Fact and Fiction

Alaska is a historical novel. Fiction. But based in fact. The Fact and Fiction chapter explains some of the examples in which fact and fiction come together. For example, it is widely accepted that the order of the arrival of humans in Alaska was The Athapascans first, followed by the Eskimos then followed by the Aleuts (with the Tlinglits being offshoots of the Athapascans). But the time of their arrival is unclear and possibly somewhere between 12,000 B.P.E and 40,000 to 30,000 B.P.E.

Alaska by James Michener

This novel has me hooked. I am writing this before I've finished the novel but due to the length, I feel that's acceptable. 

Michener describes how the land was likely formed. How the collision of plates created the Aleutian Islands and the mountains of Alaska. How the Mastodons and Mammoths arrived, lived, and perished in the area. The arrival of humans. And how conflict begins as soon as different groups live in proximity of each other. As time moves on, we learn about the Russians who settle there under Tsar Peter the Great and how others such as Vitus Bering and Georg Stellar explore the area. The story goes on to include the introduction of different religions; Shamanism, Russian Orthodoxy, and eventually Christianity. The area transfers from Russian ownership to American. Then comes the Gold Rush and moves on to more recent places and events. 

I wish I could write the review this story deserves. I can't. Some online reviews describe the beginning of the book as slow and hard to get through. For me, I enjoyed thinking about the massive number of years that it took for the land to form over time, mountains being sent to great highs due to the movement of the plates and volcanos forming due to the geographical events that are beyond my comprehension. 

I am amazed that Alaska was settled at all. People walked to get there. They rode in tiny kayaks to hunt whale for survival and to change their location Conflict, war, and slavery occurred long before I had imagined. Larger ships began to move people up the Yukon and into the land but became frozen in the ice and stranded for months until the thaw. Humans have gone through a lot to find and keep a home.

The writing is beautiful. 

"And each one was formed by some segment of the Pacific Plate bulldozing it's way into the North American Plate, submerging along the edge, and causing such tremendous commotion and movement of forces that the great mountains erupted as a consequence. When one looks at the glorious mountains of Alaska he sees proof of the power of the Pacific Plate as it noses its way north and east... "

"The ten children were like a collection of colorful flowers, for the clothes they wore were varied in design and color. Some wore short tunics with stripes of white and blue, others long robes and heavy boots, but all wore in their hair some ornament, some flashing bit of shell or ivory" 

I find myself cheering on the adventurers, crying with those who have suffered loss, and booing the villains. All while learning how Alaska became a place where humans chose to call home.

I have two regrets with reading this book.  First, I regret that I don't have more time that I can dedicate to getting comfy in a chair and reading for days upon days. Second, I'm not sure that starting this novel during my winter holiday break was the best choice. My area was hit with a powerful ice storm that wrecked havoc in our county followed by an Arctic blast that was most uncomfortable. Choosing to read Alaska during that time frame was almost as bad as choosing to read Jaws before going to an ocean beach for the first time. Other than those two things, I am enjoying this immensely. 





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The first James Michener novel I read was Chesapeake. It was a wonderful read and I enjoyed the setting around the Chesapeake Bay.



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Book Review of An Enemy Like Me


an enemy like me

I found this book to be totally captivating on many levels.  First of all, the author made the characters so believable that you couldn't wait to turn the page and find out what was going on in their lives.  Secondly, for me the storyline and characters sounded like they stepped right out of my family history.  The similarities include: my father growing up in a German Lutheran community, my parents eloping, and my father and uncles going off to fight in World War II. 

The Characters

An Enemy Like Me is seen through the characters that make up the book.  There are three main characters that bring the book to life.

    Jacob Miller

Jacob Miller is a second generation German American.  He was brought up by his mother, a widowed immigrant.  Although they were poor they had each other and she instilled into Jacob a strong sense of patriotism for America. 

Jacob meets Bonnie Phillips and they work to make ends meet after the depression.  They are starting to get comfortable and buying their first home to bring home their son William.  Then the unthinkable happens, the country they love is drawn into the war in the Pacific and in Europe.  Jacob is torn, he is very patriotic and feels he must help the war effort and yet he has a new young family that he loves and does not want to leave.  Add to that part of the war is being fought against people from his parents homeland and he is even more torn.

    Bonnie Phillips

Bonnie's family were once very wealthy and that is the background she brings to her marriage with Jacob.  During the depression her family loses much of their wealth.  Bonnie falls deeply in love with Jacob and they elope and begin their live together.  What they don't have in money they make up for in their love and desire to carve their place in America.  Although Bonnie is also a strong patriot she does not want Jacob to leave.  She can't imagine life without him.

    William Miller

William is Jacob and Bonnie's son, who is 4 years old when Jacob feels the call to join the fight.  The story is told through alternating chapters of Bonnie, Jacob and William.  William's chapters are also told in the present time where we find him on Veteran's Day 2016 visiting his father's grave and reminiscing about his memories of the war.  We see how those years when Jacob was gone made a difference in William's life.

This book brings to life the joys and perils of German Americans during WWII.  It made me think of my own family and how their time during WWII shaped their lives. 

The Book on Amazon




About the Author

I always find it interesting to learn more about the author on books that I enjoy.  Here is a bit about Teri M Brown taken from her media kit.  Take a few minutes to also look at her website where she recommends other books of historical fiction.

Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown graduated from UNC Greensboro. She began her writing career helping small businesses with content creation and published five nonfiction self-help books dealing with real estate and finance, receiving "First Runner Up" in the Eric Hoffman Book Awards for 301 Simple Things You Can Do To Sell Your Home Now, finalist in the USA Best Books Awards for How To Open and Operate a Financially Successful Redesign, Redecorate, and Real Estate Staging Business and for 301 Simple Things You Can Do To Sell Your Home Now, and Honorable Mention in Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award for Private Mortgage Investing. In 2017, after winning the First Annual Anita Bloom Ornoff Award for Inspirational Short Story, she began writing fiction in earnest, and published Sunflowers Beneath the Snow in January 2022. Her second novel, An Enemy Like Me, launches in January 2023. Teri is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author who loves word games, reading, bumming on the beach, taking photos, singing in the shower, hunting for bargains, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, and mentoring others. Learn more at www.terimbrown.com





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Friday, January 13, 2023

Lord Blackwell’s Promise: A Regency Romance - Larkhall Letters Book 5

Lord Blackwell’s Promise
Ashtyn Newbold has written & published a delightfully unique and entertaining series with the Larkhall Letters.

I had previously read and reviewed the first 4 books in the series, but had to wait for the 5th book to be released.  As soon as Lord Blackwell's Promise was published, I downloaded it to my Kindle and immediately started reading. 

One of the things I like best about Ashtyn Newbold's writing, is that she develops her characters so well that readers feel like they know them personally. In Lord Blackwells' Promise, both Lord Blackwell and Margaret Lovell have strong personalities, devotion to their families and conflicting emotions, much like a lot of real people.

As expected, it was another excellent book that I can highly recommend to Regency Romance novel lovers of any age. Not only is it a unique story, it is interlaced with witty conversations and funny interactions. 

It is another book by Newbold that I hated to see end, even though I was pleased with the ending!   

 

Lord Blackwell's Promise Book Synopsis 

 Lord Blackwell’s Promise: A Regency Romance (Larkhall Letters Book 5)Check PriceLord Blackwell is dying.  He is surrounded by his family, his mother and sisters.  They are the people he has spent his life trying to provide for and protect.  His mother is currently the most influential individual in his life.  When she speaks, he considers what she says, not only because he loves her, but because he truly respects her opinions.  When she recommends that he make amends to the people he has harmed, he contemplates her suggestion.  How could he possibly make things right with the family he has so grievously harmed by swindling them and ruining the father's reputation.  When his mother suggests that he marry the daughter and move the family into their home, Peter (Lord Blackwell) thinks why not? After all, he is dying.  Who he marries, doesn't matter.  Plus, by marrying the daughter and financially providing for the Lovell family, he will be restoring their wealth and social standing.

Margaret Lovell is deeply devoted to her family and greatly concerned for her father's health.  When her brother is hurt and needs surgery, she has to seriously consider the proposal from someone she despises: Lord Blackwell.  Her family can't afford doctors.  They barely have enough food.  As she ponders her options, she realizes with the Earl dying, she wouldn't really need to be a wife.  She would simply be married to him.  As his widow, her family would be wealthy again. 

After the ceremony at the dying man's bedside, Margaret's family is moved into Lord Blackwell's castle.  All seems to be going as planned, that is, until Lord Blackwell recovers!




To find out what happens to Lord Blackwell, his new wife and both families, you will need to read the book for yourself.  It is well worth reading!

 

 

Read My Other Reviews of Books in the Larkhall Letters Series

 The Ace of Hearts Review The Captain's Confidant Review With Love, Louisa Review




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Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, January 2, 2023

Book Review: All the Forgivenesses by Elizabeth Hardinger

 All the Forgivenesses is a debut novel set in early 20th century Kentucky featuring young Bertie Winslow. The story is told from Albertina's (Bertie's) perspective and we follow her through a difficult childhood in Kentucky and into adulthood onto the oil fields of Kansas. The story was written based on stories about oil fields life in the early twentieth century told to the author by her mother and aunts. "The voice of this novel is my recollection of the speech of my maternal grandmother" the author writes. It was Bertie's voice that took me away to another time and land.

All the Forgivenesses by Elizabeth Hardinger


The story begins in 1906, at a Sweet family gathering in Kentucky which serves as both family reunion and pig killing day. Bertie is a six and a half year old who is in charge of her three year old brother, Timmy, while the women work with the pig meat. Her dad and brothers go with the men to the woods to hunt. Mama bounced baby Dacia on her hip until naptime. Then Bertie was given the chore of putting Dacia down for a nap.

Bertie carried baby Dacia into Grandma Sweet's and placed her in a crib. Then made a pallet for Timmy and he fell asleep too. Later in the day Bertie discovers that Timmy is missing from the pallet and is missing from the area around the house. The search begins for Timmy but it is too late.  His body was found in the creek the next morning.

With that tragedy, the already difficult family situation becomes worse for the four remaining children.

Mama is less able to emotionally care for the children fully and Bertie becomes increasingly responsible for the household. Mama becomes pregnant, becomes physically ill, and young Bertie has more siblings to care for while Mama spends her days in bed. Their father comes and goes and the children do their best not to attract his attention while trying to survive.

We follow Bertie through her adolescence, her marriage, and adulthood. Like so many people, she carries her childhood experiences into her own marriage. Her husband, Sam, is a better provider for the family than her father was and a kind, patient man. They move to the oil fields in Kansas for work. 

"Inspired by the stories told by the author's mother and aunts, All The Forgivenesses is as authentic as it is lyrical -- a captivating novel of family loyalty, redemption, and resilience"  quote from Goodreads

I feel that I am having difficulty writing the kind of review that explains how much I enjoyed this book without giving spoilers. I agree whole-heartedly with the description of "authentic" and "lyrical".  We watch as Bertie is forced into the role of caregiver as a child and how she continues in that role as an adult woman. Parts of her story are heart-breaking. She's the heroine but she's not perfect or superhuman. Bertie carries both her strengths and her flaws into her marriage. Despite the hard conditions and difficult relationships there is something beautiful unfolding for this family; not only does Bertie keep children alive, she is able to help them thrive.

This book reminded me a bit of the Winter's Bone story in that a young girl is responsible for siblings while the adults are absent in one way or another and is making the best life they can for their siblings in an impoverished, isolated setting. 






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Friday, December 2, 2022

A Fall from Grace (Clavering Chronicles Book 1) Book Review

a fall from grace book cover

Before we ever read the first word in the book, the title tells us what to expect.  What the title doesn't reveal is how and why Selena loses her position in society.

This historical fiction is set in Hertfordshire, England in 1817 and paints a vivid picture of how easy it was for a young woman, or even a whole family, to have the ton (high society) shun them.  

Imagine having everything you have ever known or expected your life to be, stripped from you because someone else made a mistake. By no fault of your own, you have to learn how to make a living for yourself while watching the world you once knew carry on without you. Becoming an employee in a house where you would previously have been received as a desired guest and ushered into the drawing room for tea with the countess.  Instead, you will now be expected to use the servants entrance and consider yourself fortunate that the countess has favored you enough to even allow you to be her companion.

That is what happened to Selena Lockhart in "A Fall from Grace" by Jennie Goutet.


"A Fall from Grace" Plot Synopsis

 A Fall from Grace
(Clavering Chronicles Book 1)
Check Price

The first few chapters of the book are somewhat humorous.  We are immediately introduced to Sir Lucius Clavering, sixth Baronet of Mardley.  As a wealthy landowner, he is accustomed to having "young maidens" devise reasons to be in his company alone in order to force a marriage.  A snowy night is the perfect opportunity for "accidents" to strand fair maidens who would require refuge in a nearby home.  On this particular night, two such woman separately appeared at his door.  One was intentionally planned, the other truly was in dire straits.  Both are greeted with suspicion.

___

As the lone female occupant of a broken down stagecoach, Selena needs shelter from the snow storm and other danger.  She believes her salvation must lie within the walls of a nearby home which is lit well enough for her to see in the distance. Dispute her lack of warm clothing, she sets out for the house and has plenty of time to recount the events that put her in this frightening situation.  Her father's extreme gambling problems followed by his subsequent death; her fiance's recindment of his offer of marriage;  insufficient funds to sustain her mother & sisters;  all combined to create this life she was so ill-prepared to live.  She was equally unprepared to be greeted by the cynical landowner who did not readily welcome her in out of the cold.

_____

Following Selena's story of becoming a companion to a bitter and unhappy widowed countess, caused me to consider what a truly difficult situation this would have been for a young lady who was raised in a wealthy home with the expectations of a prosperous marriage and continued position in high society.  It would require a strong and determined individual to make this unwanted transition in life status.

Since this is a Regency Romance novel, the reader can rest assured there will be a developing romantic relationship throughout the book. However, I was equally interested in watching the other relationships develop in this book.

I highly recommend this book, and series, to anyone who enjoys clean & wholesome romance novels.

 

 

At publishing time of this review, "A Fall from Grace" is available for free with a Kindle Unlimited Subscription. Or, you can purchase it with the link below.


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