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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review of Lighthouse by Eugenia Price

Marblehead Lighthouse
I thoroughly enjoy traveling and visiting lighthouses and when it comes to reading, historical fiction is my favorite genre.   So, when my daughter found this book about a lighthouse that takes place in the eighteen century it was the perfect gift for me.  


Lighthouse by Eugenia Price

This  book is the first of the Saint Simons Trilogy and after reading it I am anxious to start on the next in the series.




The Setting

This book is set in the early days of the United States. It follows the life of a young man from his home in Massachusetts, to his travels to what is now Maine, Florida and finally Georgia. It starts out talking about Shays rebellion and follows history through the early 1800's.  Although it is a fictional story, the author did a lot of historical research and the main character along with several of the other people in the story were real people.


The Story

James Gould is a young man with a dream that he carries throughout his life.  He is raised in Massachusetts, but longs for the warmer climate in the lands of the south.  His other dream is to someday build a lighthouse.  He has plans that he has drawn for a lighthouse that he carries with him through the years, hoping that one day he can make his dream come true.  In the book you follow James life as he feels responsible to care for his mother and siblings and you root for him as he searches for a way to follow his dream first to the north to Bangor on the Penobscot River where he makes  a living to support his family, then to the south and lawless Spanish East Florida.  Along the way he meets a strong woman with whom he can share his dream.  The characters are very compelling and I found myself thinking about the book and looking forward to picking it back up whenever I needed to stop reading.


My Favorite Parts 

I love the way the author takes real people in history and weaves them into the story. It is also interesting to read about places I have visited such as Savannah and St.  Simons Island and imagine what they were like in the late 1700's and early 1800's.  Of course, I am very partial to lighthouses and the building of the lighthouse and then the care of the structure was the highlight for me.  It is hard to imagine the hardships early Americans struggled with during the beginning of the country.

This book is a real page turner and has my recommendation for anyone who enjoys historical fiction!


My  Visit to St. Simons

I visited St. Simons lighthouse several years ago, but now that I've read the book I'd love to visit again.  I think it will be much more meaningful after I've learned about the builder and his dream of the lighthouse.
Below is a Zazzle card I made from my photo of St. Simons lighthouse.



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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Book Review: Illusions of Magic

Illusions of Magic
It doesn't take long to realize that author J. B. Rivard has a talent for writing fiction. In Illusions of Magic, his first fiction work of intrigue, page one draws you into the characters. Most especially the main character, Nick Zetner. From then on, you race through a world of excitement, humor and love. The subtitle is Love and Intrigue in 1933 Chicago. True to it's name.

Illusion of Magic: The Plot, The History


The setting is Chicago in the era of the depression, gangsters and political turmoil. It's also an era that is ushering out live stage presentations in favor of the new world of Hollywood movies. Our hero Nick Zetner, known as the Amazing Mr. Z, is losing out. His magic show bookings have dwindled to nothing. The man is in need of some money.

In steps a dubious banker in need of a man who can quietly find and return some stolen photos. And pay well for success. Nick's mysterious adventure is off and running.

The setting of political turmoil in 1933 Chicago is a fascinating feature of the plot. Franklin D. Roosevelt is about to be inaugurated as president. When giving a speech in Miami, an assassination attempt is made on his life. Roosevelt is uninjured, but the beloved mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, is mortally wounded instead.

Little known bit of history here. At the time, Chicago had no procedure for replacing it's mayor! Ergo, tremendous political turmoil in the city. For 19 days after the shooting, Mayor Cermak lived. And this is where Nick finds himself as he searches for the stolen photos.

Author Rivard's Writing

Illusions of Magic

So lots of people write mysteries and stories of intrigue. It's Illusions of Magic author Rivard who writes fast paced. The man has a talent for not wasting words. It comes from a 25-year career as a technical writer, but he has translated it well. Rivard pulls you in to the story quickly, then never lets up as the plot takes twists and turns I never expected.

As the owner of the site, Mystery Book World Live, I've read thousands of mysteries. Very few have the style of writing as Illusions of Magic. Minus a wealth of flowery adjectives and adverbs, Rivard sets a pace from the beginning that continues to the end. Few first time authors can achieve that.

Illusions of Magic Review


Yes, I am a fan of mysteries of all varieties and I have some history myself of living in Chicago, so this story was a match from the beginning. But, it certainly exceeded my expectations. I was impressed from the start with the writing style and impressed further with the plot development.

An added feature is the author's illustrations. This is something we rarely see in fiction these days, other than children's books. Many of the characters Nick meets on his quest are illustrated for us to enjoy.

Author Rivard draws on his own artistic talent as well as his ability in sleight-of-hand to offer up an intriguing story. I found it to be a fast-paced novel worthy of my time to read it.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

A Shelter of Hope by Tracie Peterson - Book Reviewed

The Christian fiction book, Shelter of Hope is quite detailed as it walks us through Simone's troubled life as she survives an abusive father and finds a shelter of hope in the Harvey House.
There are times in everyone's life when we need a shelter and our home is most often our shelter.  However, in the book A Shelter of Hope, Simone needs a shelter from her home.  She endures regular beatings at her father's hands.  Since she had never known any other environment other than her horrendous home, she doesn't know where or how to find a shelter from the evil. When her mother tried to escape to get help, she was tracked down and murdered.  This knowledge completely trapped Simone.  She knew if she tried to run, she would also be murdered.

The book, A Shelter of Hope, was written by one of my favorite authors.  I doubt I would have stuck with the book beyond the first chapter if I didn't trust the author, Tracie Peterson, to deliver her child character.  A Shelter of Hope is a historical fiction set in the late 1800's in the backwoods, mountain country of Wyoming.  Because of the time period and seclusion of the family, it is easy to believe the horrific details of the book could actually take place.


Synopsis of "A Shelter of Hope"


 A Shelter of Hope (Westward Chronicles, Book 1)Simone Dumas had no hope of ever being rescued from her father's abuse.  Her mother was murdered when Simone was only ten and Simone felt abandoned by her mother, by love itself.  There were few women around and those women were just as powerless as Simone.  The men in the town only leered with lust at the now seventeen year old Simone.  She knew there was no one who was willing to help her escape the monster.  However, even Simone didn't know how very low that man, her father, was capable of going until he sold her, along with their home and property, to a stranger in town.  

Louis Dumas had decided it was time for him to unburden himself.  There were no longer many animals to trap in the area.  Supporting himself, his daughter, Simone, and their home was simply too hard for him now.  He wanted to go where he could take a new wife and earn an easier living.  He certainly wasn't beyond stealing that living either.  When Garvey Davis showed up in town with a lot of money, Louis saw his opportunity to rid himself of everything all at once.  He sold Davis his home, his property and his daughter.  Dumas assured Davis that Simone was a hard worker and would make a wonderful wife for him.  Louis took Davis out to his home, introduced Simone to Garvey and announced that he was leaving.  He told Simone that she had been sold to Garvey along with the rest of his property and would not be going with him.  Simone knew she had once again been abandoned by a parent.

When Davis tried to force his husband rights, Simone grabbed a nearby water pitcher and hit him in the head.  While Davis was unconscious, perhaps dead, Simone quickly gathered her few things, stole his horse and started riding away from the only home she had ever known.

She rode for weeks until she arrived in Laramie where she saw a train for the first time in her life.  When she discovered it could take her a lot further away, a lot faster, she sold Davis' horse and bought a ticket to Chicago.  Once in Chicago, she realized she needed a paying job.  After all, she needed a place to live, food to eat and clothes to wear.  She came across an employment ad to become a Harvey girl in the Harvey chain of restaurants along the railroad line.  She took a bath, bought a new outfit and went for an interview where she realized a name change would be necessary.  Jeffrey O'Donnell hired Simone "Irving" immediately without doing the normal background investigation.  She looked nice and he needed servers for the Harvey House immediately.  She left with him the next morning on a train bound for Topeka, Kansas and training to become a Harvey girl.

Back in Wyoming, Louis Dumas realized he had sold Simone way too cheap.  After all, he could have sold her many times over if he had only kept her.  He decided she could be his goldmine.  All he needed to do was take Simone back from Davis.

When Davis' body is found in the old Dumas home, Deputy Sheriff, Zack Matthews, embarks on a mission to hunt down Simone Dumas who he believed either murdered, or played a part in murdering, Garvey Davis.

Simone knows she is running for her life, but she doesn't realize that she is being chased by her own father and the law.


Conclusion

Please do not think I have given away the entire story in this review.  Because there are so many developed characters, and so much happens in the first part, it was necessary to give more of the plot background in this review then I would normally write.  I assure you, there is a lot more to this book, including a love story.  A Shelter of Hope is quite detailed as it walks us through Simone's troubled life as she, herself, finds a shelter of hope in the Harvey House.

The book also gives us a inside look at the struggle of the young woman to ever trust anyone, including God.  






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A Shelter of Hope Book Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse





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Friday, September 30, 2016

Reviewing the Book, Hide in Time by Anna Faversham

Review and recommendation of the book, Hide in Time by Anna Faversham.  A riveting book that includes time travel, romance, and a very unique twist for doppelgangers exchanging places in time.
I have just finished reading the book "Hide in Time" by Anna Faversham and I can easily recommend it to anyone.  To be completely honest, I was actually surprised by how much I really liked this book.  I am not a fan of time travel books, mostly because I don't believe time travel is possible.  But, like any really good fiction is apt to do, this book caused me to "suspend reality" and embrace the plot.

Because I don't often read time travel books, the beginning was a little confusing to me, but after the first few pages, I got it!  Once the author smoothly lead me by the hand through a wall that separates the 1800's to the twenty-first century, I was hooked.  I needed to see what would happen to Laura who found herself lost in a world that was 200 years beyond her life.  

Because we can study history, I think it would be easier to go back in time, but imagine what it would be like to be cast into the world 200 years into the future.


The Book, Hide in Time by Anna Faversham 

Synopsis Written by Cynthia Sylvestermouse

 Hide in TimeAfter discovering her fiancé had been unfaithful, Laura boarded a ship to America.  She wanted to get as far away from him as possible.  She wanted a new start.  She meant to be traveling to a new world, but she had no way of knowing she would actually be traveling to a different place in time.  She knew she wouldn't know anyone in America, but she didn't expect to be clueless about fashion, jargon, idioms, and a more informal way of living.  

The shipwreck she survived changed her life forever.  When she washed up on shore, the land was the familiar, but everything else had changed.  It was to her great fortune, that Matt Redfern, the first person to actually speak to her, was always willing to help the helpless.  Since she had no memory of who she was or where she was from, he helped her get medical attention.  When she still could not "find her past", he helped her establish a new life and guided her in starting her own business.  

Five years after Laura was tossed into the future, she had found her footing there.  She was thriving, actually living.  Although she had regrets, she was content.  During the past 5 years, Laura investigated the area of her arrival and discovered the secret of time travel.  She also discovered that she was invisible when she returned to the past and it was clear her future belonged in the future.  Then she met Xandra.  

She saw so much of herself in Xandra.  They had so many things in common, even looks.  She felt she had actually found someone who would be a real friend.  Someone who could understand her unique ways and would like her because of them.  Laura hoped Xandra could be the sister she had never had, or at least believed she had never had.   However, when Xandra found herself on a murderer's hit list, she needed a safe haven and Laura had the answer.  She sent Xandra back in time.

As this point the book is divided in chapters where the reader is following two stories.  Laura in the future and Xandra in the past.  A truly fascinating exchange of lives.  It was a very interesting twist to doppelgangers trading places and I really, really liked it a lot.  So much so, I plan to read it again!  I feel like I may have missed some hidden nuggets in the story.


My Recommendation of the Book, "Hide in Time"


When I think about it carefully, I know there were several reasons why I really liked this book and why I would highly recommend it to anyone.

First, it shows us that we can completely change the course of our own lives when needed and find happiness in a new place.  It might take some time to readjust, but we can survive and adapt to new surroundings and people.

Second, it highlights how people are basically the same today as they were hundreds of years ago.   Evil still abounds and good people still exist to maintain the balance that is our world.

And, last but by no means least, I like the concept about time travel in "Hide in Time".  You can't go back!  Once you have crossed into a different place in time, you can't return and just pick up where you left off.  Yes, Laura returns, but she cannot be seen.  She can whisper to the living and they hear her, but they believe she is what most of us would think of as a "ghost".  

As I said at the beginning of this article, I don't believe in time travel, but if there were such a thing, it would have to be in a way that everyone traveling in time couldn't constantly be changing the future by visiting the past, literally. 


More Books By Anna Faversham

Now that I have discovered the author, Anna Faversham, I will be reading more of her books!
 


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Book Review of "Hide in Time" Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse





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Friday, August 19, 2016

Doctor Thorne - Movie Review of an Excellent Show

Doctor Thorne is a drama set in England in the 1850's.  It is the story of an estate heir who must choose between marrying for love or money and social standing.
I confess, I am truly a hopeless romantic!  I prefer romantic novels and shows, including romantic theater productions.  I especially enjoy a story that isn't transparent.  While I always want the couple in love to end up together, I much prefer a plot that holds me captive until the end.

When I discovered the movie Doctor Thorne offered on Amazon Prime, I was quite intrigued by the brief description.   I also confess that I have a weakness for British historical dramas.  I love the settings, the scenery, the castles or homes, the gardens, the costumes, and the characters.  As soon as I read that the script was written by Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, I was hooked.  

The movie is based on the novel that carries the same title.  The book was written by Anthony Trollope, an author that Julian Fellowes compares to Jane Austin and Charles Dickens.  A high recommendation indeed!  

Since I was previously not familiar with the Mr. Trollope's work, I was rather excited to discover a new author as well as a new movie.



A Brief Synopsis of the Movie "Doctor Thorne"


 Julian Fellowes Presents Doctor Thorne -
Trailer and Complete Movie on Amazon Prime
Set in England in the 1850's, the movie opens with Roger Scatcherd, a local stonemason, calling out Henry Thorne for his inappropriate behavior toward his sister.  The accused scoffs at Scatcherd and merely states that he "did not know his sister and honor were acquainted."   Roger Scatcherd grabs him and throws him to the ground accidentally killing him. 

The movie immediately moves forward to 20 years later where we meet Henry Thornes brother, Doctor Thorne, who has raised his brother's illegitimate daughter, Mary.  She has grown up alongside the wealthy Gresham sisters and their brother, Frank.  Mary has previously been welcomed into their home, but when it becomes obvious that she and Frank are in love, his scheming mother, Lady Gresham, and aunt, Countess de Courcy. take charge.  It has been determined that Frank must marry into wealth in order to save their estate and Mary is certainly not wealthy.  They set out to find a suitable match for Frank.

Mary, herself, believes she is not worthy of Frank once she finds out that she is illegitimate.  It would be a marriage that society would not tolerate.  

There are many layers to this movie as each character is more fully developed.  You really have to try to put yourself in the position of each person to understand them better.  As much as I wanted to hate Lady Gresham, I could actually grasp her desire to protect her son, her home and their place in society.  




My Opinion of "Doctor Thorne"


It was a rainy Sunday afternoon when I went in search of a new movie to watch.  I viewed the entire series in about 3 hours.  As expected, Doctor Thorne was a movie well worth watching.  Now, I would like to read the book.  I feel quite certain that the author, Anthony Trollope, will spend even more time developing each character and go into much greater depth of explanation.  

I found myself wondering why the movie was named "Doctor Thorne" when it focused on the love story between Frank, Jr. and Mary.  I also questioned how Roger Scatcherd became Sir Roger Scatchard, especially after spending a decade in jail.  I also wanted to know more about the relationship between Doctor Thorne and Frank Gresham Sr.  The basis of their friendship and trust for one another.  

Even though I wondered about the title, those relationships and social positions, I still found the movie to be quite entertaining and spellbinding.  "Doctor Thorne" might not be as well developed or as lengthy as "Pride and Prejudice" starring Colin Firth, but it is definitely a movie I can recommend.  And, while Doctor Thorne might not be Darcy, he is wise, considered and admirable. 





  
Doctor Thorne Movie Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse




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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Could You Survive Emigrating to An Untamed Land? A Book Review

Could You Survive An Untamed Land?

Those who emigrated beyond the American Frontier in the 1800's were a special breed. They knew they would have to conquer an untamed land in order to survive in their new homes. Laura Snelling puts us into their shoes as we read An Untamed Land (Red River of the North #1). This historical Christian novel follows two Norwegian brothers who emigrated from Norway to America with their wives and children in 1880. They wanted to homestead in the Dakota territory. One of the children was born on the ship during the journey to the United States.

Could You Survive Emigrating to An Untamed Land? A Book Review
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay, modified on PicMonkey

The book opens with the entire family gathered together to discuss whether the brothers should emigrate. There was a great deal of emotion, since everyone knew that if the brothers left, it was unlikely they would ever see their families again. Gustav's younger brother was already in America. Roald and Carl had read his letters. 

You will pick up the sadness of Gustaf as he thinks of his family separated by an ocean.  Yet Gustaf and Bridget knew their younger sons had no real way to work on their own land  if they stayed at home. 


Why Did the Brothers Want to Emigrate?


The brother were part of a large family in Norway.  It was traditional for the eldest son to inherit his father's lands.  The other brothers would have to work the land belonging to others. A Norwegian journalist, Paul Hansen, who had immigrated to the Red River district of  North Dakota and Minnesota,  wrote glowing descriptions of free flat land for those willing to homestead it. Carl and Roald Bjorklund, sons of Gustaf and Bridget Bjorklund, wanted to go and build their future on their own land in the Dakota country. 

Once the family had given their reluctant blessing, everyone worked to raise money for the sea voyage to America. Roald and Carl took jobs on a fishing boat. Roald's wife Anna moved in with the Bjorklund family to help Bridget and save money on rent. When they moved out, they sold everything from the house they would not need in America.  Roald and Carl's sister Augusta then got a job outside the home to help raise money.

It was with great reluctance their parents let them go. Roald had married Ingeborg after his first wife, Anna, had died in childbirth. Thoriff is their first son, now five. Although Roald and Ingeborg respected each other, Roald was still grieving over Anna, and Ingeborg liked, but did not yet love Roald. Carl was in love with Kaaren Hejelmson, and married her before they left.  

So why did these young couples emigrate? Why did they leave all they had known to face hardship and danger settling in a foreign land where they didn’t even know the language? Because they wanted a better life for their children where they could have their own land and live free.


New York


The author skips telling us about the ocean voyage, except for sharing the vivid memories the family members had as they were preparing to go ashore. You can only imagine how hard it was for Karen to give birth on the ship. She had been seasick for most of the voyage, and had been sick since the baby was born. She was so sick when they reached New York that Carl had to carry her off the ship. Ingeborg helped to look after her and the new baby and encouraged Kaaren not to give up hope. Ingeborg has discovered she is also pregnant. 

As they prepared to leave the ship, Roald told Ingeborg to wait below to avoid the crowds, even though she was dying to see the ship land.  Below it was so crowded with belongings one could barely move. There was no fresh air and it stank, for many had been seasick. 

Once off the ship the families were amazed to see the tall buildings and the busy, crowded dock. The families' first stop was to be Castle Garden, where they were to go through immigration. Kaaren was afraid she'd be turned away because of her illness. 



Could You Survive Emigrating to An Untamed Land? A Book Review
Castle Garden, By Unattributed [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Roald started walking with a load of luggage, asking Ingeborg to follow with Thoriff. Roald was walking so fast, without looking back, that she lost him. She also lost Thoriff in a crowd and not knowing English made it hard to get help. Finally someone who understood Norwegian came to her aid, and they found Thoriff, but he was already in trouble. Ingeborg meets a new friend -- a wealthy man who becomes important in the rest of the book. 

The Journey West


Travel was hard. There were no fast food places along the way to stop for meals. Tired women had to get out of the wagons after a hard day of travel and prepare a meal over an open fire using whatever they had left of provisions and whatever meat or fish could be procured by the men. When the families finally reached their land, no home was waiting. They had to continue to live in the covered wagon until they got a home built. They had to share a cabin until they could spare time to build another one.

Since I’ve read more than handful of memoirs by pioneer woman, little in this book was new to me. But it struck me again how hard these women worked physically compared to most of us today. Their very lives depended on how well they could plan ahead what they needed when the general store might be an overnight trip or longer.

Survival on the Land

Could You Survive Emigrating to An Untamed Land? A Book Review
By Solomon D. Butcher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



The couples got along well, and they shared the first home they built -- a sod house such as was common on the prairie. They shared the work of turning the sod, planting a garden, and later, caring for livestock. Remember, Kaaren had been sick to start with and Ingeborg was also feeling the effects of carrying a child. They were dependent mostly on each other for medical care. 

There are some treatments I could not have stood to watch were they on film. We take so much for granted today -- anesthetics, antibiotics, and other modern treatments. We wouldn't want to have to sew up someone we love without them, let alone be the patient.  The only help they had was a woman who was half Indian and half white who thought the land they were claiming was really hers, since she was squatting there and thought her dead husband had title to it. She knew how to use native plants to treat illness, and without her knowledge and care Ingeborg would have died after falling and hitting her head while fishing. She lost consciousness and it was hours before anyone discovered her. 

When the families finally had neighbors they were able to help each other build barns and homes and do seasonal jobs in the fields. One family could buy a cow and the other a bull for and they could share them for breeding. Best of all, they could experience friendship again in their new land. 

For the first years settler families had to put all their efforts into survival -- building, planting, harvesting, food storage, and gathering wood and water. Getting a well was a big event. Schools and churches would have to come later, after basic needs were met. Everyone worked, even the children when old enough, to help care for animals, do chores, and produce food. All the while, there was the feeling of loss because family and old friends were far away in the land they had left.

Later they replaced sod homes with wood homes with real floors, like this pioneer house, built 1873 in Cass County, North Dakota for Johannes Hellestvedt from Hardanger, Norway. It is a log cabin.


Could You Survive Emigrating to An Untamed Land? A Book Review



Was Coming to America Worth the Cost?



That's a judgment you, the reader, will have to make.  The Bjorklund families did get free land as they had hoped, but it exacted a very high non-monetary price from them. Their faith was seriously tested, especially that of Ingeborg. This is not your typical historical prairie romance. It is a realistic look at marriage, family life, and pioneer life on the American frontier. I would classify it as Christian historical fiction. After you read it, you will very much appreciate your life today, no matter how rough it may be. 

An Untamed Land is the first in a series. I first read this book a couple of years ago, and I reread it before writing this review. I am anxious to read the other books in the series when I can find time. If you finish the first book, you will want to continue reading to see what happens next. 


If you found this review useful, please share it with friends who might appreciate this book. The image below is just right for sharing on Pinterest.


Could You Survive Emigrating to An Untamed Land? A Book Review
Please pin me.
What would have been the hardest adjustment for you as a homesteader in this Dakota Country?












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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Reviewing The Secret Healer

Historical Fiction

As many of you know, I love to read and historical fiction is a genre that I enjoy very much. I just recently finished The Secret Healer by Ellin Carsta. I might have missed this delightful book if it hadn't been an editor's choice in the Kindle First subscription that is a part of my Amazon Prime membership. It was one of the choices for reading in April. I was not disappointed!

From 14th Century Germany

The story takes place during the 1300s in the German towns of Heidelberg and Worms. This was a time in our history that women were not valued for much of anything except as maybe the property of their fathers or husbands. I absolutely adored the main protagonist, Madlen who is the daughter of the cabinet maker in Heidelberg. Madlen may come from humble means but she is above average in her intelligence and is taken under the wing of the local midwife Clara at an early age. The young girl learns the benefits of medicinal herbs from the midwife which is something that the physicians of the time did not use. The physicians were strong on the use of bloodletting; a treatment that was not much good for any illness as we know now. During a rather difficult birth, Madlen accidentally discovers a technique of soothing the over anxious woman during the delivery process. She will find this method helps her sooth many of the people she is helping when they become rather hysterical during their illness. 

An absolutely despicable resident of her hometown accuses Madlen of killing his wife causing her to flee to the town of Worms where she finds her estranged Aunt Agathe. While learning the skills she will need to become a seamstress her Aunt comes down with what is referred to as the coughing sickness. I believe this was the pneumonic plague that did spread across Europe during this time in history. Madlen is able to use her knowledge of medicinal herbs and nurses her Aunt back to health. As the illness spreads around the town she is called upon to help many of the citizens. She saves many lives but there is a problem. She is not a doctor and the church has taken notice of this healer and decides that she is an assistant to the devil. Madlen, who is hiding under an assumed identity from the people of Heidelberg, realizes that she must now hide from the church, too.

There were many things that I loved about this well written and constructed book. Many of the women in the story were strong and intelligent women who had to hide the fact that they were very capable in their skills. Many were good business women but were never given credit for their abilities. At that time in history only a man was given credit for any sort of acumen to business or skills. So, these women worked their fingers to the bone to support their drunken, lazy and often abusive men in secret. Women were not supposed to know how to read or write, they could not own a business, they could not be educated in schools or universities or be heralded for any of their accomplishments. The story does not come off as a strong feminist bashing of men but the oppression of the women of the time is written in a superb way that really resonated with my soul.

There was a wonderful love story incorporated into the pages along with a good representation of life in the 14th century. The suspense of whether dear Madlen would be found out and what would become of her kept me captivated until the very end. I liked the incorporation of early medicine in the story and the superstitions that were strong during that time in history.

All in all, I highly recommend this wonderful book. I think that fans of historical fiction will most assuredly love this book but I also feel that it is one of those books that will appeal to most women. Currently, it can be pre-ordered and will be released on May 1, 2016. It will be available in both digital and paperback forms. 




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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Reviewing The Ides Of March

Beware The Ides Of March

Julius Caesar
The famous line spoken to Julius Caesar by the seer, warning him to beware of the 15th day in March as harm was to come to him. It is said that as that infamous day was approaching its end, Julius saw the seer in the market and remarked that the day was almost over and nothing had happened. "Ahh, but the day is not gone," retorted the seer. Julius Caesar went on to the Senate of Rome and met with his death on that day, the Ides of March. 

During that time in our history, March in the Roman calendar was actually the first month of the year. The ides occurred in every month around the middle, usually the 13th except for the months of March, May, July and October. The Romans used the ides, whether in March or any month, as a reference point of determining days of the month. They did not count the days consecutively like we do now, but instead counted back from three points of interest. The Nones occurred around the 5th or 7th day depending on the length of the month in question, the Ides (13th or 15th) and the Kalends which was the first of the following month. Golly, it sure would have been difficult to quickly know what day it was! 

If you are a history buff, you know that on the 15th of March in the year of 44 B.C Julius Caesar was assassinated by of group of some 60 people led by Brutus and Cassius. This event led to a civil war, the end of the Roman Republic and the rise to power of Octavian who would later be known as Augustus Caesar. You can read the facts in a history book, you can see the play by William Shakespeare or read a book by a multitude of authors to find out more. 

One of my favorites about the man, Julius Caesar and the events that led up to that fateful day in March is The Ides of March: A Novel by Thornton Wilder. The book was first published in 1948 but is still fascinating to read today. It is a novel so much of the story is based on Wilder's interpretation of letters and historical facts about the ruler of the Roman Republic. What I like about it is that it gives us a possible insight of the man and the ruler. The book allows us to see this historical figure as a human being with strengths and weaknesses that we all have in our souls.

If you like to read historical fiction and are interested in the era of time that the Romans ruled much of the world, I think you will like this book. I believe it is a good read for the month of March.



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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Reviewing Mildred Pierce

A Classic Story Revisited

My husband and I just recently watched Mildred Pierce together. The version that we watched was the HBO mini-series first released in 2011. It had 5 parts to it that for the most part were 1 hour each so it didn't take us very long to get all 5 episodes finished. Over the course of a couple of evenings we were engrossed in the twists and turns of the plot.

Kate Winslet played the divorcee in this adaption of James M. Cain's classic novel from 1941. Oh the struggles that poor woman went through! The story takes place during the depression so life is pretty darned tough for everyone. Mildred lives in Glendale, California and is struggling to make ends meet by baking cakes and pies for neighbors and friends. She has a good business sense about her and eventually starts her own restaurant which is a huge success even in the dire economic climate of the 1930's. No small feat for a woman back then!

Mildred has a daughter named Veda that is just the most spoiled rotten kid you would ever want to meet. Veda is very demanding and wants a much better life for herself and she will stop at just about nothing to get what she wants. Her mother, Mildred, makes so many sacrifices trying to give Veda what she wants but it just never seems to be enough. Throughout the story that girl betrays her mother so many times!

We, my husband and I, really enjoyed watching this HBO version of this classic book and film but I have to admit that I really liked the original movie from 1945 that starred Joan Crawford better. Crawford won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Mildred Pierce. In fact, the movie was nominated for 6 Academy Awards that year.

I have not read the original novel but I think that I might put it on my reading list because I loved both of the adaptations of it so much. What I find remarkable about the story or plot that James M. Cain gives us is that he wrote it in 1941 at a time that we just didn't see the real struggles of a single mother portrayed in book or movie form. Having been a child in a single parent home, he pretty much nails just how hard it is and was for a woman to get by back then.

Being an antiques enthusiast, we really enjoyed the costumes and set designs in the mini-series, too! Oh my goodness! I kept noticing things that people collect now. There was one scene where Mildred is serving some coffee or tea and the pot is a Jewel Tea Autumn Leaf long spout tea pot that so fits the time frame of the story! She served the beverage in what was then Anchor Hocking mugs but would later become Fire King. It was the attention to detail in the surroundings that made the series so enjoyable. Sure, we loved the plot itself but those little period things just really added to the entertainment factor. The architecture was to die for!

So, if you love a good drama I can highly recommend watching either the original movie or the HBO mini-series of Mildred Pierce. You won't be disappointed in either version.



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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Reviewing The Anasazi Mysteries Series

Historical Fiction Series

Anasazi Settlement Ruin
Photo courtesy of  Charles M. Sauer
As a huge fan of historical fiction, I want to share a series of books that I recently discovered. The Anasazi Mystery Series consists of three very well written books that I highly recommend to anyone who loves this genre of literature. 

The series was written by Kathleen O'Neal Gear and her husband W. Michael Gear who are not only gifted with telling a great story but are also both archaeologists. Their knowledge of the science involved in  a "dig" adds remarkable depth to the story they unfold in each of the three books. 

In each of the three books, we go back and forth between a modern day team of archaeologists who have uncovered bodies of women that have been buried in a most nontraditional manner and the story of the Anasazi peoples who inhabited the area where the bodies were found. The "dig" is taking place in the late 1990's and early 2000's. When we are learning the events that led up to these women being buried we are in the time frame of around 1150 to 1200 AD. The time frame from the past is significant because it is the era that most historians and scientist place the sudden disappearance of the Anasazi peoples. 

You will want to start with the first book because the story builds and continues with books two and three. 

Who Were The Anasazi?

They are often referred to by many names. The word Anasazi is loosely based on a Navajo word which means ancient ones or ancient enemies. You might also know them as the cliff dwellers or the peoples who created the cliff dwellings found in the Four Corners area of the US. Modern historians refer to this group of peoples as the Ancestral Puebloans. 

There is much debate among the scholars as to when the culture first emerged but the general consensus is that it was around 1200 BC and they seem to have ceased to exist around 1200 AD. That is 2400 years, folks! What happened to them? Where did they go? 

I have been fascinated with this ancient group of American Indians for as long as I can remember so when I saw the series, I knew I just had to read it. 

The Series Is A Mixture of A Mystery, history and so much more!

What I love about this short series of books that could almost be called a trilogy is that there is a great mystery to solve. Why were these women buried in such a nontraditional manner? Were they tortured and if so; why? Who did this? 

The series goes beyond the mystery, though. The authors give us a background in how this culture lived and what the climate was like at the time. We learn about their religious beliefs, the warfare among the peoples in the area at the time and of a sickness that could be a huge part of their demise as a culture. It is a story about good versus evil, about love and loss and how people have not changed a whole lot over the centuries. 

There are questions raised in my own mind as I have read through these three books. As the story unfolds we see that there is often a struggle with the scientists. There are the scientific facts that come to light during any excavation of artifacts and skeletal remains but there is also the beliefs of the people involved from an emotional and spiritual level. How does one separate the two or better yet should they even try to keep them separate? Is it possible for the spirits of the past to reach out to us and help us understand what happened? A discussion for another day, but interesting in and of itself. 

I highly recommend this set of books: The Anasazi Mystery Series to the fan of historical fiction and those who love a great mystery. The books include: 




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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review of Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot

Imagine having to leave the city where you had happiness,  loving parents, wealth, and social standing, to become a mail order bride on a Texas ranch in 1856. It was a long way for Sarah Dobbs to go with her little sister Thea from Philadelphia to San Antonio. Why would she do such a thing?

Her wealthy father’s investments had disintegrated into nothing and he had shot his wife and then himself. All the old friends abandoned Sarah after this disgraceful thing had happened.  The house was gone, the money was gone, and she had no family left except her very young sister Thea, whom she felt responsible to protect and care for.

Review of Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot
Sarah herself was considered not worthy of a good husband because she had fallen off a horse and the fall had mangled her leg. She walked with a limp. Her leg was deformed. When Austin Canfield of the Bar C Ranch in Ladreville, Texas began courting Sarah through his letters, she fell in love with him. Even though she realized the marriage was more of a business arrangement, she knew she loved him. But here she was now, waiting at the station in San Antonio for him to arrive, and he was nowhere to be found. Had he deserted her, too?

When she had about given up hope, she was finally met not by Austin, but by someone else, who turned out to be his brother, Clay. It was Clay’s horrible task to tell Sarah her husband-to-be had just been murdered. His intent was to take Sarah back to the ranch so that she and Thea could recover from their trip, and be ready to make the return trip back home in a week.  As you can probably guess, it didn’t turn out that way.

Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot would be classified as inspirational fiction with a bit of romance. Both Sarah and Clay are dealing with anger over what has happened to their families and a feeling that God didn’t care or he would have prevented it. Austin’s one purpose was to find his brother’s killer, see that he paid, and then go back to his medical practice in Boston.

Sarah’s purpose was to protect Thea from the kind of ostracism she herself had suffered because of her father’s actions. She felt that could best be accomplished in a new setting where no one knew her. She wanted to stay in Texas. She was determined to find a way to make a living to support her and Thea.

Clay allows her to continue living on  the ranch until she can support herself. He is kind to both her and Thea. He had lost his own wife who was pregnant with their first child, and he has not recovered from that. She had died of food poisoning from eating tainted fish chowder, or so everyone had thought.

Thea insists on calling Clay “Papa,” much to his dismay, even though both Sarah and Clay have repeatedly set her straight. But he is very kind to Thea and even teaches her to ride a horse – over the protests of her mother, who was still terrified of horses.

Besides the theme of revenge, there is also the theme of the rivalry between the French and German immigrants in the town who hate each other. There is a thief who has been cutting fences and because no one knows who he is, the thefts and fence cuttings cause the people to blame anyone they don’t like so that the French and Germans hate each other even more.

Sarah is finally hired to work in the mercantile owned by  a French family, Isabelle and her brother, Leon. Neither could speak German, but half the town spoke only German. Sarah could speak German and had demonstrated her usefulness by translating for German customers on her first visit to the store the day Clay brought her to town to get some things she needed. After hiring Sarah, the store’s sales increased, and Isabelle, who was a devout Christian,  became Sarah’s close friend.

That’s all I will tell you. You may be able to guess the end from here, but not all the twists and turns that take you there as both Sarah and Clay try to find Austin’s killer, Sarah tries to unite the town and start a school, Sarah tries to help Clay’s father walk again, and God begins to heal old wounds to the spirits of all involved.

If you enjoy Christian fiction, I recommend Paper Roses. It’s worth the read. I turned out to be right about the murderer. The book’s title comes from the letters Sarah received from Austin during their courtship. She called them paper roses.




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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Review of Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer

The Journey to the End of Stealing the Preacher Is as Rewarding as Seeing the Ending


I read Stealing the Preacher because it was a free promotional download from Amazon for my Kindle. I didn't know what to expect, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I saw characters who were human and believable, even if the plot was unrealistic. The book is a light historical Christian romance, but I didn’t find it as predictable as most of them are. Yes, you know almost from the beginning how it will end, but the fun in the book is getting to the end, not knowing what the end will be.

The Kidnapping


Pioneer Church
The main character, Crockett Archer, is hoping to land his first job as a real preacher  in Brenham, Texas. We meet him on the train as he travels for his interview with the church elders. He and one other preacher are competing for the job he wants, but he’s sure he’ll get it. He has been an apprentice preacher in his own small town in Texas for three years.

The train suddenly lurches, and he discovers that it is being attacked by bandits. The big surprise for him, though, is that all the bandits want to steal is him. They don’t hurt anyone or take anything else. He is kidnapped and taken to a ranch about ten miles from Deanville, where he discovers he is to be a birthday gift for the rancher’s daughter, Joanna Robbins. She had told her widowed daddy, Silas, that she wanted a preacher for her birthday. He took her quite literally.

Crockett and Joanna


It turns out that Silas is not the least bit interested in church or preaching, but is simply humoring his daughter, who did not approve of his method of obtaining her present. Crockett explains his situation and Joanna frees him to try to keep his appointment. It turns out she had wanted a preacher because the small church for the ranch no longer had a pastor and the church had fallen into disrepair. The pastor had moved to a larger church in Deanville and it was too far for the ranch community to travel every Sunday.

Joanna wanted a preacher in the church because she  was still praying for her daddy’s salvation. She had promised her mother before her death, that she would continue the daily prayers for her father after her mother passed away. Johanna thought having a preacher in the church again would give her the support she needed. Daddy and his ranch hands had formerly been a gang of bandits, but when he married, his wife had made him give it up and they had all been honest men for over sixteen years. They had never hurt or killed anyone.

Crockett Becomes Ranch Hand and Pastor


As it turns out, quite predictably, Crockett doesn’t get the job he was after because he didn’t make his appointment on the right day at the right time.  As you might expect, he takes the job of pastoring the small church for Johanna. She talks her father into hiring him as a hand so he can support himself. He was well-qualified since he was raised on and helped run his fathers ranch with his brothers after his father died young.

That’s all I’m going to tell you. There’s plenty of action between the time Archer arrives at the ranch and the end of the book.  The action reveals much about character of the people who are interacting.  One situation which I expected led to another one which I did not anticipate, and it left me on the edge of my chair holding my breath.  If you like Christian historical fiction, I recommend this book for an entertaining and relaxing read. I will definitely read more by this author if I get the chance. Amazon carries it in every possible format. Just click the picture to purchase and see other reviews. Unfortunately, it is no longer free, since I got my book during a special promotional offer, and it has ended.






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Monday, March 9, 2015

Galway Bay - A Must-Read Irish Historic Fiction

As St. Patrick's Day approaches I am pulling out my copy of Galway Bay for a second reading.  Yes, it was so good that I will read it again. And that is the reason I am writing this review. Galway Bay is a beautifully-written historical fiction that describes the horrors of the potato famine and ultimately the life and survival of a family and two countries.


Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

I happened across the novel Galway Bay one day when I was wandering around the local book store. I don't know of a way to describe this story of survival in a way that will do it justice but I will try my best.

I was immediately hooked with the prologue:

"We wouldn't die, and that annoyed them. They'd spent centuries trying to kill us off, one way or another, and here we were, raising seven, eight, nine of a famiy on nothing but potatoes and buttermilk. But then the blight destroyed the potato. Three times in four years our only food rotted in the ground." -- Honora Keeley Kelly as told to her great-granddaughter Agnella Kelly.


As we follow Honora Keeley Kelly through her life, meeting her as a young lady preparing to enter the convent, we learn of the lives of the fishermen and tenant farmers in Ireland during "the Before Times".  She is a young lady whose family supports themselves fishing Galway Bay  "so calm and quiet. But I know your moods.Turn my back and you could be raging and rolling."  Honora is determined to not be the wife of a fisherman and has decided to marry the church instead.   She is determined and her family is proud; hoping that she is chosen.  She is sure of her plan until she meets Michael Kelly.

Honora and Micheal begin their lives together, a young couple deeply in love. Then the blight comes, year after year, and destroys their major food source. Many starve during the harsh conditions.  Honora Keeley survives, but I’m not sure how since the odds are clearly against her. Penal laws continue to cause difficulties and the status quo level of poverty for tenant farmers jumps to a level of famine, starvation, and desperation.


A Personal Connection


As I age, my interest in things Irish has increased. I guess it’s hard to think about where you came from when you are young and very busy trying to figure out where you are going. But now that I’m more mature I have time to ponder things such as where my grandparents, and their parents, and their grandparents came from.

I know that my very distant relatives on my dad’s side perhaps immigrated to the United States due to fleeing religious persecution. I don’t know as much about my mom’s side. However, I do understand that at some point, they emigrated from Ireland. As a child, I remember the delighted twinkle in my grandmother's eyes as she told my mom of their trip back to Ireland. Unfortunately, I was too young to pay attention to her stories then and I couldn't understand why she was so happy to have kissed a rock with some guy named Blarney. As I age, my interest in Ireland and in my heritage grows.

I am thankful to Mary Pat Kelly for sharing her family history and story in such an entertaining and educational way.  Whether you are interested in the history of Ireland and early America or whether you love a good love story and the tale of a mother's love and desperate journey to raise her children, I think you will love this story. 





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