Tag Archives: historical fiction

Book Review: A Trail of Crumbs

13 Apr

“I believed it would have been a sin to stay inside when God had sent us such fine weather. According to Pastor Ezra Anderson, sin was the reason we’d got in the dusty mess we were in. The way I saw it, that day was God’s way of letting us know He wasn’t mad at us anymore. Just maybe He’d seen fit to forgive us.”

Pearl Spence has been through more in her young life than most folks could handle. But through it all, her family has been by her side. They may not be perfect, but they love her and they all love each other, come what may. That’s one thing Pearl no longer questions.

But the end of her beautiful day signals the beginning of the end of her secure life.

Now her family is fleeing their Oklahoma wasteland. Pearl isn’t sure she’ll ever see home or happiness again. Are there any crumbs powerful enough to guide her back to the dependable life she once knew?

The strong narrative voice of Finkbeiner’s young protagonist from A Cup of Dust returns in this gritty yet hopeful sequel, sure to please her many fans.

Susie Finkbeiner is a story junkie. Always has been and always will be. It seems it’s a congenital condition, one she’s quite fond of.

After decades of reading everything she could get her hands on (except for See the Eel, a book assigned to her while in first grade, a book she declared was unfit for her book-snob eyes), Susie realized that she wanted to write stories of her own. She began with epics about horses and kittens (but never, ever eels).

It takes years to grow a writer and after decades of work, Susie realized (with much gnashing of teeth and tears) that she was a novelist. In order to learn how to write novels, she read eclectically and adventurously (she may never swim with sharks, but the lady will jump into nearly any story). After reading the work of Lisa Samson, Patti Hill, and Bonnie Grove she realized that there was room for a writer like her in Christian fiction.

Her first novels Paint Chips (2013) and My Mother’s Chamomile (2014) have contemporary settings. While she loved those stories and especially the characters, Susie felt the pull toward historical fiction.

When she read Into the Free by Julie Cantrell she knew she wanted to write historical stories with a side of spunk, grit, and vulnerability. Susie is also greatly inspired by the work of Jocelyn Green, Rachel McMillan, and Tracy Groot.

A Cup of Dust: A Novel of the Dust Bowl (2015), Finkbeiner’s bestselling historical set in 1930s Oklahoma, has been compared to the work of John Steinbeck and Harper Lee (which flatters Susie’s socks off). Pearl’s story continues with A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression (2017) and A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era (2018).

What does she have planned after that? More stories, of course. She’s a junkie. She couldn’t quit if she wanted to.

My Impressions:

Susie Finkbeiner’s novel, A Cup of Dust, is excellent. It opened my eyes to the forgotten history of the Dust Bowl, but also introduced me to the wonderful character, Pearl Spence. Pearl’s story continues in her second novel, A Trail of Crumbs, another beautifully written novel that grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let go. This book gets a highly recommended rating from me.

Tragedy strikes the Spence family once again, and the only remedy seems to be to relocate from the dry dusty world of Red River, Oklahoma to the color-filled town of Bliss, Michigan. Will the family find a new home filled with hope and possibilities or lose their way?

A Trail of Crumbs is filled with wonderful characters, not the least 10 year old, Pearl. The book is told in her first person voice, allowing the reader a look into her story, but also a different perspective of other members of her family. The result is insightful, yet tinged with innocence. This is a coming-of-age novel, and it broke my heart to read Pearl’s transformation from a hope-filled child to one who knew the cynicism of adults. Her observations of the other characters give an almost complete sketch of their motivations and struggles. I say almost, because one can never know just what goes on in the heart and mind of another person. This did not frustrate me as a reader; rather it made me examine my own assumptions about others. The setting of Bliss is like another character. The wonder Pearl expresses at the depth of color each season brings is in stark contrast to the gray/brown world of her early life. It is no surprise that Pearl is drawn to the story of Dorothy Gale and her adventures in Oz.

The importance of story runs throughout A Trail of Crumbs, and Finkbeiner deftly includes the ridiculously fun stories Daddy relates, the books that Pearl immerses herself in, and the stories Pearl makes up to help her cope with the many changes in her life. All add to the story that becomes Pearl’s life. Home is a major theme — what makes it and how to find it. Pearl’s family is not conventional, not one are related by blood. But as she states: “Blood didn’t mean anything when it came to making a home.” (page 136). As Pearl settles into her new home, Mama seems to lose her sense of it. The book ends with questions that I hope will be resolved in the third installment due out next year, A Song of Home.

I apologize if my review seems to be rambling. I really loved A Trail of Crumbs, and Pearl found a place in my heart. But with many great books, I often find it hard to express just what they mean to me. Another blogger has coined the term SWOOF — squeezing words out of feelings. This is how I feel about A Trail of Crumbs, a novel that elicits feelings that mere words cannot express. All I can say is get copies of A Cup of Dust (if you haven’t read it yet) and A Trail of Crumbs and settle in for stories that will sweep you up and away.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: A Lady in Disguise

4 Apr

In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than fifty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick, as was The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.

A life-long lover of Victorian Gothic romances, Sandra’s new series, Daughters of Hampshire, weaves elements of that mystical, traditional genre with inspirational and literary threads. Mist of Midnight, the series’ first book, was honored with a coveted Editor’s Choice designation from the Historical Novel Society. The second book in the series, Bride of a Distant Isle, launched in March, 2016 and the third, A Lady in Disguise is just out in 2017.

A devotionalist as well as a novelist, Sandra’s best-selling devotional for tweens, One Year Be-Tween You and God  was followed up with her first devotional for adults, The One Year Home and Garden Devotions.  The One Year Experiencing God’s Love devotional will publish in Fall, 2017.

She is passionate about helping new authors develop their talent and their work toward traditional or independent publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to edit and coach dozens to success each year.

Please visit www.novelcoaching.com to learn more.

 

My Impressions:

Sandra Byrd combines meticulous research with excellent story-telling in her newest novel, A Lady in Disguise. Victorian England comes to life within the pages of this historical novel laced with gothic overtones. I became fully immersed in Gillian Young’s story, so much so that the hours and pages flew by — this one is unputdownable!

Gillian Young’s father has just been buried and she is left to find her way and living in the theatre business. But a mystery surrounds her police inspector father’s death and his alleged unsavory doings that skirted the law he vowed to uphold. A young woman of determination, Gillian is set upon discovering the truth, but danger lurks in every dark alley of London.

It is obvious that Sandra Byrd is devoted to accurate research. She naturally inserts details that add an authenticity to her story. From the history of the theatre, to fashion, to the sport of fencing, to the description of the coal fog, to the language used, A Lady in Disguise is a thoroughly Victorian novel. The action of the novel progresses at a steady pace, feeling neither rushed or plodding, but just right. The characters are well-developed and become dear to the reader. And a happily-ever-after is certainly in Gillian’s future. There is a twist at the end of the novel that I never saw coming, but was the perfect addition to the faith threads woven throughout the book. Trust in others, self and God is explored, along with dependence on a God who promises to provide and protect.

Fans of historical fiction will love this book. But I think A Lady in Disguise goes beyond just genre fiction; I would recommend it to any reader. It is also a perfect selection for your book club. Make sure to check it out.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

Great for book clubs.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Howard Books and the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

March Book Club Selections

1 Mar

Can you believe it is already March?! Whew, this year is flying by fast. Here in middle Georgia the signs of Spring are everywhere — everything is blooming! And the weather has been warm, warm, warm! Perfect for grabbing a book and enjoying the sunshine out of doors. This month my book clubs are reading Still Life by Dani Pettrey (By The Book) and Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund (Page Turners). Won’t you join us? We would love to know what you think of these books.

51gr5xas3sl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart.

Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat.

 

 

51iwqdkk1zl-_sx336_bo1204203200_She was a nun of noble birth. He, a heretic, a reformer…an outlaw of the Holy Roman Empire.

In the 16th century, nun Katharina von Bora’s fate fell no further than the Abbey. Until she read the writings of Martin Luther.

His sweeping Catholic church reformation—condemning a cloistered life and promoting the goodness of marriage—awakened her desire for everything she’d been forbidden. Including Martin Luther himself.

Despite the fact that the attraction and tension between them is undeniable, Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone’s life but his own. And Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed. She clings proudly to her class distinction, pining for nobility over the heart of a reformer. They couldn’t be more different.

But as the world comes tumbling down around them, and with Luther’s threatened life a constant strain, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support and love.

Together, they will alter the religious landscape forever.

Top 10 Tuesday — What’s Up Next in The TBR Pile

28 Feb

The folks at the Broke And The Bookish are taking a short and well-deserved break this week. Six years of hosting this great meme! Our hats are off to you! So that means bloggers are coming up with their own topics. I’m taking the easy way out and sharing what I will be reading in the coming weeks. Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you think.

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Top 10 Books in The TBR Pile

By Cat or By Crook by Patricia Fry

Doctor’s Dilemma by Richard Mabry

The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller

51gmwm5qjel-_sx311_bo1204203200_51mmewn-lnl51p9qb5fywl-_sx321_bo1204203200_

Exit Katrina by Chris Link

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti

Home at Last by Deborah Raney

A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd

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Redeeming Grace by Jill Eileen Smith

A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin

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What book is next up for you?

 

Book Review: My Sister’s Prayer

24 Feb

51fzrfbcl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Virginia, 1704

Celeste Talbot is usually such a sensible young woman—until she falls for an English soldier reassigned to the Colonies. Leaving her Huguenot family behind, she sets sail for America, only to realize that her younger sister Berta has been kidnapped and forced on board the very same ship. Whom can Celeste trust? The dashing soldier? Or the vigilant carpenter who remains by their side in the perilous New World?

Virginia, present day

Madeline “Maddee” Talbot has her hands full when she agrees to take in her younger sister, Nicole, following a serious car accident. The young women grew apart when Nicole fell into drug addiction, and Maddee prays this will be the start of a better life for her sister. But as they investigate a trauma from their childhood, Maddee must keep a diligent eye on Nicole—and the shadowy figure watching them from afar.

mindy-starns-clark-250-shadowMindy Starns Clark is the bestselling author of more than 30 books, both fiction and nonfiction, and has received numerous literary honors, including two Christy Awards and RT Book Review Magazine’s 2012 Career Achievement Award. Mindy and her husband, John, have two adult children and live near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

61m0vp8plil-_ux250_Leslie Gould is the best-selling and award-winning author of twenty-three novels. She loves traveling, research, Shakespeare’s plays, and church history. She and her husband live in Portland, Oregon and are the parents of four children. http://www.lesliegould.com/

 

 

My Impressions:

My Sister’s Prayer by award-winning authors Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould continues the saga of the Talbot family. This time sisters are the focus of the novel with the dual storylines of Celeste and Berta and Maddee and Nicole. The setting is Virginia, but the times the sisters live in could not be more different. Celeste and Berta are new immigrants to the Virginia colony, and Maddee and Nicole’s story is contemporary. But despite the differences in culture and technology, there are many parallels that can be drawn — struggles of the heart are not so different across the centuries. My book club, By The Book, chose this as their February selection, and it got a unanimous thumbs up! We had a great discussion.

There were several things we liked about My Sister’s Prayer. Number one is the historical setting of Celeste and Berta’s story. Our group includes a 4th grade teacher who loves history. She read many excerpts to her class in their discussions on indentured servants. This topic, as well as the general deprivations and dangers of immigration in the early 1700s, generated a great conversation.

We liked the likable characters and disliked those who were either cads, bad guys, or generally annoying 🙂 . There were a number of minor characters that gave depth to the main characters’ stories. We also liked the romances that developed. The continuing mystery of the murder at the cabin when the cousins were children provided a connecting thread for the contemporary plots. The only criticism we had was that the ending seemed rushed — everything wrapped up in just a few pages.

We recommend My Sister’s Prayer and are looking forward to book 3 in the series, My Daughter’s Legacy, which is due out in July of this year.

Recommended.

Audience: older teens and adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review (+ Giveaway): The Newcomer

20 Feb

the-newcomer-fb-coverClick HERE to purchase your copy.

the-newcomerAbout The Book

Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Genre: Historical; Amish

Release Date: January 31

In 1737, Anna Konig and her fellow church members stagger off a small wooden ship after ten weeks at sea, eager to start a new life in the vibrant but raw Pennsylvania frontier. On the docks of Port Philadelphia waits bishop Jacob Bauer, founder of the settlement and father to ship carpenter Bairn. It’s a time of new beginnings for the reunited Bauer family, and for Anna and Bairn’s shipboard romance to blossom.

But this perfect moment cannot last. As Bairn grasps the reality of what it means to be Amish in the New World–isolated, rigid with expectations, under the thumb of his domineering father–his enthusiasm evaporates. When a sea captain offers the chance to cross the ocean one more time, Bairn grabs it. Just one more crossing, he promises Anna. But will she wait for him?

When Henrik Newman joins the church just as it makes its way to the frontier, Anna is torn. He seems to be everything Bairn is not–bold, devoted, and delighted to vie for her heart. And the most dramatic difference? He is here; Bairn is not.

Far from the frontier, an unexpected turn of events weaves together the lives of Bairn, Anna, and Henrik. When a secret is revealed, which true love will emerge?

About The Author

suzanne6-235x300Suzanne Woods Fisher is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including Anna’s Crossing, The Bishop’s Family series, and The Inn at Eagle Hill series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and The Heart of the Amish. She lives in California. Learn more at http://www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and follow Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher.

Guest Post from Suzanne Woods Fisher

Pennsylvania of 1737, the setting for The Newcomer, is like a foreign country. Parts of it might seem familiar — the same hills and creeks and blue sky, but we’d hardly recognize the settlers. People like Anna, or Bairn, or the mysterious Newcomer. We wouldn’t be able to understand their language, their customs and traditions. Their world was that different from our modern one.

The first group of Amish immigrants (first written about in Anna’s Crossing and followed up in The Newcomer) settled northwest of Philadelphia, then a vast wilderness, and relied on each other for safety, security, building projects, and church. In nearby Germantown, settlers were tradesmen, so they clustered houses together in small knots. The Amish farmers took out land warrants for sizeable properties and lived considerable distances from each other.

In The Newcomer, Anna cooked food in a cauldron over a large hearth. One-pot meals can trace their beginnings to open-hearth cooking when ingredients for a meal went into a large kettle suspended over the fire. Traditional dishes — ham and beans, pork and sauerkraut — used sturdy, available, and simple ingredients that improved with long, slow cooking. The dishes could be easily expanded when the need arose to set a few more places at the table. And it did, often. Large families and unannounced company inspired Amish cooks to find ways to “stretch the stew.”

Noodles (including dumplings and rivvels) could be tossed into a simmering broth to make a meal stretch. Most farms had a flock of chickens, so eggs were easily at hand. Today, homemade noodles are still a favorite dish.

Another “stew stretcher” was cornmeal mush, originally eaten as a bread substitute. Early German settlers who made their home in eastern Pennsylvania roasted the yellow field corn in a bake oven before it was shelled and ground at the mill. The roasting process gave a nutty rich flavor to the cornmeal. Mush is still part of the diet the Old Order Amish — cooked and fried, baked, added into scrapple, smothered in ketchup. Dress it up and you’ve got polenta.

Now here’s one thing we do have in common with 1737 Pennsylvania immigrant . . . a love of good food and a shortage of time! Here’s one of my favorite one-pot recipes — probably not the kind of stew Anna might have made for ship carpenter Bairn or the mysterious Newcomer (ah, which man one stole her heart?) . . . but definitely delicious. Enjoy!

Lentil Chili

Here’s one of my favorite “stew stretchers”. You can expand it even more by serving over rice.

Ingredients:

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced
10 c. water
1 lb. dry lentils
1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt (season to your taste)

½ tsp. pepper
2 c. salsa (your favorite variety)
29 oz. canned tomatoes, crushed

My Impressions:

Suzanne Woods Fisher is my go-to author for Amish fiction. Her Amish Beginnings series is a bit different, though, as it explores the migration of the Amish to the New World in the early 1700s. The second book in the series, The Newcomer, finds the small Amish church from Ixheim, Germany in Penn’s Woods ready to embark on a new life where they will be free to live according to their conscience. I loved the historical details, including historical figures, that Fisher includes in this novel. This one is perfect for those who want to know more about the Amish in America.

As stated above, The Newcomer is an historical novel. I was intrigued by the immigration requirements of the British government, and the reaction that came from the those newly arrived. While naturalization may have only taken a few days to a few weeks, the immigration process was no easy feat. Months of a dangerous sea crossing gave way to lines at the courthouse to swear allegiance to the British king. For many, citizenship, and the land that could come with it, required compromise and patience. Then the immigrants were tasked with finding jobs or clearing land for homes and farms. Sacrifices abounded for a new start. The main characters from book 1, Anna’s Crossing, are joined by a few new characters that add depth and a bit of intrigue to the story. If you’ve read book 1 and are hoping for more from Bairn and Anna, you won’t be disappointed. Characters battle doubts, discouragement, and fear in their journeys. It was interesting to me that the small church that gave up so much to worship God, often forgot to focus on Him and His promises. They are not so different from modern believers who seek other’s opinions or their own sufficiency before God’s.

For fans of Amish or historical fiction, The Newcomer is a great choice. It gets a recommended rating from me.

Recommended.

Audience: older teens to adults.

(I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Blog Stops

February 7: cherylbbookblog

February 7: Moments Dipped in Ink

February 7: inklings and notions

February 8: Just Commonly

February 8: D’S QUILTS & BOOKS

February 8: Ashley’s Bookshelf

February 9: A Reader’s Brain

February 9: Genesis 5020

February 9: A Simple Life, really?!

February 10: Lane Hill House

February 10: Blogging With Carol

February 10: Eat, Read, Teach, Blog

February 11: Quiet Quilter

February 11: Daysong Reflections

February 11: Southern Gal Loves to Read

February 12: Christian Bookaholic

February 12: Jeanette’s Thoughts

February 12: Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations

February 13: Karen Sue Hadley

February 13: Just the Write Escape

February 14: Rhonda’s Doings

February 14: Bigreadersite

February 14: Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses

February 15: Blossoms and Blessings

February 15: Connie’s History Classroom

February 16: Bibliophile Reviews

February 16: Book by Book

February 17: Pause for Tales

February 17: A Holland Reads

February 18: A Greater Yes

February 18: The Power of Words

February 19: Lighthouse Academy

February 19: A Baker’s Perspective

February 20: By The Book

February 20: Giveaway Lady

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Suzanne is giving away a Kindle! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!https://promosimple.com/ps/b0d1

February 2017 Book Club Selections

1 Feb

February is the shortest month of the year, but we are never short of good books to read! Here are the two novels my book clubs are reading this month. Have you read them? We’d love to know what you thought.

 

By The Book — My Sister’s Prayer by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould.

51fzrfbcl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Virginia, 1705

Celeste Talbot is usually such a sensible young woman—until she falls for an English soldier reassigned to the Colonies. Leaving her Huguenot family behind, she sets sail for America, only to realize that her younger sister Berta has been kidnapped and forced on board the very same ship. Whom can Celeste trust? The dashing soldier? Or the vigilant carpenter who remains by their side in the perilous New World?

Virginia, present day

Madeline “Maddee” Talbot has her hands full when she agrees to take in her younger sister Nicole following a serious car accident. The young women grew apart when Nicole fell into drug addiction, and Maddee prays this will be the start of a better life for her sister. But as they investigate a trauma from their childhood, Maddee must keep a diligent eye on Nicole—and the shadowy figure watching them from afar.

From the Christy Award-winning team of Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould, My Sister’s Prayer tells an epic tale of two women compelled to protect their sisters, confront their fears, and navigate the muddy waters of betrayal to find true love.

Page Turners — Doc by Mary Doria Russell (currently $1.99 for Kindle!)

511ffqgk9plBorn to the life of a Southern gentleman, Dr. John Henry Holliday arrives on the Texas frontier hoping that the dry air and sunshine of the West will restore him to health. Soon, with few job prospects, Doc Holliday is gambling professionally with his partner, Mária Katarina Harony, a high-strung, classically educated Hungarian. In search of high-stakes poker, the couple hits the saloons of Dodge City. And that is where the unlikely friendship of Doc Holliday and a fearless lawman named Wyatt Earp begins — before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral links their names forever in American frontier mythology — when neither man wanted fame or deserved notoriety.