Tag Archives: historical fiction

Book Review: The Christmas Blessing

2 Oct

When she receives the news in late 1944 that her baby’s father was shot down in the South Pacific, Amelia Richards loses hope. Jobless and broke, she has nowhere to turn for help but her infant’s paternal grandparents. The only problem is, they don’t know that she — or their grandson — exists. When Amelia discovers that the family is wealthy and influential, dare she disclose the truth of her relationship with their son? Or could the celebration of the arrival of another unexpected baby nearly two thousand years ago be the answer to her dilemma?

 

Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller”. Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors, etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including Romantic Time’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog. To find out more about Melody Carlson, visit her website at http://www.melodycarlson.com/.

My Impressions:

Melody Carlson is known for her heart-warming Christmas novellas, and many readers kick off the season with one of her new books. For the 2017 holidays, readers are in for a treat. The Christmas Blessing is part romance, part family drama, and all feel-good reading experience.

In the midst of WWII, young mother Amelia Richards embarks on a life-changing trip with her 7-week old baby. From sunny San Diego, Amelia travels to Montana to find a family for her and her young son. But life is hard on Amelia — first she has her funds stolen, then she and her baby, Jimmy, become ill. Desperate to provide for Jimmy, Amelia makes a hard decision. Will Jimmy and Amelia finally find a home?

The Christmas Blessing is a quick read; I finished it in one day. But don’t think that it is not long on all the things you like about a novella from Carlson. Characters, especially Amelia and Helene, will capture the reader’s heart. Both women love their sons fiercely and are determined to protect them. The setting is perfect for a nostalgic Christmas read — small town Montana from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The quaint town, the snowy scenery, and the chill in the air will make you snuggle up in an afghan with a cup of cocoa or tea. The drama surrounding Amelia may be a bit old-fashioned, but not that different from struggles single mothers face today. Although Amelia’s plight seems hopeless, there is a definite happily-ever-after in store for her and the reader. Carlson also makes sure that faith in God is woven naturally throughout the book.

If you are looking for a book to get you in the holiday mood, then The Christmas Blessing is a good choice.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

 

 

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If You Liked Child of The River . . .

29 Sep

By The Book read Child of The River by Irma Joubert in September. An excellent book, the novel explored the real life results of Apartheid in South Africa. If you liked this novel and want to explore more like it, then check out the following books. All are well-written glimpses into life in South Africa.

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton.

Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.

 

 

 

The Girl from The Train by Irma Joubert. 

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families — so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

No Greater Love by Kathi Macias

Forbidden romance, an unlikely martyr and an even more unlikely hero. Orphaned four years earlier when their parents, active in the African National Congress (ANC) movement against apartheid, were murdered, 16-year-old Chioma and her 15-year-old brother Masozi now live and work on an Afrikaner family’s farm.

When Chioma and Andrew, the farm owner’s son, find themselves attracted to one another, tragedy revisits their lives. Chioma escapes to join an ANC rebel band in her effort to survive and gain revenge for her family and culture. When cultures clash in life-or-death struggles, Chioma must choose between violence and revenge, or forgiveness and selfless love.

Loosely based on historical events and set near Pretoria, South Africa, in the violent upheaval prior to ANC leader Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and his ascendance to the presidency of South Africa, this story of forbidden romance produces an unlikely martyr who is replaced by one even more unlikely.

The Road to Home by Vanessa Del Fabbro

South African journalist Monica Brunetti had it all — promising career, loving family, marriage-minded boyfriend. Then a life-changing encounter landed her in a hospital bed next to gregarious Ella Nkhoma, whose wit and caring challenged Monica’s worldview. Their remarkable friendship would lead Monica far from the gated white suburbs, and toward a parting that left both women transformed–and Monica the mother of two sons.

Book Review: Many Sparrows

28 Sep

Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would. . . .

In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.

When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son . . . especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do — be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?

Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring and photographing the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, Christy-nominee The Wood’s Edge, and A Flight of Arrows.

Find out more about Lori at http://loribenton.blogspot.com.

 

My Impressions:

Lori Benton has become my go-to author for my historical fiction fix because she not only allows the reader to step back into a completely believable time and place, but creates characters that capture both heart and imagination. Her latest novel, Many Sparrows, is a look into the frontier expansion of America in the late 1770s. With a pending war with England on the horizon, settlers are eager to claim land farther and farther to the west. But progress comes at a cost to the native Americans already living there. Tensions rise with horrific results. Based on an actual event, Many Sparrows captures the essence of life along the undeveloped Ohio River, giving equal attention and sympathies to both sides of the conflict. For fans of early American fiction, Many Sparrows is a must-read.

Clare Inglesby finds herself in the hardest position of her life. Her husband gone and on the verge of giving birth to her second child alone on the trail, Clare’s four-year old son is missing. Jeremiah Ring has been looking for the hapless Inglesby family and finds his fears have been realized. Can a frontiersman lead a determined mother to her son lost among the Indians?

The history behind Many Sparrows felt right to this reader. No, I’m not a scholar of the period, but I could sense the author’s achievement of authenticity. This is a novel that is well-researched. With each page, the reader is drawn into another world without modern conveniences and modern sensibilities. The contrast between white and Indian culture is presented naturally and with respect to both sides. Benton’s characterization is spot on as well. Main characters Jeremiah and Clare, as well as the many supporting characters, are complex and well-defined and developed. I especially identified with Clare in her determination to get her son back. I also identified with her impatience and inability to be still and wait on God. Jeremiah is a great hero (swoon worthy as well). As his own past and present collide, he acts honorably, but not without a few regrets. There is a romance between Jeremiah and Clare, and those who like a bit of romance will be happy with the results. The faith message is strong, yet not preachy. More than one character must grapple with a lack of faith in God’s plans for their lives.

Many Sparrows is another winner for Benton. It will be taking its place on my best of the best list for 2017.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: older teens and adults.

To purchase a copy, click HERE.

(Thanks to LitFuse and Waterbrook for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top Ten Tuesday — Characters with A Lot of Growing Up to Do AKA Coming-of-Age Books

26 Sep

This week the folks at The Broke And The Bookish have challenged bloggers to list Books That Feature Characters ____ (culturally diverse characters, characters with mental illness, those who play sports, etc.). Because I really want to spotlight coming-of-age novels, I have titled this week’s list Characters with A Lot of Growing Up to Do. I just finished a really great novel, Child of The River by Irma Joubert, and it reminded me of other excellent coming-of-age stories. While there are some great classics– A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Chosen, etc. — I wanted to share some that you may be unfamiliar with. Hope you enjoy my list, even if I did have to finagle the challenge just a bit. 😉

 

Top Coming of Age Novels

 

Child of The River by Irma Joubert

A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Child of the River is a timeless tale of heartbreak and triumph set in South Africa at the dawn of apartheid.

Persomi is young, white, and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm in the South African Bushveld. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her, escaping the brutality and squalor of her family home through the newspapers and books passed down to her from the main house and through her walks in the nearby mountains.

Persomi’s close relationship with her older brother Gerbrand and her fragile friendship with Boelie Fourie—heir to the Fourie farm and fortune — are her lifeline and her only connection to the outside world. When Gerbrand leaves the farm to fight on the side of the Anglos in WWII and Boelie joins an underground network of Boer nationalists, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her — dreams of an education, a profession, a native country that values justice and equality, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her — the tragedies of war and the devastating racial strife of her homeland — she finally discovers who she truly is, where she belongs, and why her life — and every life — matters.

The Girl from The Train by Irma Joubert

Six-year-old Gretl Schmidt is on a train bound for Aushwitz. Jakób Kowalski is planting a bomb on the tracks.

As World War II draws to a close, Jakób fights with the Polish resistance against the crushing forces of Germany and Russia. They intend to destroy a German troop transport, but Gretl’s unscheduled train reaches the bomb first.

Gretl is the only survivor. Though spared from the concentration camp, the orphaned German Jew finds herself lost in a country hostile to her people. When Jakób discovers her, guilt and fatherly compassion prompt him to take her in. For three years, the young man and little girl form a bond over the secrets they must hide from his Catholic family.

But she can’t stay with him forever. Jakób sends Gretl to South Africa, where German war orphans are promised bright futures with adoptive Protestant families—so long as Gretl’s Jewish roots, Catholic education, and connections to communist Poland are never discovered.

Separated by continents, politics, religion, language, and years, Jakób and Gretl will likely never see each other again. But the events they have both survived and their belief that the human spirit can triumph over the ravages of war have formed a bond of love that no circumstances can overcome.

The One True Love of Alice Ann by Eva Marie Everson

Living in rural Georgia in 1941, sixteen-year-old Alice-Ann has her heart set on her brother’s friend Mack; despite their five-year age gap, Alice-Ann knows she can make Mack see her for the woman she’ll become. But when they receive news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and Mack decides to enlist, Alice-Ann realizes she must declare her love before he leaves.

Though promising to write, Mack leaves without confirmation that her love is returned. But Alice-Ann is determined to wear the wedding dress her maiden aunt never had a chance to wear ― having lost her fiancé in the Great War. As their correspondence continues over the next three years, Mack and Alice-Ann are drawn closer together. But then Mack’s letters cease altogether, leaving Alice-Ann to fear history repeating itself.

Dreading the war will leave her with a beautiful dress and no happily ever after, Alice-Ann fills her days with work and caring for her best friend’s war-torn brother, Carlton. As time passes and their friendship develops into something more, Alice-Ann wonders if she’ll ever be prepared to say good-bye to her one true love and embrace the future God has in store with a newfound love. Or will a sudden call from overseas change everything?

 The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry

The summer of 1972 was the most pivotal of Matt Plumley’s childhood. While his beloved Pirates battle for back-to-back World Series titles, Matt’s family moves from Pittsburgh to Dogwood, West Virginia, where his father steps into the pulpit of a church under the thumb of town leader Basil Blackwood. A fish out of water, Matt is relieved to forge a fast bond with two unlikely friends: Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race boy, and Jesse Woods, a tough-as-nails girl with a sister on her hip and no dad in sight.

As the trio traipses the hills and hollers, Matt begins to fall for Jesse, and their promises to each other draw him deeper into her terrifying reality. One night, the wrath of the Blackwoods and the secrets of Jesse’s family collide, and Matt joins Jesse in a rescue that saves one life and ends another . . . and severs the bond of their friendship.

Years later, Matt is pulled back to Dogwood and to memories of that momentous summer by news of Jesse’s upcoming wedding. He could never shake the feeling that there was more to the story of that fateful night, and he’s determined to learn the truth behind the only promise Jesse Woods ever broke.

The Runaway by Claire Wong

Shortly before her eighteenth birthday, Rhiannon Morgan runs away from the remote Welsh village of Llandymna. Camping out in Dyrys Woods, she starts to make a new life for herself. In the woods she finds space for her active imagination — weaving together the stories she loves and memories of her past, including the mother she lost thirteen years ago.

Back in the village, Rhiannon’s disappearance triggers a series of events that uncover the cracks in Llandymna’s quiet surface. Relationships become frayed as a young police officer is forced to investigate his neighbors, and the village’s elderly storyteller hints at a secret that the older generation has kept for decades. But as painful as the village’s past may be, it may hold the key for hope in the present . . . .

Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock

Stunning coming-of-age drama set during the Great Depression and Prohibition

When Eve Marryat’s father is laid off from the Ford Motor Company in 1931, he is forced to support his family by leaving St. Paul, Minnesota, and moving back to his Ohio roots. Eve’s uncle Cyrus has invited the family to live and work at his Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge.

 Eve can’t wait to leave St. Paul, a notorious haven for gangsters. At seventeen, she considers her family to be “good people,” not lawbreakers like so many in her neighborhood. Thrilled to be moving to a “safe haven,” Eve soon forms an unlikely friendship with a strange young man named Link, blissfully unaware that her uncle’s lodge is anything but what it seems.

When the reality of her situation finally becomes clear, Eve is faced with a dilemma. Does she dare risk everything by exposing the man whose love and generosity is keeping her family from ruin? And when things turn dangerous, can she trust Link in spite of appearances?

Son of A Soldier by Aiken A. Brown

Son of a Soldier is the powerful story of how God used one unlikely, country girl to change the course of history. It seemed impossible to believe that an eighteen-year-old girl from the middle-of-nowhere, Tennessee would have any real significance in the history of our nation…that is until God chose her to make a Godly man out of a flawed, military hero’s stubborn son.

Hailey was a small town, farm girl who had never left her home state of Tennessee. She was a naïve tomboy who possessed an unassuming charm, the power of which she could not comprehend.

Grant was a rebellious Army brat who had seen the world. Glib, sarcastic and self-destructive, he was a loner lost in a world he had never felt he fit into.

They seemingly had little in common, but when two hearts collided, two worlds became one; while Hailey embarks on a beautiful journey of self-discovery in this unique coming-of-age story, Grant travels a winding, dirt road that helps him rediscover a lost innocence and discover a renewed purpose.

Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

A boy coming of age in a time of war . . .
the love that inspires him to survive.

For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows— his frail, troubled mother.

Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.

When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.

 

What are some of your favorite coming-of-age novels?

 

 

 

Book Review: Child of The River

25 Sep

A compelling coming of age story with an unlikely and utterly memorable heroine, Child of the River is a timeless tale of heartbreak and triumph set in South Africa at the dawn of apartheid.

Persomi is young, white, and poor, born the middle child of illiterate sharecroppers on the prosperous Fourie farm in the South African Bushveld. Persomi’s world is extraordinarily small. She has never been to the local village and spends her days absorbed in the rhythms of the natural world around her, escaping the brutality and squalor of her family home through the newspapers and books passed down to her from the main house and through her walks in the nearby mountains.

Persomi’s close relationship with her older brother Gerbrand and her fragile friendship with Boelie Fourie—heir to the Fourie farm and fortune — are her lifeline and her only connection to the outside world. When Gerbrand leaves the farm to fight on the side of the Anglos in WWII and Boelie joins an underground network of Boer nationalists, Persomi’s isolated world is blown wide open. But as her very small world falls apart, bigger dreams become open to her — dreams of an education, a profession, a native country that values justice and equality, and of love. As Persomi navigates the changing world around her — the tragedies of war and the devastating racial strife of her homeland — she finally discovers who she truly is, where she belongs, and why her life — and every life — matters.

A graduate of the University of Pretoria, Irma Joubert was a high school teacher for 35 years before retiring in 2004 to focus on her writing. The following year, while working as a freelance journalist, she was the recipient of the Media24 award for Specialist Journalist of the Year and was a finalist in the Mondi journalism awards.

Joubert’s current literary focus is on historical novels. Her Tussen stasies trilogy, consisting of Ver wink die SuiderkruisTussen stasies en Tolbos, together with her Pontenilo trilogy: Anderkant PonteniloPérsomi, and Kronkelpad, have all been translated into Dutch, and have all featured among the Top 10 best sellers on publication.

Tussen stasies has been translated into German and in 2015 was published in English by US publisher Harper Collins under the title The Girl from the Train. She is currently writing the second book in her third trilogy. (from Wikipedia)

 

My Impressions:

Child of The River by Irma Joubert is one of the best novels I have ever read, and when I found that a second novel had been translated into English, I was excited to introduce this talented author to my book club. Child of The River again transports the reader to South Africa, this time spanning 30 years beginning in the pre-WWII years. Beautifully written, this novel is a hard book to read — abuse, prejudice, and nationalized separation of races — but has an underlying theme of hope in the face of injustice. My book club liked the book and appreciated the glimpse into a bygone time and foreign land.

Persomi is a the daughter of a bywoner or sharecropper in the bushveld of South Africa. She looks on the lives of real people with the dream of one day being part of their world. A strong girl becomes a determined woman who faces head-on the unjust treatment and unfair laws of her country.

The story is filled with compelling and complex characters, some we loved, others not so much. Women as portrayed in the novel are especially irritating, and there were a few we wished we could have shaken! The men are treated a bit more kindly with a few earning our admiration. Persomi is the main character, and we loved her sense of right and wrong, her desire to protect the underdog, and her gentle, yet firm manner in dealing with hard situations. There is also a love story that we loved, hated, and ultimately rejoiced in. The novel is published by Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson, and while it did not have an overt faith message, it was heavily influenced by the author’s Christian worldview.

My book club and I really liked Child of The River, and welcome further translations of Joubert’s novels.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

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

2017 Carol Award Winners

24 Sep

Congratulations to the 2017 Carol Award winners. Presented by The American Christian Fiction Writers, the Carol Awards are given in recognition of outstanding fiction in 10 genres.

 

Contemporary

The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell, HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan), editor Amanda Bostic

 

Historical

Like a River from Its Course by Kelli Stuart, Kregel Publications, editors Dawn Jackson and Janyre Tromp

 

Historical Romance

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof, ACFW QIP (Qualified Independently Published), editors Denise Harmer and Kara Swanson

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks, HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan), editors Amanda Bostic and Natalie Hanneman

 

Novella

The Doctor’s Woman (The Courageous Brides Collection) by Michelle Griep, Barbour Publishing, editor Becky Germany

 

Romance

A Season to Love by Nicole Deese, Waterfall Press, editors Amy Hosford and Kristin Mehus-Roe

 

Romantic Suspense

Always Watching (Elite Guardians) by Lynette Eason, Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing, editor Andrea Doering

 

Short Novel

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti, Worthy Inspired, editors Pamela Clements and Jamie Chavez

 

Speculative

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart, HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan), editors Amanda Bostic and Erin Healy

 

Debut

You’re the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont Leo, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, editor Kathryn Davis

 

Top 10 Tuesday — Fall TBR List

19 Sep

Can you believe that in two days it will be Fall?! Here in middle Georgia the department stores are sporting Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas decor for sale, but the temperatures are hovering in the Summer-range, so Fall doesn’t seem that imminent. But what is imminent is my Fall TBR list (or pile!). The folks at The Broke And The Bookish are asking bloggers to share what they will be reading in the next few months, and I am always eager to oblige. I have a wide variety of reading ahead of me — historical, romance, contemporary, mystery/suspense, and interestingly enough, a couple of Christmas novels! So without further ado, my Fall TBR List!

Top Ten Books on My TBR List

The Case of The Clobbered Cad by Debra E. Marvin

Charming The Troublemaker by Pepper Basham

The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

Christy by Catherine Marshall

Colors of Christmas by Olivia Newport

Deeds of Darkness by Mel Starr

How Sweet The Sound by Amy Sorrells 

Lydia by Diana Wallis Taylor

Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

Vanishing Point by Lisa Harris

What are you reading this Fall?