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Category Archives: Historical fiction

High as the Heavens, by Kate Breslin 

The tension of living in war-torn Belgium and France is very well-captured in this book. A World War 1 story, it covers an era that I don’t know nearly as well as WW2.

High as the Heavens tells us of Eve, a young woman who finds herself in Brussels, caught up in more levels of intrigue and deceit than she even realizes. Due to guilt she carries around with her through each moment of her present life, Eve believes herself unlovable and unforgivable.

Eve unexpectedly recognizes a victim in a plane crash, and the resulting danger in which she finds herself carries Eve and those close to her into some very dark places. This book is a beautiful picture of the hope that can only be found in Jesus. I love how Eve’s heart battle for hope and faith is so very real on these pages. It’s something that’s been difficult for me to read over the course of this summer (resulting in this book taking me much longer to read than it normally would) but so so necessary because of the beautiful hope that is reinforced.

I honestly can’t speak highly enough of Kate Breslin’s work – she may only have three novels in print thus far, but each of these three books is truly a story that will draw you in and make you forget that you’re not right there, going about everyday life with these beloved characters.

I would classify this book as a spicy chai, because of the deeply rich layers of flavor. Please read this book.

I was honored to be on the launch team for this book and received a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Canteen Dreams, by Cara Putman

This Pearl Harbor era story by Cara Putman captured the fear and uncertainty that came with news of the attack. It painted a good picture of the patriotism, enthusiasm, courage, and even jealousy of those on the home front. I found myself contemplating aspects of the war that I hadn’t thought as much about prior to listening to this book… so I felt like I learned from it. 

Canteen Dreams was a sweet romance amid the turmoil of the war. While I found it predictable, this story was still enjoyable… although honestly, through most of the book I found myself wanting to slap Willard. He was kind of jerkish and self-absorbed. 

If you want a war time story but still want a light book, this would be a good option. I’d compare it with whipped cream in a can… airy and sweet, and you know what you’re getting. 

Laural Merlington did a good job with the recording – she struck me as sounding like a woman looking back at the war, telling the story.

 

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The Lady and the Lionheart, by Joanne Bischof 

Where to even begin… 

Although I had heard others raving about it, I was not prepared for how deeply The Lady and the Lionheart was going to affect my heart. That’s an understatement. Majorly.

You know the kind of book that leaves lasting marks after you close the cover? The kind that you can’t stop thinking about? The kind that you find yourself pondering into small hours? 

That’s this book by Joanne Bischof. 

It’s about Ella, a nurse with a torn heart and a broken past. She sees herself as small, not whole, unworthy. Though she is kind, she doesn’t know real joy. 

It’s about Charlie. Charlie the lion tamer. Oh my. Charlie is the epitome of a picture of God’s love. Of giving oneself for another. He’s open and often blunt. He’s vulnerable. And compassionate. 

And it’s about an orphaned gypsy baby named Holland who is more enveloped in a fight between good and evil than she likely will ever fully understand. 

Taking place in Virginia in 1890, this is quite possibly one of the most unique and imaginative storylines I’ve ever read. When Ella and Charlie’s worlds collide, quite literally, their lives become intertwined in ways neither of them anticipate. This tender story of sacrifice and redemption is one I can’t recommend highly enough. There is much raw emotion within these pages, but even more, there is an enormous depth, honesty, and a faith that is almost tangible. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that for a book to truly be Joanne Bischof’s it must evoke tears at some point. This is my third by her, and so far this theory holds true.

Because of its deeply rich story, I’m likening this book to dark chocolate cake with thick peanut butter frosting. There is so much going on in my mind with the sweet taste of this beautiful story lingering on. 

Please read this story. Please let it speak to your heart. Let it change you forever.

 

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A Secret Courage, by Tricia Goyer 

I’ve been waiting for this book since before it was ever announced. For real. Tricia Goyer’s World War 2 novels are some that I always know I can pick up and adore. They are creative, thought-provoking, heart-stirring, and thoroughly researched. This one was no different. And it was completely worth the wait. 

A Secret Courage made me smile for this reason and so many others.

I loved the history in this book. I loved the research that went into it. Photographic reconnaissance wasn’t an aspect of WW2 that I’d read about before, and it intrigued me. One mark of a good historical read for me is that I find myself wanting to know more… I do this frequently; I begin googling pictures of the area, the landmarks/settings described, potential real people, etc. What I discovered this time just fascinated me, although I can’t say that it surprised me, due to the research that I know goes into Tricia Goyer’s writing — not only was Danesfield House a real life high security place during the war, Grace Darling, Emma’s lifelong inspiration, was a real life British young woman who lived in the 1800s. And investigating photos.. well, that is right up my alley.

The storyline, the spies, the trust in Jesus, the characters, the surprises… I loved everything about this book. The romance that was sweetly there but not overpowering was a beautiful touch to the story. The friendship that sprouted and bloomed between two young people who were determined to find the lovely even in the midst of such an ugly war brought a smile to my lips. The courage to put others’ needs ahead of their own and to trust God in everything… Yeah. I really, really liked this book.

What food can I relate this one to? A cup of tea. Probably because I’ve been reading Tricia Goyer’s work since her first novel was newly published in 2003 (?!), and probably also due to the fact that I saw some of myself in Emma, this book felt like home to me. Just right for a nice big cup of tea. 

 

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The Illusionist’s Apprentice, by Kristy Cambron

This Jazz Age story sparkling with enchanting descriptions and believable characters makes my heart smile. 

The Illusionist’s Apprentice has many dark places… but at each turn and shadow, there lives the promise of light and the reminder that darkness and evil cannot win. In spite of brushes with death and hatred, main characters Wren and Elliott are determined to keep a hold on hope.

Rooted in history, well-researched truth mingles with fiction. Though the majority of the book takes place in the late 1920s, there are flashbacks of sorts throughout, giving us as readers bits of backstory. I at first thought I wanted more of that background early on… but as I really delved into the heart of the story, I changed my mind. Each look back gives a very timely peek into Wren’s locked-tight past, each glimpsing a little deeper than we’d seen before — until we really understand this complex young woman who is as adept an illusionist off the stage as she is on it. 

Kristy Cambron did an excellent job with this latest release, and I very much recommend it. 

I want to compare this one to vanilla bean scones. There is much assuredness of hand-in-hand in this book, of “I’ll be right here no matter what”, and of hope anchored in the midst of life’s storms… and there is such comfort in that. Vanilla bean scones just seem to speak of that kind of familiarity and constantness to me that I found in these pages, so they seem to fit well. 

 

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This Quiet Sky, by Joanne Bischof

I normally don’t cry in movies or books. I honestly don’t think I’ve *ever* cried in a book before.

Until now.

Now.. I’ve sobbed.

The incredible depth of this novella really surprised me; I typically think of novellas and short fiction as not having time to develop the characters enough to truly know and relate to them. This book has so much depth. I felt instantly that I had bonded with young Sarah Miller. And with Tucker O’Shay.

Joanne Bischof showed her talent with This Quiet Sky. Descriptions that encompassed my senses. Characters who leapt from the pages (or rather, from my ipod, since I listened via Audible). Scenery that transported me in a very realistic sense to the hills of Appalachia in the late 1800s, not all that far from where my own family has roots. All of these were present in this story.

This book captured me at a level I’m not sure I knew was possible. Down into the very depths of my soul.

My heart ached for Sarah, for Tucker. I connected with them, with Tucker’s need of a good friend, with Sarah’s compassion and desire to reach out to him. Although very different circumstances, I can relate to the fear that I know Tucker felt, because I’m a survivor of the disease that he had. I’m sure he had friends prior to this diagnosis, and I hurt for what he lost. Tucker’s thoughts and the way he pondered life, the way he set out to enjoy the moments that he had, dreaming as if he had all the time in the world, living with a grateful-to-God heart for his every breath.. these traits wove such a real character. I can relate to Sarah, as her heart breaks for Tucker, for his family, for herself… because I have been on this side too.

If you have the opportunity, I highly encourage you to listen to Gail Shalan read this book. She added a uniquely beautiful dimension to an already heartwarming, soul-gripping, tear-provoking book. I will be adding the paperback to my permanent book collection, but I will absolutely be listening to this audio book again and again as well. Very rarely do I feel like I could finish a book, turn back to page one, and begin again immediately. This book compels me to do so.

I would liken this story to dark chocolate. Very dark chocolate. Something like Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Soiree. The blend of flavors is delicate and perfect. But so very intense, daring you to take the next bite. Go ahead. Do it. Listen. Read. I can’t promise you won’t cry — in fact, I’d encourage you to be free to let this story affect you deeply and permanently. Let God use it in your heart. You will not regret it. And as you let God speak to you through this little book, be reminded of the truth that His eye is on the sparrow… and we can know that He’s watching us too.

 
 

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The Golden Braid, by Melanie Dickerson 

Simply put, I loved this book. It made me smile, and it engaged both my imagination and my heart.

The Golden Braid, as one might guess, tells the story of Rapunzel. It’s a story for every girl (no matter her age) who has ever dreamt of being a princess… for each one who has ever pretended she lived in a castle and wore twirly dresses to the ball.

As a young woman, Rapunzel has grown up always being taught to be wary of anyone and everyone, particularly men. While her soft heart is lonely and discontent because deep inside she desperately wants more, she feels a fierce loyalty to her adoptive mother. One day Rapunzel discovers a way to feed her hunger for knowledge by fulfilling one of her lifelong dreams — learning to read. An unexpected series of events finds Rapunzel in situations she wouldn’t have ever imagined, and she begins to learn what it means to learn what it means to love like Jesus.

Melanie Dickerson enchanted me as a reader with this reimagining of Rapunzel’s story. I’m enchanted like I am by chocolate cake. Rich in texture and flavor, chocolate cake and The Golden Braid make me want to eat dessert first.. and to read before anything else.

*This is actually the sixth book in a series… which I realized about 2/3 of the way through it. If you, like me, accidentally read them out of order, it’s not the end of the world. If you want to get the most out of the story though, you should probably go in order. That being said, this story is complete and can stand alone, as can all the others.